Google Knol, the Googley competition for Wikipedia, was announced with some fanfare and really seemed like a great idea. The ‘knol’ stands for “Knowledge”, and articles are written by people who verify their identities and presumably have some knowledge of the topic. Community ratings are used to filter good from bad knol posts, presumably leaving the best topical coverage at the top of the knol heap.
However as with many Google innovations outside of pure keyword search knol appears to be making gaining little traction with the internet community. I say this because I rarely see the sited linked to or referenced by blogs or websites and also from my own knol page for “Beijing” which as the top “Beijing” and “Beijing China” listing you’d think would have seen fairly big traffic over the past months which included the Beijing Olympics. Yet in about six months that page has only seen 249 total views – that is less than many of my blog posts would see in just a few days here at Joe Duck.
So what’s up with the decisions people make about using one resource over another? Like Wikipedia Google Knol is an excellent resource. Reading my Beijing page, for example, would give you some quick and helpful insights into “must see” attractions there. It’s no travel guide but it would prove a lot more helpful than many sites that outrank it at Google for the term “Beijing”. Google appears to have relegated their own knol listings to obscure rankings – perhaps because linkage is very low given the low use of knol. Like many Google search innovations knol appears bound to the dustbin of obscurity as Wikipedia continues to dominate the rankings for many terms (as they should – it’s generally the best coverage although generally very weak for travel because they fail to capture commercial info adequately).
My simple explanation would be that we are prisoners of habit and have trouble managing the plethora of information resources that lie – literally – at our fingertips. We all have yet to understand much about how the internet works, and how inadequate a picture one gets if they simply stick to a keyword search and hope for the best.
Google’s new knol project features articles on any topic by anybody who cares to call themselves an expert. The concept is really intriguing as it relates to bringing higher authority information online that will be vetted both by the author and by the community at large.
Search marketing guru Aaron Wall is one of the sharpest fellows in the SEO business and he’s been testing knol and has concerns about the results both in terms of outranking original material and copyright.
The SMX search folks – I think it was Danny Sullivan – have also been testing knol and also are suggesting knol material is ranking very well. Google says they are not giving their own site preferential treatment, but I’m guessing what they mean is that they are applying the same rules to knol as other sites. If, for example, those rules that are *applied equally to all sites* happen to include a high value for incoming links from Google sites or other knol pages, the knol content effectively has a big advantage, technically without any special treatment.
In terms of search strategy I think the rule here is to …. write some knol page for topics of interest to you or topics for which you want to improve your rank. I expect knol to be a huge topic at the upcoming search conference – SES San Jose.
Later: Time to check out this knol thing by creating some content myself. Here are listings I created for:
Google knol is a promising development in online information, where “experts” will write concise, authoritative articles on many topics and the community will rank and comment on those articles. It may be a great way to combine quality content with social networking, though I’m not clear if the quality content producers will be rewarded with more than just the knol-edge that they have brought more good info into the world.
Although I don’t think they’d talk much about this, I think Google has begun to understand the degree to which adsense has hurt the online information landscape – basically by rewarding those who are most clever at flooding the web with low quality content rather than those who have provided high quality content. Likewise with linking, where SEO abuses and excesses and Google decisions have made it increasingly hard to separate the information wheat from the adsense chaff.
Enter knol, which will be a community policed content system. Basically a good idea, and as I’ve noted many times before Google is masterful at doing good things that happen to help them solve some potential revenue problems. As Nick Carr noted yesterday Google’s high ranks for un-monetized Wikipedia content aren’t putting many Christmas presents under the tree for Google, and knol may shift some advertising focus back in house.
Google’s about to launch yet another clever idea. Called knol, it will feature authoritative articles about any topic which will use community rating and input.
It will be interesting to see how this project compares to the excellent community produced content at Wikipedia, and also how Google handles the legitimate as well as scammy SEO tactics that always follow good content. Disallowing links to commercial sites would seem to inhibit an author’s ability to feature things, but allowing them opens up the chance of abuses of the type that made Wikipedia choose to use NOFOLLOW tag on all external Wikipedia links.
The good news – more quality information online – yippee!