Google Knol, the search engine giant’s answer to Wikipedia, launched in public beta last week.

Knol homepageWe’ve taken a look to see how it measures up to the popular online encyclopedia, and whether it offers any potential SEO benefits…  

Is it a Wikipedia clone?

Knol takes a different approach to Wikipedia; while the online encyclopedia allows anyone to edit its pages without moderation, with Google’s version the authors of entries have control over the edits.

Anyone can edit entries on Knol, but these changes will only go live if and when the author of the entry approves them. In theory, this should prevent some of the factual inaccuracies and vandalism that can be a problem on Wikipedia, while retaining the benefits of collaboration.

This is potentially a good solution to the problems that exist on Wikipedia, though it does rely on the competence of the authors of each entry.

Also in contrast to Wikipedia, authors can place AdSense ads on their pages and make a little money on the side, this gaining some reward for creating popular content.

How does it work?

Anyone can write an entry on Knol – simply select the ‘write a Knol’ option and you are given a blog-style interface to add and edit your article:

Knol editing tools

As with blogging interfaces, users can add images and links, change fonts, and so on. You can also change the text and background colour, which could result in some horrible looking pages. A spellchecker may have been useful too.

The same tools are provided for editing entries that other people have published; when you have finished your edits these are sent to the author of the Knol for approval.


Most people visiting the site will have a specific topic they want to find information on, so the search box will be the main means of navigation on the site.

Knol isn’t very good for browsing though, when compared with Wikipedia, which does a better job of promoting its content.

Knol just shows five featured articles, then a list of articles underneath which isn’t too appealing to search through.

Wikipedia provides featured articles, as well as an ‘in the news’ and ‘on this day’ section, with plenty of links to content within the site. It also provides a full index of categories and sub categories for visitors to browse through.

Author verification

With Knol, the focus is in authors more than the community, and the authors have ultimate control over the content they write.

Identities of the writers of Knol entries can be verified, if they are in the US, by mobile phone and credit card numbers.

This can help to make these entries appear more trustworthy, so an article on arthritis by a practising doctor should in theory be more useful than the equivalent article on Wikipedia.


It is too early to judge how Knol compares with Wikipedia in terms of content.  The latter provides content on a huge range of subjects, so you are likely to find the information you want on that site, at the moment Knol can only compete on quality of content.

There is clearly some quality content on Knol though, such as this informative entry on migraines written by a neurologist at the University of Chicago, though some entries, such as this one on World War 2, which is just a copy and paste job from Wikipedia, could do with some moderation.

Content provider?

There will be some concerns about whether this constitutes a move for Google into being a content owner, which could be a potential conflict of interest for the search engine.

Jason Calacanis argues that this is the case, and it will be interesting to see how Knol entries rank compared to similar content from Wikipedia or even Mahalo.

Danny Sullivan ran a test to see how well Knol pages were ranking on Google, finding that a third of his test pages ranked on the first page of the search engine.

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