July 28, 2008

Google Knol Ranking - Google NOT favoring Knol (the way you think ...)

I've not bothered to write an obligatory "Google Knol" post, but I'm going to try to weigh in on the Great Google Knol Ranking Controversy, which is whether Google is artificially boosting the ranking of Knol articles. My contention:

1. Short answer: No

2. Slightly longer answer: Yes, but not in the way you think.

To begin with, simply as a historical evidence sanity-check, we've got many examples to consider as to whether Google gives its own properties any special favorable treatment. Google owns Blogger, but doesn't seem to give blogger posts any favored ranking over similar posts (favoring blog posts in general is another issue). Google owns YouTube, and yes, there have been rumors there, but YouTube is also essentially winner-take-all category dominator (self-reinforcing, true). Social network Orkut is an also-ran now. So there's no history of strong ranking promotion.

And critically: FAVORING KNOL WOULD BE STUPID. It's an unproven, profitless project at this point. Moreover, if Google was going to be evil here, the smart thing to do would be to turn up the crank slowly over months, like the boiling-a-frog cliche. Not hang a big sign out with an invitation of roughly "Sue us for anti-trust violations and abuse of monopoly power".

Matt Cutts, Google's most well-known blogger, has said

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.

Which brings me to the "Yes" answer. Sure, anything featured by a megacorporation with lots of buzz around it will rank equally well. Anyone with the same amount of enormous power (in terms of attention and popularity) can expect the same result. That's "web 2.0" democracy for you!

The real thing to worry about is not some crude code like
"if ($site eq 'knol.google.com') { $ranking = $SUPERHIGH; }"

The real thing to worry about is if someone inside the search ranking group has told the Knol group the deep dark secret formula which has driven Wikipedia's metastasis throughout all of Google's results.
[note that's "secret" as in "trade secret", not conspiracy]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on July 28, 2008 02:32 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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I thought the obvious bias would be most prominent - I want google backing for a project so I will slave for them in the Knol mines so they recognise me when my research fund request hits their desk. The "good" content will flow to the potential dollars.

Also the fact that google knows Knol exists amongst the 1Trillion+ pages out there that google sees has to be a bonus.

Posted by: tqft at July 28, 2008 05:44 PM

Folks seem to be missing the fact that most of the content at Knol is not even being indexed...at least, not yet.

Yeah, the front page knols show up in regular Google search results (and Yahoo search results). And somehow, Danny Sullivan's knol got picked up like greased lightning.

But the bulk of the content is invisible. Pick a knol at random (but not off the front page!) and conduct a search for it. Odds are, it won't show up.

I have four knols at this point, all several days old, under my name David Sarokin. If you search for [ sarokin ] at knol.google.com, then you'll find my knols. But if you search [ knol sarokin ] as a regular Google search, not a knol in site!

Ditto for most other content at Knol.

Posted by: David at July 28, 2008 11:25 PM