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The Benefits & Pitfalls Of Wikis

There’s been a lot of talk in the blogosphere and among the SEO crowd lately about the dominance of Wikipedia.

I blog in a number of niches, and it’s startling to see how many different types of search Wikipedia entries rank highly in. On one hand, this scares the hell out of me, but on the other, it makes me wonder why wiki technology hasn’t caught on in the mainstream.

Let’s face it, wikis have got their advantages:

  1. Targetted anchor text: People link to wiki entries with the exact keyword, used in context in a sentence. This applies to inbound links as well as internal linking between articles in the wiki.
  2. Deep links: deep linking spreads PageRank out across the site, rather than concentrating it on the homepage.
  3. Massive quantities of inbound links from different source (Wikipedia has around 70 million inbound links)
  4. On-site optimization makes the best use of headings and titles.
  5. Interlinking between articles that goes on within Wikipedia creates awesome keyword relevance within the site.
  6. User generated content means you won’t be doing all the writing yourself.

With all of those benefits, I can’t understand why there aren’t more wiki-type websites.

Let’s face it, the must be niches crying out for an authority site which bloggers and industry experts could help to build. It shouldn’t be too difficult to create your wiki, build some basic content on it, then invite bloggers and notable experts to particpate in the community.

It seems like such a simple formula (but we all know how much hard work might be involved). Why aren’t there more mainstream wikis then?

  • Fear factor: Let’s face it, wikis are a whole new world. They’ve got their own language, and are completely different to any content management system you’ve met before. Anyone can edit any page? Scary.
  • No mainstream acceptance: Look at how much we all love to write about blogging! Blogging about blogging with wee breaks to check our stats and then it’s back to blogging again! That level of evangelism is missing where wiki technology is concerned.
  • Does It Work With AdSense? It’s oh-so-easy to monetize a blog. But adverts on wikis don’t seem appropriate, do they? Run AdSense on a wiki and you risk devaluing your content. Perhaps most of us stop there – what’s the point if you can’t make money?
  • Harder to moderate? You’ve heard the stories of egomaniacal flame wars between Wikipedia moderators? Probably most people could live without the headaches, but others might put in the work to create the ultimate resource for their niche.

Has anyone taken the plunge with Wikis? Care to share your experiences?

My feeling is that since monetization is difficult with wikis, there must be other motivations to run one. The reason I cite monetization is that I feel moderating a wiki would be a tremendous amount of work, and the moderation team would deserve some reward for maintaining and upholding the wiki.

Author: gerardm

7 thoughts on “The Benefits & Pitfalls Of Wikis

  1. on a more serious note, that IS something that I’ve considered doing. There is a Wiki Football project going on in Wikipedia but I’d like to do this separately. The big question is whether we are just copy-pasting material or genuinely filling a gap.

    But it is definitely on the cards. Just not right now though.

  2. @ahmed: The million dollar question now is would you try it? Would you consider creating a wiki for a niche that you’re involved in? A soccer wiki, for instance?

  3. yes, direct sales would work too.

    In fact, I’d say almost all types of monetization strategies would work – direct ad sales, product sales, affiliate programs, contextual advertising, selling services…

  4. @ifranky: I agree and have seen quite a few wikis incorporated into larger websites. My feeling when writing this was that by hosting it on one person/company’s site it wouldn’t be independent. I feel that the wiki has to at least have the appearance of neutrality in order to attract potential competitors in the same industry to add their expertise.

    @ahmed: I agree that a monetization angle needs to be pursued, but not necessarily AdSense. What do you think about direct sales in this area?

  5. I think AdSense should definitely be tried with Wikis – and barring AdSense, some sort of contextual / regular advertising.

    Why?

    Because there are a lot of good, talented people who would put in more effort to create valuable resources using wikis if their time was adequately compensated. Free is not always good.

  6. I wouldn’t run a standalone wiki, but as an addition to (almost) any platform/community wikis can be major assets. Lets say you run a sports, or an IT community and all the knowledge gathered in the forums can be added and updated in a wiki. Every time you write about an athlete you start the wiki page for the athlete and just as bloggers use tags, you update the wiki entry with the latest info.

    Of course you link back to the blog/forum entry. Over time you broaden your site/platform, with valuable content, content which will not end up in the supplemental index either.

    Biggest gripe towards wiki IMO is Where to start. If with a blog you can chose a topic, start to collect knowledge in that matter, with a wiki IMO you would have to start writing from the day you start reading. And continuously edit, because a reader might grab your feed, but who would start to edit a wiki with only 20-30 entries, unless they already have flagship content.
    Which then again might scare off people.

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