People come to your website by chance, or are brought there by a search. You have something they want, a message, a product. Link embedding on editable websites seems to be one way to drive traffic to your page, but you must take care to proceed with caution, courtesy and honesty.
One sure way for you and your business to cultivate a bad reputation is to try to embed links into Wikipedia, the nonprofit online encyclopedia whose users seek to create a repository of all the world's knowledge. Because Wikipedia has earned extremely high rankings on search result pages, search engine optimizers may be tempted to create Wikipedia edits about their product or company.
But Wikipedia standards of etiquette do not permit embedding of links into Wikipedia with these objectives in mind. It's considered a conflict of interest. In fact, as of 2007, external links on Wikipedia contain a tag preventing search engines from indexing them. Organized campaigns by members of the Wikipedia staff and management exist, dedicated to purging the site of such links. One such campaign, WikiProject Spam, is dedicated to rooting out and eliminating all such "link spam", as they rightly call it.
Even if you are a legitimate Wikipedia editor yourself, it is not a good idea to contribute articles or references dealing with your own product or business. Articles written by company employees are put in the “speedy deletion” category.
This article may be the first place you have have heard of these practices. At one time, Wikipedia allowed clearly labeled links to sales sites – for instance, you could link to the amazon.com page for a book you were writing about. Some online merchants still consider it quite proper to embed links into Wikipedia articles to drive traffic to their site. They may be very surprised when Wikipedia bans their IP.
There are some legitimate ways to use Wikipedia to help your business, but you should avoid manipulatively “playing” Wikipedia.
Go to articles about the things you sell, and write clear, detailed explanations of these items. Don't link to anything, but include a reference to a neutral, third-party source such as a patent description. Without ever mentioning a brand name or a sales site, you can educate readers and make them more inclined to seek out your product.
You might possibly be able to get away with contributing an article about your business if it is sufficiently “notable” – that is, well known to the general public and covered in the mainstream media. However, such articles should not be written by you or any employee of your company, but by a disinterested outsider. Wikipedia admins delete articles about companies that are written by company owners or employees, so the person writing the article cannot be affiliated with your company in any way. Be careful, though, about this kind of “proxy” editing. Microsoft did it a few years ago, and got in serious trouble.
One of Wikipedia's most stringent policies concerns the use of original research or primary source documentation as references. Because it cannot be verified easily by readers, it is forbidden to use on Wikipedia. Instead, the only accepted sources are secondary or tertiary. Letters from Bill Clinton to you, or a blog he writes online, in which he praises your product are not acceptable sources; if the letters appear in a book or magazine, they might be. In all cases, the source material accepted by Wikipedia has to be easily accessible by the ordinary reader, something he or she can verify at a library or bookstore. 1)
SEO consultant Jonathan Hochman, a longtime Wikipedia editor, recommends that if you plan to get involved with Wikipdia, do so as a legitimate contributor. Start at the beginning just as you do with everything else. Learn how to edit and contribute to articles, not for business, but for their own sake. Correct mistakes you find, and learn from those around you. The basic Wikipedia creed is that users dedicate themselves to writing well-researched, notable contributions with a “neutral point of view”. Verifiable sources must be used, and egregious links to business websites avoided.2)
People like to feel that the merchants they buy from are well-educated and knowledgeable about their products, the history behind them, and how they work. You should always write intelligent web content yourself on these matters, or have it written for you by a professional, but too much detail might overwhelm the reader. For potential customers who do take an interest in the deeper history and background of your merchandise, links to Wikipedia might be helpful. For example, if you sell scientific software, you could link to the Wikipedia article on that subject.
Make your site inviting and friendly, not just a place where people buy stuff. Include many articles directly and indirectly related to your subject. Within these articles, place links to Wikipedia entries. You should also have a blog that is updated frequently. As your company grows, Wikipedia editors might use the information found on your website in their references, and references can be linked to your company website.
Don't neglect Wikipedia's talk pages. Each article has a talk page or discussion section where people contribute ideas to improve the article. There is no rule against linking to business websites from these discussion pages. Keep it short, and relevant to the discussions in progress. (For example, the discussion page for “ginger ale” includes a link to a ginger ale company's website, relevant to a discussion about ingredients.)
To get publicity for your company, try to get coverage on Wikinews – don't forget, they have links and show up on search engines, too. Your PR people can talk to Wikinews writers and offer story suggestions.