The Day After: Looking At How Well Knol Pages Rank On Google

We’ve been assured that just because content sits on Google’s Knol site, it won’t gain any ranking authority from being part of the Knol domain. OK, so a day after Knol has launched, how’s that holding up? I found 1/3 of the pages listed on the Knol home page that I tested ranked in the top results. I came away feeling that being on Knol does indeed give pages an advantage they might not get if they’d been hosted on some other brand new web site.

I was surprised to see a post covering Knol’s how to ackpack was already hitting the number three spot on Google. Really? I mean, how many links could this page have gotten already? As it turns out, quite a few. And more important, it’s featured on the Knol home page, which itself is probably one of the most important links. While Knol uses nofollow on individual knols to prevent link credit from flowing out, it’s not used on the home page — so home page credit can flow to individual knols featured on it.

Right now, the Knol home page shows no PageRank score at all. It’s a brand new site, after all. But just because there’s no visible PageRank, behind the scenes, Google is constantly calculating PageRank values (see What Is Google PageRank? A Guide For Searchers & Webmasters for more on this). So being on the Knol home page is almost certainly giving some of these pages important link credit.

To test things more, I picked out 30 different knols listed on the Knol home page, to see if they ranked in the top 30 results for the words they’re titled for. Here are the results, with pages listed in order of how well they ranked:

  1. Facial cosmetic enhancementt: 1
  2. How to backpack: 3 (backpacking: 19; backpack: 0)
  3. Toilet clogs: 3
  4. Vomiting in infants and children: 3 (“vomiting in infants” ranks 13)
  5. Decreased hearing: 5
  6. Type 1 diabetes: 6
  7. First Ironman triathlon: 6
  8. Orchid basics: 7
  9. Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs): 10 (lose the [ICDs] part, it drops to 17)
  10. Pneumothorax or "collapsed lung": 10
  11. Pediatric sports injuries: 13
  12. Tooth pain: 15
  13. Adrenal insufficiency: 0
  14. AIDS: 0
  15. Autism: 0
  16. Barrett’s Esophagus: 0
  17. Cataracts: 0
  18. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): 0
  19. Crohn’s Disease: 0
  20. Devil May Cry 4: 0
  21. Echocardiography: 0
  22. High cholesterol: 0
  23. History of the Spanish language: 0
  24. Infective endocarditis: 0
  25. Lung cancer: 0
  26. Menopause -what is it?: 0
  27. Patient safety: 0
  28. Seasonal allergies: 0
  29. Shoulder urgery: 0
  30. Teething: 0

OK, so 10 of the 30 — 33% of what I looked at — hit the top ten or first page of results. You can spin that both ways. It’s proof that being in Knol is NOT an automatic ride to the top of the search results. But then again, knowing that 33% of your stuff will rank within a day is a pretty good track record.

There are lots and lots of caveats to consider. For one, doing a backlink lookup in Google is pretty useless, since Google deliberately underreports the links it knows about. For example, that "how o backpack" page comes back with no reported backlinks. Yet if I do this query – how to backpack knol — I come across at least two pages that link to the backpacking page. And over on Google Blogsearch, you can get better reporting to see 78 backlinks to it.

So backlinks directly to some of the top ranking pages might be helping more than can be easily seen (and Google, this is one reason why you ought to report backlinks fully for any site, to help us when we want to debunk stuff). But then again, here’s a test knol I made yesterday – Firefox plugins for SEO & SEM — which ranks 28 for firefox plugins for seo. I never linked to it from my article about knol. I don’t think it made the Knol home page. I can see only three links pointing at it, and only one of those links uses anchor text relevant to what the page is ranking for. And it’s in the top 30 results?

Look, I know that being ranked 28 is pretty much near invisible in terms of traffic you’ll get from search engines. But then again, to go from nowhere to the 28th top page in Google out of 755,000 matches? I’m sorry – don’t tell me that being in Knol doesn’t give your page some authority. Yes, I understand that individual backlinks will likely make the difference in how high you rank for a particular term. But the bottom line is that Knol feels like a trusted domain to Google, and content hosted on trusted domains will do better, in my opinion.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: Knol

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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