Wikimedia FoundationTrawling through a list of links to the websites of a client’s competitor the other day, I noticed several keyword-heavy anchor text links to their sites from a page on the WikiMedia Sustaining Corporate Donors page. Intrigued, I spent a few minutes clicking around the WikiMedia site and searching to see what it takes to get listed on this PageRank 6 page (not that PageRank should be taken as a particularly significant metric these days of course).

Having failed to find any information, I emailed WikiMedia directly to ask what kind of donation is required to appear on the page. The reply was a fairly astonishing $5000. To quote:

We recognize the search optimization benefit to having a hyperlink on the page and are, of course, happy to provide this value for our donors.

In fairness, the email goes on to say that the primary purpose of the page is to serve as a special recognition of their most generous supporters and that their are no special procedures or considerations governing that page, “although it is very helpful if you let us know in advance the hyperlink URL and anchor text you would like to add.”

Take a look at some of the links on that page – I know for a fact that there are a group of six links to different sites that are all in reality the same company. Not only do they look a tad spammy in their keyword choices (very few are the names or brands of the website/business), but I find it hard to believe that such a business is willing to drop $30k on one link to each of six sites. So I guess WikiMedia are open to negotiation or have changed the minimum donation recently.

Is this buying/selling links? Should Google care? Assuming the sites on there are benefitting from the links, it seems a pretty clear case of “manipulating the algorithm” through financial clout rather than providing quality content that people want to link to. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see Wikipedia survive and flourish and I’m not trying to deny them the funding they need; but it does rather highlight the moral conundrum Google finds itself in and I suspect the “donation” rather than outright sale aspect is the excuse they need to sweep it under the carpet. Doesn’t change the fact that $5k will buy you the anchor text you want from a PR6 page on an authority domain though does it?