Sam Stowe and her father, Marcus, own an established brick and mortar restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina, that is looking to move into the digital space. In business for over 2 years, during their tenure the father-daughter duo have already earned a reputation as a staple not only in the city of Charlotte, but Mecklenburg County.
Year round, the pair play fancy to traditional Charlottean palates with their signature fusion of Southeastern and Korean BBQ delicacies, but due to their location in a less traversed part of town their business model has hit a plateau. However, both Sam & Marcus don’t wish to move their business because of its prime location near the interstate, yet they still manage to miss out on the influx of traffic tourists generate during city-wide events such as the CIAA tournament and the Carolina Panthers & Charlotte Hornets regular season.
Although they have created a website, it is rarely visited due to most of their in-store traffic coming from locals who don’t need the website. Many of the city’s residents have been able to help drive unique visitors to their physical location either by word of mouth or inviting them along, but the most common response they’ve received when a local enters sampled their sauce is, “Are you guys on the Internet”?
The business owners have been able to successfully tap into an already saturated market by bringing something innovative to the table however neither has been able to concoct a recipe for driving online visitor growth. When recently asked to Google their restaurant, Seoul Food, Marcus discovered their website showed up at the very bottom of the search results, due to which he was forced to search three times.
Each entry was slightly modified with a few different keywords until Sam finally decided to look at the entire first page results and realized by the time Marcus had reached the 5th site on the list, he automatically wrote off the remaining finds. Realizing the gravity of the situation they faced, the restaurateurs asked, “How do we get to the top of Google Search Results”?
The latest trend in the food service industry online are customer reviews (Yelp, Google, Yahoo Local, etc.), but the owners don’t want to put themselves in a position that ultimately lies in the mercy of a professional OR amateur food critic. The laid back pair’s fears have recently been affirmed in light of recent Yelpers attempting to blackmail a chef owner Michael Scelfo and his business with unwarranted demands.
After a former Johnson & Wales classmate of Sam’s tried a sampling of Seoul Food and caught wind of the predicament she faced, she proposed the idea of a Wikipedia Sandbox. Leery of the possibility of such, her friend and colleague introduced an idea that was often overlooked.
“Why wait for someone to create a sandbox for you when you can create one yourself, Sam? It’s easy, cheap and most of all a highly credible source. Having a Sandbox attaches your credible web page to Wikipedia.org whose home page has a Google Page Rank of 9 (paginated content averaging a 4 to 5) due to the continual content management.
If an out-of-towner were to Google Seoul Food on their smart phone, the establishment’s chances of coming up via Wikipedia in a search engine will be higher than your own website.”
Free Online “Billboard”
With limited revenue for ad space, the challenge of finding credible and creative businesses to promote your service/product can become challenging. If internet marketing is built off of traditional marketing principles though in the digital space, how do I remain relevant online without placing my fate in the hands of another?
By creating a Wikipedia account for your product or service and ultimately creating a sandbox, you now have a placard directly representative of your business history that is back linked through Wikipedia; Google search results will include an image/logo/seal if provided by page creators, short blurb on company/individual and link to complete Wikipedia sandbox.
According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2010 they discovered college/university educated adults are reported to have the highest usage. The largest demographic being college educated individuals between the ages of 18-29 or Generation Y. The numbers decrease as you move upwards in the age bracket with Wikipedia being least utilized by adults 65+.
Immediacy and availability of information has become the status quo as we move further into the 21st century. To elaborate, the New Net Generation who will be entering adulthood in the coming decade as a heavy emphasis in technology is being placed on the current cultural landscape. If there is a trend in the numbers from the PRC’s most recent study, the idea that Wikipedia usage numbers will increase amongst the next generation is a safe hypothesis to make.
All that being said, Wikipedia has recognized their niche as the electronic encyclopedia and has taken measures to ensure that they are a credible information hub. The reason the word billboard is placed within quotation marks in this section’s header is because it is not truly a billboard in the sense it is advertising. Wikipedia has, and continues to, maintain strict measures that articles do not serve as promotional material, due to their Neutral Point of View Policy (NPV) which we will circle back to later.
Lend You Credibility
To elaborate this is a perceived, general credibility, as a professional in your field due to Wikipedia. For example look at each of these to images of two local electronics providers in the North Carolina Piedmont region: Diversified Electronic (DE) and Firefold (FF)
Of the two above company’s searched for in Google, of the information retrieved each featured a Google Maps location, but held nothing else in common of their results. Diversified Electronic’s results featured a few other websites with similar keyword information within their website architecture. Nonetheless, their URL address showed up above all the derivative search information and is visible to anyone searching for them.
Firefold, by comparison, returned with no competitor or derivative information. Ad space purchased from Google returns their domain atop any site with similar keywords, an additional measure DE has not taken . Alas, located to the right of their results are the company’s logo and a short blurb with a backlink leading to a full Wikipedia article.
As mentioned before, we live in the Information Age and the availability of information with expedience and accuracy is a key factor in bridging the gap between instant gratification. If someone were unsure about DE and whether or not they are the service they need or the right people to do business with, they would have to visit their website and look around.
FF on the other hand, has a click through link directly to Wikipedia where all of their information such as location, awards, area of specialty, business history can be found. More to that point, their Wikipedia article includes external links to outside sources to confirm this information. Its convenient and that is what has made Wikipedia a hit, they found a need (information) specific to the time period and made the process simpler (online hub).
Website is Moderated
Wait a minute, I thought this article was about the morality of Wikipedia as a marketing tool? In light of all the benefits of a sandbox, this too comes at a price. All of your history, whether spotless or stained, is forever available on the internet. Earlier it was mentioned that Wikipedia requires its users to subscribe to their NPV or Neutral Point of View Policy, meaning you will not be allowed to advertise.
We’re not thinking of marketing in the traditional way where we advertise all the benefits and features of your service, but rather as a way to integrate your business into the digital age with what will become standard practice;this play doubly into another new age standard practice, transparency.
Establishing a high level of transparency bodes well not only on the internet, but in the physical world as well, and if you pair that with the want for instant gratification it is understandable why moderator approval required. As a non-profit organization Wikipedia ensures that the truth is at an unavailable premium.
That being said, pertaining to history, your past and present are fully illuminated, whether good or bad in the interest of maintaining neutrality. Additionally it is monitored for hackers, trolls and slander which the internet is susceptible to, as is traditional media though the latter with greater consequences.
Additionally, Wikipedia requires sources to which the copy of your sandbox will be referenced from so there is not bolstering or augmenting your achievements or lack thereof. The stronger your sources i.e. traditional media, the more likely your page will stick.
Wikipedia itself has been in contention since its inception with institutions (colleges/universities) and the traditional philosophy that they are not a credible resource. A part of articles being moderated is that there must be sources which can attest to the claims you make.
For this reason Wikipedia acts as a reservoir of knowledge for any inquiry. The image below represents a Google search on contact dermatitis more commonly known as, Eczema. The references located at the bottom of the page lead to a number of medical journals and case studies by experts in the field, available as a click through link to the direct source where you can find more detailed information from an expert.
Quality backlinks for your website may be hard to come across although many options exist. Colleagues, business partners, and marketing companies (for purchase) may be able to provide you with a sound backlink and vice versa, but how about a big fish?
The information displayed above represents the amount of traffic Wikipedia received over a 12 month span for the calendar year of 2007-2008. Conducted by HitWise for the PRC, this information details the increasing number of visitors to Wikipedia through the Google search engine.
Over 51% of Wikipedia’s traffic is through Google, with Google currently being the #1 search engine. As seen in the earlier example of Firefold and Diversified Electronic, in which the concept of perceived credibility was introduced. These numbers serve to support not the notion of credibility, but that Google is highly utilized by people looking for information.
How is it that Wikipedia ranks so highly amongst Google search results when it is free, and Google offers ad space purchase program?
High Google Pagerank
Google as a search engine by its very nature seeks out highly credible, quality sources to return to its users. It is the reason why it is the number one search engine, and in order to do so it has created innovative measures in the form of algorithms that search the internet.
These algorithms or “crawlers” continually scan the internet to help refine their search results. One such program is Google Penguin which searches for sites using black hat SEO techniques and ultimately lowers their Pagerank.
The ranking system devised by Google is on a numerical scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best. While Penguin scours the internet for poor SEO tactics, other programs search for white hat SEO techniques that engage the user and enhance their experience. Due to the very nature of Wikipedia dealing with information concerning history, pop culture, science, mathematics, art and current events, it is always changing.
As a result, there is a steady stream of fresh content gives Wikipedia’s homepage a rank of 9, with paginated content averaging between a 4 and 5; based upon searching for Christian Laettner, (Lil’) Bow Wow, FireFold (located in Concord, NC) and Lebron James.
So let’s review whether or not utilizing Wikipedia for your business or service is shameless self promotion or an ingenious marketing tool.
It’s a Free Online “Billboard” in the sense that it is a placeholder for your web page, so that if an internet user were to search your company directly, it would bring them a brief summary about regarding your business.
It Lends You Credibility, in the digital space where old and new generations of information seekers want fast and reliable information.
Website is Moderated to hold business owners and individuals accountable for their past and present practices, no matter how ugly.
It Served as a Strong Backlink that can strengthen your own website’s Pagerank to attract future unique and regular visitors.
It Allows For High Google Pagerank due to fresh content updated and added daily, making it favorable to Google web crawlers.
Now that we’ve defined Wikipedia as a cutting edge platform that is gaining credibility with the current generation of consumers for it’s information services, what are some other resources that are being underutilized by entrepreneurs in the transition of business being primarily conducted in the physical world to the digital space?