Google Knol 101

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After over six months of testing, Google Knol officially launched last week.  If you are not familiar with Knol, this article will explain everything you need to know about Knol, and why as SEOs and SEMs you should pay attention to this new offering from Google.

What is Knol?

Although Google has specifically stated that Knol is not intended to compete with Wikipedia, Knol is a service that allows individuals to create pages on any topic under the sun.  It’s main difference from Wikipedia is how it handles moderation.  Instead of allowing anyone to edit a page (even if they anonymous and not logged in), Knol allows contributions to a page from individuals, but it requires the creator of that page to moderate and approve any changes that are submitted.

How Do I Create a Knol Page?

When you visit the Knol homepage, simply sign in using your Google account.  Once you are signed in, you use the Write a Knol button to begin a new Knol.  In addition to the body of the Knol, you will also need to add a title and summary, along with an optional affiliation (which is simpy a bio line).

What Can I Add to a Knol?

In the body of your Knol, you will be able to add as many relevant links as you like.  However, Google has stated that all of these links will automatically be NoFollowed.  Unlike Wikipedia, there is no set formatting structure, but you can use headings and sections as you see fit.

Surprisingly, in contrast to Squidoo, Knol does not currently allow you to embed content (such as videos from YouTube).  However, Google has said that they are in the process of finding a secure method for allowing users to embed content.  However, you can add photos to your Knol.

Google also allows you to display AdSense ads on your Knol.  If you already have an AdSense account, you simply enable this feature.  For Knol creators that don’t yet have an AdSense account, Google makes the process of creating a new account very simply.

What Settings Can I Control for My Knol?

Using Knol’s Manage tab, you can decide who is allowed to be an administrator and author of the Knol, change the moderation settings, share your Knol through a Creative Commons license, temporarily hide your Knol from other visitors or delete your Knol.

What Credit Does Knol Give to Page Creators?

When it comes to how it handles the creators of pages, Knol is much more like Squidoo than Wikipedia.  On each Knol, the author’s image and a small amount of information are prominently displayed in the upper right hand corner.  According to an interview that Search Engine Land conducted with Google’s vice president of engineering:

“Knol is all about the authors,” he said. “We believe that knowing who wrote a knol will significantly help users make better use of web content.”

In order to take their commitment to displaying authors a step farther than Squidoo, Google is trying to verify the identity of the name associated with an author’s account.  The first method for identification involves Google using mobile phone records and a PIN number to verify your identity via your cellphone.  If this doesn’t work, Google will ask you for a credit card number to verfiy your name and identity.

How Well are the Pages Ranking?

Now that you understand what a Knol is and how to create one, the reason you should consider doing so is because of the ranking they can achieve.  As with any SEO activity, you should not engage in spamming.  However, taking time to create a useful Knol can be a worthwhile activity.  Additionally, Google will be carefully monitoring the Knols, so your time will be better invested in creating something useful instead of trying to pump out spam.

Google has stated that they will not be giving Knol pages additional authority jut because they are part of the Google domain.  However, the pages do seem to be ranking well.  In addition to looking into other Knols, Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land created a test Knol on Firefox Plugins for SEO and SEM.  The day after he created it, the Knol was ranking 28th for the term firefox plugins for seo.  However, the Knol has already moved up the list of results for that term to the top spot.

If you plan on creating on a Knol, try to think of a niche within your field that you could create a Knol on.  From the results I’ve seen, it seems that the best performing Knols are those created on smaller and more specific subjects (such as Danny’s example).

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