How to Build Backlinks from Wikipedia

snippet of Save changes for getting Wikipedia backlinks

Estimated read time: 16 minutes

How does getting a link from the 5th most popular website in the world sound? How about a Moz DA 100 website? How about a website with nearly two billion visitors every month?

That’s right. It sounds damn fine.

We’re talking about links from Wikipedia here. The tactic is simple: insert a link in a Wikipedia article to somewhere on your or your client’s website. However, to justify this link, the website needs to be a reliable source for a claim that’s already been made on Wikipedia.

Anyone can edit Wikipedia, but Wikipedia’s editors are fierce and will come down on any low-quality or irrelevant link like a ton of bricks.

Step 1: Find Articles That Need Sources or Sources Which Could Fit Into Articles

In this section, I’m going to explain how to find an article to fit a source (or a source to fit an article). Let’s start with what the big names say…

Neil Patel, Matthew Woodward, and Content Marketing Institute

Content Marketing Institute recommends using Wikipedia itself to find out where the website needs sources. Its advice involves going to the “articles to be expanded” page, finding a relevant article which needs expanding, and then adding in a relevant source.

The issue with this technique is that the “articles to be expanded” page is vast. Nearly two thousand articles are added to this list every month. Surely, there is a tool out there which allows you to do this quicker?

Indeed there is. Both Neil Patel and Matthew Woodward recommend using Wikigrabber to find either dead links which need replacing or relevant Wikipedia pages where sources are needed.

Still, I didn’t do any of that. So, here’s what I did do…

What I Did That Worked

I generated three backlinks from Wikipedia which have stayed there. One is for Exposure Ninja and the other two are for our clients.

Our Link: Exposure Ninja

The Wikipedia article on bounce rate is where you’ll find Exposure Ninja’s backlink. It’s the fourth source. I started by looking for articles where I felt that Exposure Ninja would be a reputable source. I didn’t go to the “articles to be expanded” list and I didn’t use Wikigrabber.

Rather, I asked myself what Exposure Ninja is an authority on. Hence, I found myself on the page about bounce rate.

It didn’t take me long before I found what I was looking for. The “Purpose” section already had two sources, but I felt that it could do with one more. Wikipedia editors recommend no more than three sources for one claim, but it’s a shade more nuanced than that.

I knew full well that Exposure Ninja had an article on bounce rate, what it was, and what measuring it was for, so I linked directly to that.

Client #1 Link

Our client is an expert on warehouses, so finding the one page where they could provide a source was pretty easy in that sense. It simply had to be the page on warehouses.

The way I found somewhere to link to our client was just by reading the article. I skimmed certain parts. However, when I found the “storage and shipping” section, I knew that this would be the perfect place to add a link to our client. Being such a niche client, they are experts in warehouse storage in a way I knew Wikipedia would respect.

The section was missing an entry about cantilever racking. So I added a short sentence with a link to a blog post I wrote about the difference between cantilever racking and pallet racking.

Client #2 Link

In the two examples I just gave, I started with the Wikipedia article first and then I went looking for a source on the client’s website. For our second client, I did the reverse. This isn’t something which Patel or Woodward recommend, but it’s something I would highly recommend — especially for clients who write their own blogs.

Our second client’s blog is vast and informative, so I knew it would be worth my time going through the posts to see what would work as a source. What I was looking for was a very specific post which talked about a very specific issue which they would qualify as experts in.

I eventually came across this article about Jersey Post investing in a US business. Our second client had the scoop on this story, as it were, being Jersey Post’s legal team. When I found the Wikipedia page for Jersey post, I found it very thin.

What’s more, there was no entry on the company investing in a US business. In fact, the article had no information on what Jersey Post was doing past 2016. So, I added the final sentence about what Jersey Post was doing in 2017 and used the our second client’s blog post as a source.

Why I Think It Worked

Not all of my attempts at Wikipedia editing have been successful (I’ll get to that later on), so why did these opportunities work? I have several theories…

  • Article quality — I’m not just blowing Exposure Ninja’s trumpet, but the blog posts we produce at Exposure Ninja are of a very high quality. We insist on external links to support our claims and everything we create is triple checked for quality.
  • Website quality — For the websites where we don’t produce the blogs, such as our second client, this is particularly important. I would assume that Wikipedia editors are as savvy about what makes a website trustworthy as we are. As such, when they checked our clients’ and Exposure Ninja’s websites for Moz DA, Trust Flow and Citation Flow, and spam scores, I feel they would have been satisfied that these were quality and trustworthy websites.
  • Specificity — Vague claims don’t necessarily need sources: The sky is blue. Specific claims, though, need specific sources: The sky is blue because molecules in the air scatter blue light from the sun more than they scatter red light. [1] Wikipedia wants sources which directly back up a specific claim. Using an article about racking systems, in general, would not have sufficed for a source about the definition of cantilever racking. That’s why I linked to a post which defined cantilever racking specifically. Using an article about conversion rate optimisation (even if it mentioned bounce rate) would not have sufficed for a source about the purpose of bounce rates. That’s why I linked to a post which explained the purpose of bounce rates specifically.
  • Expertise — The article may be great, the website may be high-quality, and the source may back up the exact claim made on Wikipedia. However, none of that matters if your client is not an expert. This is one of the biggest reasons three of my attempts failed. Which brings me to…

What I Did That Failed

A smart person learns from their mistakes. A smarter person learns from the mistakes of others. With that mind, learn from my mistakes and you’ll all be smarter than me.

An ad network client

To generate a backlink from Wikipedia for our ads client, I found an article which I felt would work as a source and worked backwards. After discovering an article which the client had written on fake traffic, I thought I’d found a winner.

Wikipedia has an article on web traffic, but the article doesn’t mention fake traffic. So, I added in a sentence about fake traffic and used the client as a source. Less than an hour later, my source was removed by an editor but a lot of what I had written remained.

A septic tank installation client

Our septic tank installation client is an expert in a very niche industry. They specialise in developing and installing wastewater treatment equipment. In other words, if you live in the countryside and your house isn’t connected to a main sewer system, our client will supply septic tanks and other equipment to deal with your wastewater.

I scrolled through the Wikipedia entry on septic tanks to find somewhere to insert a link. In the section about emptying septic tanks, I linked to this article which the client had written about emptying septic tanks. Just over one week later, the edit was removed.

A divorce lawyer

This client provides family law services, but one of the blogs I wrote for them was about the greatest divorce lawyers in London’s history. One of those people was a woman named Caroline Norton who campaigned for a woman’s right to divorce a husband. For years, this right was exclusive to men; Caroline Norton changed all that.

I found the blog post on the client’s website first, felt that this would work well as a source, and then searched through the entry on Caroline Norton to find a place to link to my source.

In the blog post that I wanted to link to, I wrote about how Norton had written a letter to Queen Victoria during her campaigning. This information was missing from the Wikipedia article. As such, I added this little tidbit of information in and used our divorce lawyer as the source. Less than half an hour later, an editor had kept my tidbit about the letter to Queen Victoria in, but changed the source from the client to this article from the BBC.

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Why I Think It Failed

After having read through the successful attempts, you might already have an idea as to why the unsuccessful attempts were unsuccessful. Even still, this is what I made of it…

  • Lack of expertise — Our septic tank client is an expert in septic tank installation, rather than septic tank emptying. The latter is a separate industry. Our divorce lawyer client is an expert in divorce law, but they aren’t an expert in history or the life of Caroline Norton.
  • Website quality — None of these websites are bad. However, two of them are below Moz DA 30. If Wikipedia can find the same information elsewhere from a higher DA website (such as the BBC), that source is preferred.
  • Article quality — For two of the three failed links, I used client-written blog posts. They are not terrible posts, but they are not as informative as they could be. The post on fake traffic is very short, which is one reason why I think it was removed.
  • Lack of Specificity — For our divorce lawyer, I would argue that the article was of a high quality (because I wrote it…), but it wasn’t as specific as it could be. The post was about two other historical figures aside from Norton. Wikipedia wants sources which directly back up specific pieces of information.
  • Rocking the boat — There’s something to be said about shorter edits being easier to defend. For the ad network, I added a whole sentence to the introduction section. For the edit for our HR client (which I’ll talk about later), one of my colleagues added quite a large section to the introduction, too. You only have a few sentences to defend an edit, so the shorter and less earth-shattering it is, the easier it will be able to explain yourself.

Step Two: How Is The Actual Editing Done?

Once you’ve found an article which needs a backlink and a high-quality source on your client’s website, it’s time to actually add the link in. First, click [edit] on the section you want to edit.

Snippet of editing for getting Wikipedia backlinks

Once you’re on the editing screen, switch to “visual editing”. The other kind of editor involves using code. If you’re proficient in this, go ahead. However, the Wikipedia visual editor is incredibly easy to use, so you’re best off just using it.

snippet of Editing Jersey post section to gain Wikipedia backlinks

As a quick aside, note that Wikipedia makes a point of telling you (if you don’t have a Wikipedia account) that it’s using your IP address to track the changes you make to Wikipedia. Your IP address is the address of your router (not your computer) and you can change it by either connecting to the internet somewhere else or by unplugging your modem for a few hours. When you turn your modem back on and reconnect, you will likely be given a new IP address.

Why does this matter? It doesn’t, necessarily. However, if you make lots of bad, spammy edits that are rejected under the same IP address, Wikipedia editors might consider rejecting further Wikipedia edits from that same IP address. This is just something to bear in mind. Here’s the edit history for the IP address of my home internet.

snippet of Wikipedia references

The top two are from me. The rest appear to be from my dad, who seems to have been editing the Wikipedia pages on a couple of footballers. Why he was doing this on a random Wednesday afternoon in June, I have no idea…

When you are on the visual editing page, you can directly edit Wikipedia. This is where you can either add a sentence and a source to an article where you feel it is needed, or you can simply add a source to an already existing sentence. To add a source, click “cite” at the top…

snippet of wikipedia edit postal

…then enter the URL into the box which appears. Click “Generate” and then click “Insert”.

snippet of adding references Wikipedia backlinks

After you’ve done this correctly, click “Save changes” at the top right.


snippet of Save changes for getting Wikipedia backlinks

After clicking that, Wikipedia will ask you to briefly explain what you’ve done and why you’ve done it. You don’t have many characters to do this, so keep it short and sweet. If you scroll back up to my IP address’ edit history, you’ll see in brackets a couple examples of the reasoning I used for our second client backlink and our client backlink respectively. Both of those edits remain, so I’d take what I wrote as a decent example of what works.

Finally, be sure to check back and see whether the Wikipedia editors have kept your source or not. Sometimes edits are removed almost instantly, but sometimes it may take a week or two.

Assessing Failed Wikipedia Edits

If you check back to find that your edit has been removed, it’s important to find out why so that you can learn what the Wikipedia editors do and don’t like. Click on “view history” at the top.

snippet of Jersey post view history

Below is the edit history for an article where I tried adding our divorce lawyer as a source. I mentioned this above but, just to recap, I originally used a blog post I’d written for our divorce lawyer as a source for the claim that Caroline Norton had once written a letter to Queen Victoria during her women’s rights campaigning.

The issue was that the blog post where I made that claim used this article from BBC as its source. As such, the editor (quite rightly) didn’t feel that the link to our divorce lawyer was needed. Instead, they cut out the middleman and changed the link to the BBC source.

The Wikipedia editor made this change within less than half an hour after I’d made my edit. So, don’t underestimate the speed of Wikipedia editors!

snippet of comparing revisions in Wikipedia

Sometimes, Wikipedia editors use their own terminology. The more time you spend on Wikipedia, the easier it is to understand this terminology. Take a look at this (sadly unsuccessful) edit which would have linked to an HR client of ours.

snippet of wikipedia revisions

The edit is the second from the top.

At the very start of the entry, you see “(cur | prev)”. If you click on “prev”, you’ll be taken to a page which compares our edit to how the page was beforehand. If you click on “cur”, you’ll be taken to a page which compares our edit to the current page.

snippet of browse history Wikipedia

If you click on “Revision as of 19:19, 22 August 2017”, you’ll be taken to the page itself and you can see what our edit would have looked like within the actual article.

Going back to the “view history” page, after the “(cur | prev)”, you can see that our edit was made on the evening of the 22nd August 2017. After that, you can see the IP address of my colleague. If you were to click on that, you would see the history of edits made at that IP address.

The entry also tells you that the edit was 1,450 characters long and the reason for the edit is in brackets.

Above this, you can see the edit from Doc James and the reason they gave for changing our edit:

Reverted good faith edits by (talk): Spam links. (TW)

Those numbers are our IP address, so the editor is referring to us directly. “Good faith” is a Wikipedia editorial concept and this Wikipedia editor has linked to a Wikipedia article defining it. He also links to a Wikipedia article defining TW. Clicking on these links gives you a better idea of what Wikipedia editors like and don’t like. For any unsuccessful edits, this is why it’s important to check why your link was removed; doing so allows you to learn more about Wikipedia’s standards.

In this particular case, “good faith” refers to the idea that we were acting in good faith. As in, the editor felt that we were genuinely trying to improve the article. TW refers to “Twinkle” which is a gadget Wikipedia editors use to keep things in order. Doc James found our link using Twinkle, but removed it because it was “spam”.

“Spam link” is perhaps an unfair way to label a Clear Review blog post. However, as with most other removed sources, the underlying reason it was deleted by the editor was that the material could be found elsewhere on a website with a higher authority.

Final Thoughts

I focused a lot on what I did and not what Patel and Woodward recommended, as I’m not exactly blown away by Wikigrabber. It works by finding articles which need citations based on the keywords you type into it. It’s helpful, but the citations that are needed are often for very specific pieces of information. What’s more, you likely know better than an internet search tool what you or your client are an expert in and where that expertise would be most relevant.

I also don’t think that Wikipedia backlinking building is a technique that would work for everyone. For websites without a blog — or for businesses in a saturated market —  it’s hard to make the case to the Wikipedia editors that the page on you or your client’s website which you are linking to is the best possible source. For niche businesses, however, Wikipedia backlink building could be a real winner.

All that said, my experience has been very hit and miss. So, if you fare better in your Wikipedia backlink building (and if you find Wikigrabber to be really useful) be sure to let everyone know what you did and why you think it worked.

Need more Content Marketing goodness in your life? There’s so much more! Check out our Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing.


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