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Google’s Knol – A Wikipedia Killer or a Blog Killer?

Posted By Darren Rowse 24th of July 2008 Pro Blogging News 0 Comments

Is Google’s Knol an attack on Wikipedia or Could it hurt Smaller Publishers like bloggers more?

So today Google finally opened up and launched Launched Knol (it’s been coming for a while) a place where people can publish ‘authoritative articles about specific topics’. It’s like Wikipedia in that articles can be edited by others – but changes need to be approved by the authors of the articles. Articles can be monetized in a revenue share arrangement where Google and the authors share income derived from articles.

My Three initial reactions to Knol

Google Competing with it’s Partners

My mind goes back to sitting in the offices of Google in Sydney where in a presentation by a Google staff member (a fairly highly ranked one) I heard him say that Google was not in the content business and didn’t ever want to compete with their publishers sites. He said that they were in the business of organizing the world’s information and not creating it. There was a murmur in the room at the time and a few raised eyebrows because we’d been hearing about these kinds of new products emerging from Google where they not only organize information but host it on their own properties. It’s a fine line – increasingly so with Knol.

Back in 2006 Google CEO Eric Schmidt was famously quoted as saying that Google was not a media company – “But that doesn’t make us a media company. We don’t do our own content. We get you to someone else’s content faster.”


There’s a lot of talk going around the blogosphere today about how Knol is a Wikipedia killer – but I wonder whether it could ‘kill’ (or perhaps maim would be more appropriate) a few smaller publishers before they really hurt Wikipedia.

Update: for more thoughts on this see Journalistopia.

I can only imagine how highly Knol articles are going to rank in Google’s search results in a year or two. Wikipedia makes it difficult enough for a publisher to grab the number 1 ranking for many terms in Google simply because of it’s size and the number of links pointing at it – have we just seen the launch of a product that will mean #1 and #2 positions are generally taken?

Spam Haven?

I can almost hear the blackhat community running over to Knol to see how it can be manipulated. I’m sure Google have safe guards in place – but where there’s a will there’s a way.


I’ve come across a number of people lately who have gone full time (or close to it) using Squidoo to publish articles and monetize them. They’ve build up profiles and search rankings for their Squidoo pages to the point that they’re able to generate significant incomes via advertising and affiliate revenue. I suspect we’ll see the same with Knol.

It’s going to be an interesting one to watch!

What do you think about Knol? Is it something that could help or hurt your blogging?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. I saw this morning that Knol had been opened up and found it interesting. I just gave it a quick look. I already linked my AdSense account. I didn’t have time to figure out what linking could be done and if they would have nofollow. In any case it seems there’s a lot of potential ways to use it.

  2. I’m not surprised, Google makes it a point to jump on top of anything successful and kill it for the rest of us! The worst part is Google knows we won’t ignore it.

  3. I think this adds to the problem of where to post content. Obviously, content is king… but where do we put the content.

    As a blogger, we want to put the content on our blogs. But when you are just starting out, it is hard to get high rankings. Therefore, the temptation is to put your content on other sites that already have rank and traffic.

    The advantages to posting content on these sites can influence bloggers. It might come to the point that bloggers don’t want to post their content on their blogs, but these bigger sites where you can contribute. Then the only site people would have would be a sales site… not a content site.

    We’ll just have to keep a eye on this an change as the internet changes.

  4. The thing about Wikipedia is that it tries to be neutral, a be-all-end-all of sorts.
    The thing about Squidoo is that neutrality goes out the window — in fact, you’re rewarded for being controversial, if that controversy allows you to hawk product and spur discussion. It’s understood that whatever you write on page X is your opinion about Page X, and while it helps you to link to other sites of differing opinion in that it helps foster growth between the two of you, and at the end of the month if you’ve done your job you get paid for it. Sooner, if you happen to push someone into buying your work/ services or at least buying whatever affiliate product you have on hand.

    I don’t see how mixing the two together can work.

  5. I liked it a lot better when I was hearing and reading about it. What came out of all the hype isn’t all that impressive. I’m sure it will become the next big thing next to About.com and all of their information articles, and perhaps it will be good in search results. But as someone looking for information, Google Knol won’t be the first place I look (atleast not for now).

    Besides, with all the authors on there right now, it looks like WebMD. Tuberculosis? Vaginitis? Anorexia? Urinary Tract Obstruction? It can’t just be so-called medical experts that want to write a Knol, right?

  6. For the people that actively use social media, knol is very, very similar to Squidoo which is nothing like Wikipedia or a blog. TechCrunch and others have been reporting falsely that knol is like Wikipedia when it isn’t.

  7. Well at a cursory overview it appears to be more of an article directory than anything else. It possibly will be a very engaging community with little or no built in moderation, similar to blogger.com.

    It will be interesting to see how well “knols” rank in the sarch engine. A more likely comparison instead of squidoo.com will be to hubpages.com.

    For those that are “buim marketers” it will be a good send. Another tool in their arsenal.

  8. Well at a cursory overview it appears to be more of an article directory than anything else. It possibly will be a very engaging community with little or no built in moderation, similar to blogger.com.

    It will be interesting to see how well “knols” rank in the sarch engine. A more likely comparison instead of squidoo.com will be to hubpages.com.

    For those that are “bum marketers” it will be a good send. Another tool in their arsenal.

  9. 1) Wikipedia or a blog killer? Good headline. Squidoo comes at the tail end! Not worth comparing in the headline.

    2) Thanks for the introducing new Google product.

    3) I think this can be a good example of how blog is different from the informative products like Squidoo and Knol. You express your view / opinion / perspective on the blog. Where as Knol is pure info. Individual or collaborative creation. .

  10. Found this on the Knol best practices page written by Google:

    “Don’t write a blog. Knols are meant to be standalone articles on a topic of your choosing. Knol is not optimized for diary-type writing.”

  11. Just checked out the site, interesting. I don’t see it as a blog killer really, but I see it as another avenue to get my content out to the world. I can see posting “informational” posts at Knol and my blog, while posting personal posts exclusively at my blog.

  12. @duhh – you’re exactly right. Knol is nothing like Wikipedia. Google Operating System is the only one reporting this correctly.


  13. Richard Wilson, Hedge Fund Blogger says: 07/24/2008 at 1:36 pm

    I see Knol as a ranking tool in two ways.

    1. Re-jigger 100 articles to create unique optimized Knol pages for your top 100 keyword targets using, bold, H1, H2, etc…these will rank highly within 2-3 years.

    2. Include links back to your original work within these Knol guides – to your original blog posts that you want to rank highly for… another highly relevant link that is spot on target will help you rank higher.

    Like one of the comments above mentioned though…who has time to place your content everywhere you would like to – hard enough to keep up with advertisers, emails and multiple blog posts/day.

    – Richard

  14. @Paul Rushing

    Hubpages and Squidoo are very similar with the exception of Hubpages has CPM ads, it’s irrelevant which knol is more similar too. It’s like whether my grape is more like your’s or Darren’s doesn’t matter in how it tastes or how it ranks in search engines.

  15. I for one am going to get myself over to the site and see what I can write about! On one hand – yes, it’s wrong that Google does this. How can they provide content and then search that is uninfluenced by that content… won’t it be favored somehow? I think so. I’ve not seen Google reverse many decisions after going public – but this might be one they reconsider!

  16. Is it really another article directory? If it becomes the dominant article directory I don’t really mind.

    It certainly will be interesting to see how it affects blogging. It’s going to be an interesting few months ahead I think.

  17. If I remember right, the same thing was said when Blogger was purchased by Google, however, we know that not to be true.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out… if Google will stay true to their unofficial mantra: Don’t be Evil.

  18. All of the content pages are nofollow for the robots meta tag…..

  19. Whether you like it or not, Knol will most likely rank as well as wikipedia in 12 months time. The early adopters will get a ton of traffic in return for their content, so it would be stupid not to try to create at least 2-5 articles on things you are an expert at.

    Knol is the the new Squidoo, although being as it is run by Google, they can’t really add a penalty to their own site as they did to Squidoo… it will be interesting to see where it ends up.

  20. Darwin says: 07/24/2008 at 2:23 pm

    Seems a logical evolution to survive and thrive. Television networks began just a medium for others who produced content and then they began producing their own content. But actually it is not Google’s content it is user created.

    I am sure all interested parties will study how to best use knol to advance their personal interests whether they be IMers, Bloggers, SMers etc.

    Will be interesting to watch how it evolves.

  21. Peeple says: 07/24/2008 at 3:18 pm

    I don’t think this will replace blogs. There is no way for you to monetize it thus not a big motivator for people to move thier content onto knol.. Google runs it’s own ads next to the knol and as of yet I have not found a way to use your own.

  22. hichnii says: 07/24/2008 at 3:27 pm

    I think people will move from Squidoo and Hubpages in knol because articles there will occupy higher positions in Google

  23. I don’t like it. Google will be ranking their own stuff, and you have to think that could get ugly pretty quickly.

  24. Knol looks like it was designed by a five-year old on an Etch a Sketch. What were Google thinking? It’s a ridiculous name for a product and looks hideous. The game’s over before it’s even started. The public are going to complete ignore this.

  25. Well, for one thing you’re certainly right about Knol articles ranking well. We just did some research and blogged about it.

    We’re also about to do a few SEO experiments with Knol and will report the results on our blog pretty soon.

  26. This reminds me a bit of IBM. They were king and then they weren’t. Microsoft came along and stole everyone’s heart, except Apple fans.

    Microsoft screwed up over the years with various actions that have left a bad taste in folks mouth. They have a lot of customer service incident response cards to fill out and send for customers to trust them again.

    At this point I don’t think any technology Microsoft introduces will have too much weight. I don’t care who’s working for them or who created it.

    And so now we’re at the new IBM, Microsoft on the block – Google. In the previous two companies I think you can summarize – you screw with the people and the people won’t like you – in a big way.

    So, if they screw with search rankings because they want to promote Knol content or any other content in a wrong way, you know the road they’ll start heading down and Google will start tasting like slime.

    My two cents.

  27. I think that Google should not have taken onto this project on the first place. The reason why I said that was because Google will now take away another spot on the SE for us. I think it will kill the content sites which lives off the affiliate ads and adsense.

    It will be a good one to watch.

  28. I don’t know if I’m on the right track here, but if Google wanted something like Wikipedia, Google would BUY Wikipedia.

  29. This is similiar to vertical integration where cinema production companies used to own the production, distribution and exhibition of films. Prior to 1948 when the government intervened to prevent integration, it gave production companies tons of power, cutting out independents. Now this is probably happening again on the internet. How can one company be in control of the distribution of the content. (through search engines) and also the content. This is anti-competitive. It’s not fair for the small publishers. As a content site…it looks so bizarre…what’s with the blocked toilet article ?? And as Sheamus said…the name is ridiculous…Why didn’t they just call it “know” ?


  30. I think it fills a gap for experts to post once, or perhaps annual information in their area of expertise. I think Squidoo was ugly right from the start.. as much as I wanted it to work.. it just didn’t.

    I would see it as a “dateless” blog replacement, which will hopefully give quality information good ratings and good earnings. Wikipedia just wasn’t credible, at least this gives you the opportunity to be credible by providing good content.

  31. I agree that is all seems like a more “worthy”, studious Squidoo. Am not sure that this give anyone more of an opportunity to get credibility by providing good quality content – you can do that on your own.

    The question of how Knol articles will rank is a bit pointless. Yes, they will already have some “credibilty rank” factored in but in Google Search it doesn’t matter.

    By the time we have a results page littered with Maps, Local, Base, Books and now Knol offerings – not to mention Adwords – there won’t be any room for actual organic results.

    We have to move with the changing scenery but short term, I think Knol is a bad thing for the little content providers.

  32. I have no problem with Google competing with Wikipedia… in fact I would enjoy seeing that. At first glance, Knol looks a bit too formal to me.

    There’s probably a good chance these knol sites are going to rank well…so my guess is all of us little guys will see a drop in traffic.

    Right now i’m showing 994 results on the knol site:


  33. How to Backpack is the #3 result on right now. Looks like the article was originally started on April 16, 2008.


  34. Google is only trying to compete with sites like hubpages.com and not standalone bloggers. Infact, I’d see this as another opportunity for bloggers to promote themselves. Publish articles there and monetize them with Ads. Its just another way for publishers to get their content out there and it is monetizable .. so a win-win situation for everyone, IMO.

  35. I checked out Knol, and even put up an article, and noticed one thing: It won’t let you ramble. Unlike the Wikipedia, where articles can go on and on, Knol seems to cut writers off at about 1000 characters. So when they talk about articles about a specific topic, they mean it.

  36. The core belief behind our mission at findingDulcinea is that the vast majority of Internet users do not know how to find, evaluate and put to use online information. Knol is an acknowledgment of that. Users can’t find answers themselves, so Google will share revenue with anyone who wants to write the “answer” for them. We agree on the problem, but not the answer. We’re using a full-time editorial staff of researchers, writers and editors to give users the high quality, consistent, endorsed results they need. And we’re delighted that we’re the only ones that can see the appeal of that.

  37. So will Google end up having the same issues as Wiki has with people’s complaints about reliability?

    Google is making some great products and offering some great services. I just hope they don’t loose that in the chase to do everything

  38. As a blogger, and a writer for About.com, I see Knol as just another tool that will create more work for me. I need to come up with content for my blog, which happens to share the same basic content as my topic at About, and if I want to utilize Knol by writing on the same topic only to promote my other sites, I am going to need to become a writing machine.

    I certainly see its advantages, but I think it is too early to tell what kind of effect it will have on other publishing means. With wikipedia, you get a sense of neutrality with facts in most cases. With blogs and other sites like hub pages or squido, you get a lot of information with some subjectivity thrown in.

    Knol seems to try and create a sense of authority without any real validity. Sure, you can verify your name, but big deal. People can still write whatever they want, regardless of how factual it is. Not saying that is good or bad, but it doesn’t seem to have a clear goal. Does Knol want to be the number one spot for reference and knowledge, or does it just want to allow anyone to write about anything? I don’t think you can effectively have it both ways.

  39. On the one hand Knol can serve as another source of information such as wikipedia does and could probably be pretty creditable if they handle the editing process right. (I know that wiki was banned from the school computers for essay research and the likes.)

    It also serves as another venue to promote in the way that ehow and wikihow and squidoo give bloggers chances to get their name out there. I don’t do a lot of article promotion, but if people take to it, Knol could become pretty profitable.

    Looking at it now, all I’m seeing is a bunch of medical articles. I’m actually starting to wonder if it will evolve via user interaction into a medical reference site. Highly unlikely, but it would be funny as an afterthought.

  40. Paulo Martins says: 07/24/2008 at 11:42 pm

    Man! I wish I could speak english fluently. I bought http://www.proknoller.com as soon as I heard about Knol, and now I saw your post, only to discover thar I should have bought http://www.proknoler.com, wtih only one “l”.

  41. Knol is a great service, that while may cripple wikipedia (unless the come up with a way to monetize and share income from there articles with authors).

    I certainly don’t think it will affect blogs, because blogs are easier to follow, the have an opinion and a greater community involvement.

  42. This is not going to kill blogging. Whether people make a nickel from their blogs or not they are going to blog because they feel powerful doing it. And Knol or whatever loser name they want to give it can’t override or replicate that sense of power.

    And the whole thing is built on a market share mindset of Google domination but they will never be the best even if they gain the first rank in the search engines. The artificial restriction of characters does not automatically guarantee clear quality information. Wiki has a ton of loyalty and that loyalty creates the perception of best in the world that matters. It’s why Squidoo doesn’t look anything like Wiki; Godin takes his own advice.

  43. Hi Darren, That was quite a nice introduction to Knol. I have my own voice on why it is not possible to easily tackle Wikipedia. Especially now that Wikia search is also available. Please read my post on Knol here and give me your ideas:



  44. Well participating in action will definitely give some advantage.
    How far it will help /undermine blogging we have to wait and see.

  45. My main concern, just as with Squidoo, is how do we protect our posts from being copied wholesale to Knol, and how responsive will they be about taking down the duped content? I’ve already seen some of my stuff on Squidoo, but luckily not in it’s entirety and with a link back to the original, so I haven’t complained, but I don’t want to have to spend a lot of time policing their sites.

  46. My initial reaction to this is not necessarily a positive one, mainly for the reason that Darren stated above: Google was in the business of organizing content not creating it.

    jodith brings up a great point regarding content protection as well, that frightens me a bit. I guess for now we’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out. It could a bane or boon for the blogging world.

  47. Knol isn’t a competitor for Wikipedia and likely never will be. WP is multi-lingual (250+), neutral (not US-centric), broad (over ten million articles) and as immediate as the last second.

    If Gnol succeeds – and having more information sources is nearly always a good thing – it will be as a competitor to the former mainstream print reference works rather than the online resources everyone has got used to using.

  48. I bet you that these pages will automatically rank higher and will have a higher authority in googles eyes than regular web pages. It will also will only be a matter of time before this they start outranking wikipedia pages.

    It kinda feels like they are stabbing all the loyal adsense users right in the back.

    I also have a huge problem with one company having so much control of the internet. They have way to much information in their databases and I can’t believe so many people trust a company to have so much power.

    Whats next?

    They already have digitized the library, mapped the world including your front yard, they are trying to take control of peoples medical records, they control what people find online when searching, they took over you tube, and now this.

    Seems a little bit scary to me.

  49. I don’t think it will be right to call Google a Content Creator. They are platform provider and they are already doing it with Blogger.

  50. I think there may be a possibility to use this alongside our blogs. If you can build up a definitive article on a subject related to your blog, then there is a possibility for both cross linking and building up your brand.

    So I don’t see it as an either/or proposition. But as always people who don’t adjust their strategies as the web evolves will suffer.

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