If Wikipedia is an essential resource of knowledge for you, you may find it is about to lose out against a powerful new competitor. Google announced last December that it would be encouraging people to contribute knowledge. Now we are told that Knol is open to everyone.
.. and what exactly is Knol? Well it is a website where you will find knols, which are authoritative articles about specific topics. And who are these authorities? It’s you and me. Provided no one else writes a better knol, then yours may stay as the authority. Your topic can be as important or as unimportant as you wish. For example, I wrote a knol on the humble exclamation mark!. I even included a relevant New Yorker cartoon on aliens and the exclamation point. That knol will stay as the authority until someone writes a more authoritative one.
Other commentators are quite clear on what it is all about. As ReadWriteWeb suggests, Google is taking on Wikipedia.
In many respects, Knol is similar to Jason Calacanis’ Mahalo, though its scope seems even more ambitious and its tools a bit more refined. It does, however, validate the Mahalo model.
And as Matthew Ingram suggests, Mahalo may be an early casualty as the heavy artillery arrives.
TechCrunch is even clearer on Google’s motivation: they wished to create a monetizable version of Wikipedia. However they do raise questions on whether this initiative will have any long-term lasting value.
What is quite clear is that this will markedly affect the normal Google search process. Although new web pages often rank well in a honeymoon period, Danny Sullivan feels already that knols are doing even better than might be expected in the search results. It all just makes it that much more difficult to rank well with organic search engine optimization (SEO).
Instead it means you will be seeing even more Google Adsense ads. That clearly is the name of the game. Whether this ubiquitous presence for AdWords will induce AdWords blindness is an interesting question. It certainly may give opportunities for other advertising services such as Performancing with its Targeted Blog Advertising.
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Useful of course means being of use or service. It does not necessarily mean that users find it works well for them. That would require user tests to measure what is often called user experience. That user-centric or customer-centric approach still does not get the priority it should.
This reflection came to mind in considering some changes that seem to be happening to Google’s Search Engine Report Pages (SERPs) for keyword queries. Changes seem to sneak in without any obvious mechanism to get user feedback. Recently for example we noted that Google Blog Post Snippets are now dated in the language of the searcher. A more fundamental change may now be occurring but again it may be slowly creeping in.
We noted that one visitor to this blog had searched for ‘Montreal bagels Fairmount bagel’ and got the following SERP.
Note that references to this blog appear at both #2 and #4. Normally a second result from the same domain will appear as an indented result under the first appearance. This separate listing is what I sometimes see at Yahoo! but never at Google. Note also that the snippet at #2 included the date of the blog post as the first part of the snippet. The snippet at #4, which is a post from the same blog, does not have the date as the first part of the snippet.
I pointed out this somewhat remarkable change in a discussion at Cre8asite Forums. Commenters there and Barry Schwartz at Search Engine RoundTable all tested the same keyword query and none could find the same results. Indeed neither could I when I tried to repeat the same search.
Apparently it is not an isolated occurrence. Another visitor to this blog yesterday was searching for ‘British pensions in Canada’. Here is the result:
Two independent blog posts from this blog appear as separate items in the SERP. On this occasion both also show the date as the first part of the snippet.
Is this a forerunner of a new format that will be rolled out everywhere? Which do you prefer? Only two items from any domain grouped together or relevant items appearing wherever they should in the report. Why not join the discussion at Cre8asite Forums or add your comments here. Presumably Google will be interested in whatever you have to say on this.
For most blogs and websites, Google is one of the major sources of visitor traffic. That is why it is so important to ensure that, when any web page is moved, it retains its visibility in Google. What is involved in this is what is called a 301 Permanent Redirect. The References below give a good account of the many ways this can be done. This blog has just moved and the good news is that the move was done in such a way that the Google visibility was maintained unchanged throughout the move. The specifics involved will be discussed in a more detailed post in the near future.
The reason for this post is that by accident some interesting details have emerged about how Google currently handles these 301 Permanent Redirects. Whether this was done in previous versions of the algorithm or whether it will continue to be the way they are handled is entirely unknown.
The common wisdom is that all three major search engines handle 301 redirects the same, that is to say they ignore the original URL and instead index the destination URL. This may not be exactly the way things work.
The reason for suggesting this is that a visitor to the blog on March 2nd arrived by doing a Google search for ‘Frank and Gordon‘. Frank and Gordon are the names of the Canadian beavers used in the Bell Canada advertising. This is what that visitor would have seen as part of that Google Search Engine Report Page (SERP).
You may notice that the old address for the blog post is shown as entry #3 and the new address for the blog post is at entry #4. Clicking on either brings you to the same new blog post since the old address is redirected to the new address. However clearly both URLs are still maintained in the Google index.
The Old blog post cached version shows a cached date of February 18th. The New blog post cached version shows a cached date February 28th. The new version of the blog was put online on February 26th and the 301 Permanent Redirect from old to new was put in place at that time.
As of the time of posting on March 3, both versions are still featured in the SERP but now the New version is at #3 and the Old version at #4. Perhaps this indicates that the old version is never dropped from the index but merely gradually loses all its PageRank as this is transferred to the New Version and sinks without trace.
Useful References on 301 Permanent Redirects
Permanent Redirect with HTTP 301 – a very complete and technical account of a variety of methods for doing the redirect.
Permanent 301 Redirect, Can someone post an example or a link? – a High Ranking Forums discussion
301, Parking and Other Redirects for SEOs ( FAQ ) – Ian McAnerin
Canonicalization: The Gospel of HTTP 301 – Hamlet Batista writes on a related problem
301 Permanent Redirect to Error404.htm Page is a Problem to Google – an interesting discussion on a related problem