The "scandal of the moment" on Sunday was that Google's new Wikipedia competitor Knol is ranking very high in the Google search results even though its only been around for a couple weeks.
Dare Obasanjo posts on it and runs his own test by searching for a Knol term and finding Knol comes up as the 4th result on the 1st page of Google results. Upon getting that result he says...
Not bad for a page that has existed on the Web for less than two weeks.
Google is clearly favoring Knol content over content from older, more highly linked sites on the Web. I won't bother with the question of whether Google is doing this on purpose or whether this is some innocent mistake. The important question is "What are they going to do about it now that we've found out?
I repeated Mr. Obasanjo's experiment with another term and got just about the same results. The Knol page came up 4th after Wikipedia, the MayoClinic and MedlinePlus. See below...
But there's a flaw in these experiments which is that Mr. Obasanjo and I both used "Featured Knols". These are topics featured prominently on Knol's front page and which have obviously been viewed, rated and commented on by several Knol users at this point.
So I tried one of the terms that wasn't "Featured" and guess what? The Knol article didn't make the first page of listings at all. This is consistent with an unscientific survey Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land did which found that 10 out of 30 Knols he looked at made the front page of Google listings at some level.
But again, look a little closer and you find that all the Knols that did make the top of the listings had several comments and/or positive ratings and how high they were on the search results seemed to be in direct relation to the rating/comment level.
So clearly Google isn't giving Knol an all encompassing boost. What seems more likely is that Google has designed several rating mechanisms (Article rating, comments, probably even page views) and is using those to determine which Knols are of high quality and then reflecting that in their search results.
What's wrong with that?
Google's job is not to be fair to web content creators it is to deliver the best results to the people using their search engine. If they've created a site designed to provide accurate content what is wrong with them pushing more traffic to it? Again, they aren't doing it blindly. They've simply built hooks into Knol that allow the Google Search Engine to determine which Knols are of the most use.
It isn't really fair to other web sites but it isn't really abusive either. Google isn't doing anything that's contrary to their stated goal of delivering the most accurate information to Google searchers. I know that, If given the choice between delivering more accurate results to searchers or being fair to webmasters, I'd pick more accurate results any day.
That's exactly the choice Google's making and I for one don't have a problem with it.
Side Note: I have to say one of the absolutely shocking things about this whole affair is that the three blog posts I consider authoritative on this topic (the two quoted above plus seobook.com's article) don't even mention the rating system as a possibility. In fact, they don't mention it at all. Do a word search for the word "rating" on each page and you'll come up completely empty. That's a little ridiculous.