Medico Digital Insights

The rising importance of Wikipedia as a source of healthcare information


Read time

5 min


16th February 2021


Written by Ollie Capel

When you consider your healthcare marketing mix, you most likely use a variation of on and offline channels. Perhaps print publications, social media, trade magazines, a website and email make up most of your marketing efforts. But have you ever considered using Wikipedia as part of your healthcare marketing strategy?

We’re going to look at how Wikipedia has evolved to become a trusted source of medical information – a go-to for answering health-related concerns and questions. We’ll provide some actionable tips on where you can start with marketing your business on the site.

What is Wikipedia?

In short, Wikipedia is a free-of-charge, online encyclopaedia. It launched 20 years ago, with a community of editors who voluntarily maintain and update the site. It’s available in 317 languages and is one of the 15 most popular websites ranked by Alexa. The site comprises more than 55 million articles, attracting 1.7 billion unique visitors a month. Its story is incredible for a site which survives solely on volunteers and donations.  

Is Wikipedia a trustworthy source of healthcare information?

Because the platform is open to editing by anyone across the globe, trustworthiness has come into question. Is it really a reliable source of information, and should we turn to the site to answer our health care questions? It’s like anything you consume on the internet, though. There are always doubts as to the source of information and how factual it is. The unique thing with Wikipedia is that hundreds of volunteers fact-check and verify sources all day long. Information published in an article has to be correctly sourced, and citations need to be added for the content to remain on the site. 

Wikipedia’s trustworthiness is further demonstrated by the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recent collaboration with Wikipedia to ensure that information shared about COVID-19 was up-to-date and reliable. In the age of fake news and misinformation, it’s more important than ever to work together to prevent the spread of incorrect information. The WHO’s decision to work with Wikipedia is significant because it recognises the website’s importance as a valuable source of healthcare information for both patients and doctors

Does having a wikipedia page improve my healthcare organisation’s chances of ranking on Google?

Google places huge importance on whether or not your healthcare organisation is linked to from other trusted sources of information on the internet, there are very few websites that Google trusts more than Wikipedia, as demonstrated with the online encylopedia appearing on page 1 almost half of the time a search is conducted

Google also recently announced that it would roll out a new feature which will give users more information about their search results before they click through a URL. The “about this result” box will provide more details on the search result which will be sourced from Wikipedia, letting the user decide if the website offered by Google is what they expected. If searchers start to use this feature more often, it makes sense to ensure your brand has a current Wikipedia page, which is kept up-to-date.

In addition to typical SERPs, Wikipedia is a useful tool for Voice assistants which are used more and more to answer our health questions. They are particularly useful for visually impaired people, or for older people, less confident with using devices. Google’s assistant, Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa often rely on Wikipedia to answer questions fast and accurately. This type of artificial intelligence needs to read vast amounts of text to learn how to respond over time. And for this reason, Wikipedia works very well. 

How should you use Wikipedia to market your healthcare organisation?

The recent collaboration with the World Health Organization, coupled with approval by search engine giant, Google, means that Wikipedia is a very attractive string to add to your marketing bow. However, you need to be careful with your approach to Wikipedia as a marketing tool because it isn’t a place for self-promotion. This means being mindful of the information you share and how you approach creating a page. Here’s some basic guidance to start you off:

Find someone to create your page or make your edits

You may have someone within your organisation with a Wikipedia account who can try to create a page, but you should make sure they have had at least 10 approved edits in the past, and have had their account for some time.

For most organisations we would advise commissioning a specialist agency to create your page. They will have more clout within Wikipedia, a better understanding of accepted page structures and can ensure the content is properly sourced. 

Why isn’t your healthcare organisation’s Wikipedia page getting approved?

Keep in mind that creating a Wikipedia page is more about online brand visibility than actively promoting your brand. Promoting yourself in any way on the platform is a big no, and if you attempt to do so your content will be taken down. Aim to publish content that is neutral and non-promotional.

Wikipedia uses notability as a test to see if a topic needs a dedicated article. Typically, Wikipedia will deem a subject worthy of an article if there is sufficient news coverage elsewhere on the web. Make sure the topics you want to cover can be linked to plenty of credible sources.

If you are struggling to find enough sources to qualify as notable, you could consider running a PR exercise beforehand to generate the necessary coverage.

Set up Wikipedia notifications to monitor your brand’s presence

Like any online marketing strategy, you’ll want to monitor the content on the page. You can do this easily by enabling notifications through the platform. Because the platform is open to editing by anyone, you’ll want to know if someone outside your organisation edits the page. You can enable notifications by heading to your Wikipedia page and selecting the notifications tab under your preferences. For monitoring the page, allow daily notifications. Set your frequency.

Wikipedia healthcare marketing specialists

Organisations have used Wikipedia as a marketing platform for many years. And patients and doctors continue to use the website as a source of healthcare information. Medical device manufacturers such as Medtronic and Johnson and Johnson and pharmaceuticals like Pfizer and AstraZeneca, all have a presence on the website. If you’re a relatively established healthcare brand, then focusing efforts on a Wikipedia page makes sense.

If you’re unsure where to start with Wikipedia, then speak to a healthcare specific, digital marketing agency who can help you navigate the rules and guidelines for establishing a credible page.

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