July 28, 2008
@ 02:27 AM

For several months Nick Carr has pointed out that Wikipedia ranks highly in the search results for a number of common topics in Google's search engine. In his post entitled Googlepedia Nick Carr speculated on why Google would see this trend as a threat in a paragraph which is excerpted below

I'm guessing that serving as the front door for a vast ad-less info-moshpit outfitted with open source search tools is not exactly the future that Google has in mind for itself. Enter Knol.

Clearly Nick Carr wasn't the only one that realized that Google was slowly turning into a Wikipedia redirector. Google wants to be the #1 source for information or at least be serving ads on the #1 sites on the Internet in specific area. Wikipedia was slowly eroding the company's effectivenes at achieving both goals. So it is unsurprising that Google has launched Knol and is trying to entice authors away from Wikipedia by offering them a chance to get paid.

What is surprising is that Google is tipping it's search results to favor Knol. Or at least that is the conclusion of several search engine optimization (SEO) experts and also jibes with my experiences.

Danny Sullivan wrote in his post The Day After: Looking At How Well Knol Pages Rank On Google that

We've been assured that just because content sits on Google's Knol site, it won't gain any ranking authority from being part of the Knol domain. OK, so a day after Knol has launched, how's that holding up? I found 1/3 of the pages listed on the Knol home page that I tested ranked in the top results.

I was surprised to see a post covering how Knol's How to Backpack was already hitting the number three spot on Google. Really? I mean, how many links could this page have gotten already? As it turns out, quite a few. And more important, it's featured on the Knol home page, which itself is probably one of the most important links. While Knol uses nofollow on individual knols to prevent link credit from flowing out, it's not used on the home page -- so home page credit can flow to individual knols featured on it.

here's a test knol I made yesterday -- Firefox Plugins For SEO & SEM -- which ranks 28 for firefox plugins for seo. I never linked to it from my article about knol. I don't think it made the Knol home page. I can see only three links pointing at it, and only one of those links uses anchor text relevant to what the page is ranking for. And it's in the top 30 results?

Look, I know that being ranked 28 is pretty much near invisible in terms of traffic you'll get from search engines. But then again, to go from nowhere to the 28th top page in Google out of 755,000 matches? I'm sorry -- don't tell me that being in Knol doesn't give your page some authority.

Aaron Wall noticed something even more insidious in his post entitled Google Knol - Google's Latest Attack on Copyright where he notices that if Google notices duplicate content then it favors the content on Knol over a site that has existed for years and has decent PageRank. His post is excerpted below

Another Knol Test

Maybe we are being a bit biased and/or are rushing to judgement? Maybe a more scientific effort would compare how Knol content ranks to other content when it is essentially duplicate content? I did not want to mention that I was testing that when I created my SEO Basics Knol, but the content was essentially a duplicate of my Work.com Guide to Learning SEO (that was also syndicated to Business.com). Even Google shows this directly on the Knol page

Google Knows its Duplicate Content

Is Google the Most Authoritative Publisher?

Given that Google knows that Business.com is a many year old high authority directory and that the Business.com page with my content on it is a PageRank 5, which does Google prefer to rank? Searching for a string of text on the page I found that the Knol page ranks in the search results.

If I override some of Google's duplicate content filters (by adding &filter=0 to the search string) then I see that 2 copies of the Knol page outrank the Business.com page that was filtered out earlier.


Following Danny's example, I also tried running some searches for terms that appear on the Knol homepage and seeing how they did in Google's search. Here's the screenshot of the results of searching for "buttermilk pancakes"

Not bad for a page that has existed on the Web for less than two weeks.

Google is clearly favoring Knol content over content from older, more highly linked sites on the Web. I won't bother with the question of whether Google is doing this on purpose or whether this is some innocent mistake. The important question is "What are they going to do about it now that we've found out?"

Now Playing: One Republic - Stop and Stare

Monday, July 28, 2008 4:36:08 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
It's probably a bit soon to be jumping to conclusions, though; IIRC Google's algorithm tends to give weight to recent content and to sites which have frequent updates, which is why blog entries about a major $THING tend to immediately jump to the top of the results. The same explanation could be true for Knol, and only time will tell.
Monday, July 28, 2008 8:11:08 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
A large number of people fled to the open source movement after similar policies from Microsoft.
I strongly believe that these kind of practices will make the Google brand name weaker. People will start to hate them, and we may see something like an open source search engine...
Monday, July 28, 2008 10:15:03 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I'm not sure I buy this. Most of these high-ranking knol articles are ones that were featured on knol's front page -- which has been linked to by everyone and their mother. Seriously, every damn blog in the world, including mine. Its undoctored pagerank has to be off the charts.

Google's been careful so far not to privilege their own content, even going so far as to take out ads in case something else shows up in the first slot. If they've started gaming the results, they're going to lose the mandate of heaven pretty quickly and become another hated-and-feared tech monopoly.
Monday, July 28, 2008 11:40:51 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Hi Dare, as Ben Yates mentions, several of these knols were featured on the front page of Knol and therefore a lot of people writing about Knol were linking to these knols and passing PageRank and anchortext. I saw multiple people talking about and linking to Aaron's knol as well. It can sometimes take some time for our crawl/indexing system to determine how much trust or weight to assign to new web pages. As part of the process of Knol launching, I'm guessing our crawl/indexing system will continue to adjust appropriately over the next few days.

For the search [Music in Capoeira], Yahoo ranks a knol page at #2. That doesn't mean that Yahoo is boosting Knol. Likewise, yesterday Yahoo was ranking a knol on the first page for [read russian]; checking again now, Yahoo doesn't rank that knol in the top 50 for that query. But that doesn't mean that Yahoo is pushing down knol pages either. It's natural for search engine rankings to fluctuate, especially with new pages. So I'd avoid jumping to conclusions for now.
Monday, July 28, 2008 4:20:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
And people used to love to hammer MSFT for similarly owning the placement on the Windows Desktop. Google is the web cloud version, or MSFT 20.
Monday, July 28, 2008 4:54:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
My search experience with Knol has been less than satisfactory. I posted a piece on Knol with content copied from a more extensive Squidoo Lens that dates from that site's origin.

1. A search within Knol for "Obama" (which is a major topic of the piece) on Knol doesn't return my piece.

2. A Google search for '"The Black Scholar" obama' returns my Lens (84 of 430) but not the Knol.

3. The same Yahoo search returns my Lens as #1 of 5,700, but the Knol piece isn't in the first 100.

4. Narrowing the Google search adding the publisher's name returns 19 hits with the Lens next to last but not the Knol. Yahoo returns 24 hits but not the Knol.

Clearly, there's something strange about Google's indexing of Knol articles and I find Google's ranking of my Lens a bit strange, too.

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