Gnawing on Knol Gives Me a Headache

By Tad Miller | Jul 24, 2008
More Articles by Tad


As if it wasn’t bad enough that Google essentially gives a free pass to the number one natural search position to Wikipedia. Now Google has rolled out Knol. Knol is like a combination of Wikipedia and Squidoo. It allows anyone to create content about ANY topic. Authors can choose to allow others to edit the content. But the biggest and most troubling thing about Knol is that it allows its authors to “monetize” that content by putting Google Adsense ads on them.

That’s right you create the content on Knol, opt for showing Google Adsense ads and let the dollars start rolling in. Google has already given extreme weight or authority to user generated Wikipedia content in its search engine rankings. Now it has it’s own Wikipedia-like site where all the content is user generated AND IT’S MAKING MONEY OFF OF THAT CONTENT! What kind of “weight” will Knol content have in Google’s ranking algorithms?

Well Danny Sullivan has already checked on it today.

“OK, so 10 of the 30 — 33% of what I looked at — hit the top ten or first page of results. You can spin that both ways. It’s proof that being in Knol is NOT an automatic ride to the top of the search results. But then again, knowing that 33% of your stuff will rank within a day is a pretty good track record.”

It’s only the first day, and it remains to be seen what role backlinks are playing in these initial rankings. But the more people link to Knol content in the future, like they do with Wikipedia entries, the more likely it is that you will see Knol results in the top ten Google results. I’ll be curious to see if voting on Knol will have any impact on rankings, especially if their are multiple knols on the same topic.

My first thoughts on how to benefit my clients is that it could potentially be the worlds best online White Paper publishing destination. Placement in Google search results will automatically garner more traffic than any White Paper directory. From a pure visibility standpoint this could be beneficial. All Knol links are “nofollow” and will not pass on any SEO benefits, but will obviously deliver traffic. The same applies to Article Marketing. It will likely be a great place to distribute your content and give your articles a lot of visibility, but will not pass value for links in Search Results.

My bigger concern is quality of search results. I’m almost contemplating quitting Search Engine marketing to just use my knowledge to write about the most expensive and lucritive adsense keywords, put them in a Knol and let the dollars roll in. Tools of the trade will be the Google Adwords keyword tool and also use of a “Hittail” strategy.

Knol appears to be trying to hedge “made for Adsense Knols” MFAKs (I’m taking full naming credit) by emphasizing its verification of credentials and writer identification.

Knol authors can also verify their identities through cell phone or credit card verification, enabling Google to double check with the phone/card providers to confirm your name and address.

But, as Chris Anderson stated in The Long Tail, the beauty of the internet is that it gives amateurs the ability to compete with “professionals” and puts them essentially on an even plane. If Knol reaches the critical mass of Wikipedia it will be impossible to police Knol Spam and honestly why should they police it if they are making Adsense revenues from it.

For now, I’m in wait and see mode as to what impact Knol will have on results. But for the most part I’m not liking the possibilities. It really looks like a revenue add for Google and not really a value add for searchers.

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