We Will Not Make Editorial Judgements, But We Desire to Rank Our Content #1

With the announcement of Knol, Google displayed their desire to become a publisher. Why? To make free information more accessible. It doesn't hurt that publishers dominate other industries, like music - where in some cases giving artists nothing, while some artist get less than nothing, even if they made millions in sales.

Danny Sullivan had some reservations on Knol, as does Rich Skrenta, and just about every other successful results oriented independent web author.

While claiming Google will not make any editorial judgements of quality, and Google will treat Knols like any other web pages, Google's Udi Manber had this to say:

A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read. The goal is for knols to cover all topics, from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions. Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content.

They desire it to be a starting point for searchers and yet they will not promote it?

Think back to the YouTube purchase. After Google bought the site, did they start blessing / featuring any YouTube content? Yes they did. Google's Uinversal Search integrated YouTube so tightly in their search results that now people add YouTube to the search query for many music searches . Don't believe me that they shifted user behavior? Try using Google Suggest for music searches and see where YouTube shows up.

Manber wrote not to worry about spam, as Google has that issue covered:

Our job in Search Quality will be to rank the knols appropriately when they appear in Google search results. We are quite experienced with ranking web pages, and we feel confident that we will be up to the challenge. We are very excited by the potential to substantially increase the dissemination of knowledge.

Sure they will filter out some of the garbage people submit, but the good stuff will rank better than it should. I am not a betting man, but if I were I would bet that Knols get ranked right at the top, next to Youtube. As John Andrews describes it:

As TrustRank (the Google version, not the Yahoo! version) takes hold as the #1 or #2 ranking factor for SEO, this Knol thing steps in and bingo… who could be more trusted than Google itself?

Wikipedia has amazing momentum in Google, and is poised to rank for everything. How will Google compete?

How can Google come late to the game, offer no pay, desire to throw their ads on it right out of the gate, and expect to win marketshare UNLESS they rank this content better than it deserves to rank on merit? Put another way, what person who gets paid to create content is going to prefer putting it on Google Knol for free UNLESS Google gives Knol preferential treatment? If you are producing content out of passion with no profit motive, why would you put it on Google instead of your own server? If you desire peer review with your name attached to it why not publish it on YourName.com?

Offline media has always been biased and aggressively consolidated, it looks like the web is going to suffer the same fate, but worse, unless you are a Google stakeholder. Or, if Google gets too aggressive with this cross integration maybe they will hurt their relevancy enough that people search elsewhere.

Published: December 16, 2007 by Aaron Wall in google


December 16, 2007 - 2:44pm

The 1st page SERP is filling up fast with G affiliated results, it will soon look very different from the other SEs, perhaps a backlash will finally take place. 2007 was a big year for G spreading their reach, never thought I would root for MS as an underdog in anything.

December 16, 2007 - 5:18pm

srsly tho... google probably spotted that wikipedia not ranks #1 for almost everything and thought 'i want a slice of that pie' so thats why this is happening. google should be able to tripple their page views by doing this (and sell their own adverts in there too) so c'mon people. start your wikis! optimise every page uniquely, do lots of keyword nice internal links and use rel=nofollow on everything external!!!

December 16, 2007 - 7:34pm

It seems that Google is gradually becoming what is originally destroyed.

December 16, 2007 - 9:07pm

I think you're right about the ongoing consolidation of online media, thanks in part to big G.

Will this new venture into user-generate wikipedia-styled content hurt Google's results or hurt their share of search?

I think that the answer is no to both. As you mentioned, chances are that if knol does get prime real estate on Google SERPs (and I agree that it eventually will if this little project pans out) then individuals will compete to get their takes listed on that knol content. That will probably result in fairly reliable content from knol, which can only help improve their results. It's the same progression that helped wikipedia gain such prominence with no apparent downswing in search share for Google.

Is it fair? Maybe not, but I guess that all is fair in love and search engine results.

December 16, 2007 - 10:06pm

As Odin mentioned, the google seprs are filling up quickly.

#1 knol
#2 wikipedia
#3 youtube
#4 about.com

Throw in some duplicate content issues they'll be seeing after launch and that pretty much covers the fold.

Google will be making it's job just that much harder now.

Can't wait to see how spammers exploit this one...I hope Matt Cutts gets a raise.

December 16, 2007 - 10:51pm

I am about to go sell Google stock short. It is just a matter of time that their business model will crumble and the stock will plummet. There has to be someone up for the challenge to create a better search engine, and it is just a matter of time before people will migrate there.

Also, has anyone noticed that google image search sucks lately? No matter what I search I get things that don't even make sense. We all know google blog search sucked, but their image search is going downhill as well.

December 16, 2007 - 11:42pm

Searching google and coming up with a list of encyclopedia articles will reduce search volume IMO. I can't imagine a way to make search results more boring. I would think that niche community sites such as this one would be the way to go if search will be dominate by predictable articles. People will just type in URLs more. That's what I've been doing.

December 16, 2007 - 11:50pm

We all know what happens when you limit diversity, and slamming your content down users throats. Compuserve and AOL come to mind right off the bat, I'm sure there are many more that tried to keep their user base within the confines of their own network.
When the masses realized AOL was not the WWW and they looked elsewhere and were more satisfied with what they found beyond the limits of AOL provided content, aol died.
I see just another hair brained Google experiment that will quietly disappear with neither a whimper or a bang.
What doesn't serve Google as a revenue generator will disappear eventually and this one leaves the door wide open for a mass exodus for users and advertisers alike.

Carsten Cumbrowski
December 17, 2007 - 1:18am

It's funny, I also just posted today about this at SEJ.

Knol will increase significantly Google's conflict of interest. What they are doing is like the consolidation of branches of state power as defined in the Trias Politica into one entity. It's like a Ad money generating perpetum mobile. Let's hope that Google will not start forgetting that other websites also exist, not only thin affiliate sites and spam blogs.

December 17, 2007 - 1:19am

While personally I'm getting a bit tired of bumping into Google-owned enterprises on the first page for every search I could think of, I don't think the regular Google user knows and/or cares about the ownership of YouTube, Google Maps, Google News or perhaps in the future, Google Knol. Not too much of a potential for backlash there.

As for the rest of us, we'll just try to get on the bandwagon and see if we can use the new feature to promote our sites/blogs. The Google army of drones. I'll go off now and feel ashamed of myself.

Love the title of the post though, Aaron.

December 17, 2007 - 2:44am

Great post Aaron.

As soon as I heard about this I started thinking similar things. My immediate reaction was that just the links that they'd give to it would pass on significant Google Juice from their pages like - http://www.google.com/intl/en/options/

Sure they'll say that it's all organic and that their algorithm just naturally ranks them well - but they've got huge power in their hands for ranking well with their own algorithm just with the links they can point at it themselves - not to mention the inside knowledge that they have on how to rank well.

It's going to be interesting though to view their on page SEO techniques :-)

December 17, 2007 - 4:28am

Looks like they're trying to knock off Squidoo to me...

Andrew Johnson
December 17, 2007 - 3:06pm

Some of the commenters are talking about how Google is in trouble -- a small group of sites dominating all of their results.

Consider the opposite. Its these sites which get 40%+ of their traffic from Google which are in trouble. Remember what happened to Answers.com, a publicly traded company: http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?s=ANSW&t=1y

December 17, 2007 - 4:58pm

I agree with Andrew Johnson. I honestly don't see this going poorly for Google at all. I think the average Google user will love this.

December 17, 2007 - 8:58pm

"Google is gradually becoming what is originally destroyed." Seems true. Would Google have done this if there were no spammers?

Terry Van Horne
December 18, 2007 - 3:57am

Anything would be an improvement on Wikipedia, it's the internets' monument to mediocrity! Anyone who doesn't think Wikipedia is in the SERP **only** because Google wants it there has not been paying attention to the SERPs. IMO, they want a Wikipedia like site and finally hjave realized that Wikipedia is a big ole piece o' human edited crap!

Wikipedia has a ton of IBLs from inner pages that pass limited if any juice. It didn't suddenly appear because Google finally found all these IBLs, IMO, they were given a trust boost and then all those links counted for something.

Now Google sees it for what it is and decided they could monetize it and do a better job themselves. It's not too hard to belive that Wikipedia is easily improved on! One look at the history of SEO on the search engine optimization page and all Wikipedias' limitations are evident. The people who were actually there and involved couldn't tell it like it actually was because that wouldn't fit into the guidelines so.. you get some half truths about the origins of SEO.

I also agree that Google is over doing results with search partners and publishers using AdSense. I don't think it is coincidence that this has happened every Xmas for the last 4! Whether it be the big box Internet stores who spend a ton or partners like ebay and YellowPages.ca. They are there because this is when they pay the nut for the whole year!

Also I belive there is some sort of contractual deal between Wikipedia and Google which wouldd account for the trust boost. IMO, they are being replaced because of the recent announcement they were going to build a SE based on the Grub crawler. Google doesn't like anyone that sits down to the table and even thinks about eating its lunch!

December 18, 2007 - 10:08pm

Whatever you think of Wikipedia. Google's game plan is getting more and more evident. They really do want to be the internet and any site that seems very popular will either be bought by them, or they get hit. Like Squidoo chop their pagerank first, then announce that the great Google will now have a similar site. Isn't that so convenient.
So many webmasters can't even open their eyes to see that Google now violates it's Do no Evil mantra often.
I agree with Homer above in that

"We all know what happens when you limit diversity, and slamming your content down users throats. Compuserve and AOL come to mind right off the bat..."

Google is doing it, we all know they are doing it, now what? Anyone have a clue what to do as this is getting out of hand already. I have a great idea on it and will post it on my blog this week.

December 18, 2007 - 10:27pm

The differences between Google and other closed wall environments is that Google is flowing money to many publishers, and Google at least mixes in some of the rest of the web (at least as long as is needed until it can be cloned, automated, or bought).

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