August 09, 2008

Google Knol Ranking issues revisited

There's been an ongoing thread of extensive Knol rankings discussion between search expert Danny Sullivan and Google oracle Matt Cutts, as to the issue of whether Google favors Knol in ranking. Key questions asked by Danny Sullivan:

* Are some domains seen as "trusted" by Google, so that any page within them gains some of that trust in ranking mechanisms.

* If so, is this trust transmitted to subdomains of a domain?

I think the answer to the first question is yes and the answer to the second is no. But I'd like Google to give us an on-the-record answer. It would help with the debunking.

I too suspect the answers are "yes" and "no" respectively. The poster-child for the "yes" answer to the first is Wikipedia, though other superlinked sites like Amazon or IMDB are evidence also. However, I could be convinced this is just a practical effect of trust flowing across pages.

The second question is trickier. It's something where the answer to it is not necessarily to the question which should be asked. That is, I can well imagine Matt Cutts hypothetically saying something like "No, is treated in the code exactly the same if were plain old - it has no ranking advantage from". And that might be the absolute literal truth. However, for example, received at least one great link at launch from the front page of (cached - it's gone from the current version). So, then, any site which got a front page link from a site as trusted and highly ranked as would be treated the same. Matt Cutts again: "We try to rank all our content on a level playing field." (I miss vocal inflection - please try to read the quotation as relayed with a very dry tone).

Danny Sullivan also said:

I'm saying that seemed to have, when I wrote this, quickly gained enough authority ON ITS OWN that pages within it did better -- that a page I never mentioned, which seemed to have practically no links pointing it -- shot to 28 out of 755,000 pages. Sorry, that's just not something I think you'd see happen on most brand new sites. And again, not because Google did anything to favor itself. Just because the Knol site rapidly gained authority.

The problem is the words "on its own" well, they remind me of bloggers who leaped to the A-list due to being media quasi-celebrities or wealthy, and pontificate how it's a level playing field - meaning, anyone who is rich or famous could do the same thing (again, that's "democracy", web 2.0 style!). In essence, knol had a very (link)rich and (media)famous "parentage", so pages on it ranked - and will rank - accordingly.

Note the high-trust-centralization effect has some very under-examined implications, but there's little support to explore that :-(.

[Update: Memesterbation link]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on August 09, 2008 11:59 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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