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Google Knol – Bestest Article Site EVER

Well, as soon as I rant-parodied Google’s ADWords program, comparing it to “black hat” SEO doorway pages of yesteryear, Google took the next step towards SEO/publisher disintermediation with the announcement of “Knol”, a spam article submission site. Gee, can you guess what Google will do next? Proxy page title elements in the index with “better ones”? Insert “tags” in-line with content to help align relevancy? Re-map the web so links better represent (expected) content relationships? Whatever… it seems Google wants to paint pretty pictures of its perfect world so everyone who doesn’t understand the web yet will commit their content to the Google revenue stream.

You have to hand it to Microsoft Google, though. Pre-announcing beta programs that admittedly might “never launch at all”, locking detail but heavy in presentation polish. A classic BigCompany intimidation move to deter investment in competition. Over the past year I enjoyed several very intelligent conversations with very smart people about how the wiki concept is the next thing after search engines. I haven’t agreed, but I was never the smartest guy in the discussion, either. Who would fund a startup wikipedia-like ‘search engine” knowing Google is preparing this Knol thing? Ouch, that has got to hurt. Sub $1 million dollar private equity funders are not the bravest bunch, in my experience.

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? As many have highlighted, it’s not easy to manage a content site, so we can’t be sure but if Google achieves what it showed as it’s “sample” (an insomnia article from a Standford physician). If Google did gain acceptance as “the” place to willing contribute (for free) branded authoritative content like that, we’re looking at pretty serious manipulation of free public access to information. There is no way entire industries like, for example, “academia” will freely contribute to Google’s “free” content aggregation site without significant guaranteed benefits for the long haul. Let one of those uncertified, foreign-trained medical experts supporting Wikipedia write a competing article of equal or better quality, sans the American politics, and see what happens. Is Google up to the task of disrupting everything at the same time?

I liked Mahola for one thing only – watching them launch articles was like watching an affiliate marketer prioritize his work flow. Biggest money makers first, then next, then next on down the line. I have pointed several newbie SEOs to Mahaloo for just that reason — look at what they target and you’ve got today’s most profitable keyword niches. What will Google publish after Insomnia? Accident Lawyers in Phoenix? Wrinkle reduction in Los Angeles? Or how about one of those too-perfect San Diego cosmetic surgeons writing an authoritative article on Botox for Crow’s feet? Of course we’ll see solar power and such, too.



  1. Richard Ball wrote:

    Hi John. Thought you’d appreciate some titles I was considering:

    – Google Building Made for AdSense Site
    – Google’s Secret Project to Spam Itself
    – Google Looking for Trols on Grassy Knols
    – Google Knofollow?

    I ended up choosing:

    – Google Knol Signals the Apogee of Google’s Hegemony

    Anyway, this really is a peculiar development, isn’t it? I think it’s a sign of Google’s weakness. BTW, your last post was pretty funny. ;-)

    Friday, December 14, 2007 at 5:18 pm | Permalink
  2. Margaret wrote:

    Interesting how your title echoes Seth Godin’s most recent venture: where the pages have things like ‘’ as their urls!

    Love you John, you’re a screech!

    Friday, December 14, 2007 at 6:09 pm | Permalink
  3. Alex Tsatkin wrote:

    Once I believed that the internet would set people free and allow public discourse at a level never experienced in humanity before. Instead it has turned into a muddy place full of snake oil salesmen. The worst culprit of them all is Google. They are like the Church back in the day. *sigh*

    Friday, December 14, 2007 at 7:27 pm | Permalink
  4. Great post, John. Let’s all make sure the spotlight is on this kind of activity. It’s like librarians deciding they don’t like the books they see coming through the door from current authors so they create their own books to answer queries from visitors. I think this is how the Tower of Babel got off the rails. I think we’re all going to end up in a black hole.

    Saturday, December 15, 2007 at 9:26 pm | Permalink
  5. Dan Perry wrote:

    The post was great (as usual), but I never noticed the order that Mahalo built its’ pages. Very insightful in itself (or maybe I just skipped over that post; if so sorry). They’re not in the top 30 for “mesothelioma”, but give it time!

    Monday, December 17, 2007 at 1:27 pm | Permalink
  6. Prolexinvest wrote:

    Can;t wait to see what knol is all about. I think this will give more credibility to post unlike wikipedia which is constantly terrorized by children who think its a joke.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2007 at 2:06 pm | Permalink