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The Wikipedia Test: Does your website answer these questions?

As a Wikipedia author, I've scoured countless websites in search of key facts. Here are the basics I'm always looking for.

I’ve been a Wikipedia editor for years. Over that time, I’ve written lots of Wikipedia articles, including all sorts of biographies and organization overviews. To do this, I have to quickly find and assess the basic facts about each article’s subject.

So I feel uniquely qualified to tell you what your website might be missing — because your website should be the place where these facts can be found.

Does your website answer these questions?

Though these might seem like no-brainers, you’d be amazed how many sites don’t really answer these questions.

Who are you?

Give your site visitors your current official name — and any names you/your organization may have used professionally in the past. (If I’m researching you for any reason, I need to know if you (now) are the same thing as a slightly different name I see in an older source.)

Where are you?

Tell us where your headquarters are, or where you do your work. For organizations, the website footer is a great place for this info.

What are you?

For this, we mean a noun or two! Even if you feel like you’re a magical unicorn who defies all precedents… there’s still at least one noun that clarifies what you are. Think of the first sentence of a Wikipedia article: “[Name] is a ________.” Are you a writer? A non-profit? A foundation? Etc.

Why should we care about you?

Your website visitors want some evidence that you’re worthy of attention. (Wikipedia calls this “notability.”) So prove to us that you’re important, with info about accomplishments, links to press, social proof, and all that good stuff.

In the most extreme cases, if I can’t find these answers… I don’t write the article. And if I can’t find the answers, it’s likely that journalists, potential fans, and Google can’t either. Don’t let this happen to you!

A special note to creative people: Use nouns

When I write about creative people — say a painter, or a musician, or a fiber artist — I often struggle to find the what on their website. Sometimes, I can find a lot of text about vision, identity, and personal philosophy. But I can’t find the nouns.

Tell me all about how you’re pushing boundaries, engaging the community, or “exploring new approaches to visual atmosphere,” yes! Just don’t forget to also tell me:

  • What exactly you do or make. “He writes novels and short stories about personal identity and America’s Midwest.”
  • Your specific tools and medium. “She works in a variety of media, including oil on canvas, miniature gouache and graphite compositions on card, and watercolor.”
  • Why in particular you’re so impressive. “They are a trailblazer expanding horizons” isn’t enough — give me that list of exhibitions, or links to those external feature articles, or that published works CV.

You are the primary source

Remember that you are the primary source for yourself! So give website visitors, journalists, and even friendly Wikipedia editors what they need to learn the facts. Your answers to these questions also help search engines like Google and Bing know what you’re all about.

Even if you’re not notable enough for Wikipedia (yet), having this information available and easy to access on your site will help you spread your message more effectively.

Top photo by Surface on Unsplash

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