Practical Ecommerce

Do You Knol What I Knol?

There are many niggling questions that keep me up at night. How many different kinds of acne are there? What’s the tastiest flavor of freezie in the LA Times’ basement?

Google Knol screenshot

Thanks to Google Knol, I can rest easy knowing that there’s an expert out there waiting to inform. I can sleep knowing there are six different kinds of zits and the Slammin’ Strawberry is the tastiest freezie at the Times.

Google unveiled its challenge to the world of user-generated content on July 21, 2008 after months of closed beta testing. Now experts are rushing to fill the void of knowledge by writing “knols,” informative and authoritative articles on the subject of their choice. Google defines a “knol” as a “unit of knowledge,” and the premise behind Knol is that everybody has at least one.

Ecommerce merchants are experts, too

Already articles are springing up on everything from buttermilk pancakes to pediatric sports injuries. As writers attempt to fill the information void by being the first to write a knol about their topic of choice, ecommerce merchants have the opportunity to establish themselves as an authority in their field. Being the first to write a knol on a specific industry could give a merchant the reputation as an expert in their product.

Brian Bille, Internet Marketing Specialist at design and development firm Bizzuka, believes Knol will hold marketing potential for merchants, even though few are currently using it.
“[Merchants] can use it by positioning themselves as experts. Google Knol is out there for anyone and everyone to use, “ Bille said.

Bille recommends that merchants first use Knol to demonstrate their industry knowledge before explaining specific products.

“I’d go in and write a factual article about your industry to add credibility to your name before you go in and create other Knols specifically about your products,” Bille said. “I would not advise going out and writing about your specific product. Talk about the industry and establish credibility.”

Knol differs from Wikipedia in that an author can put his or her name, face and brand on an article, and he or she can choose whether or not to allow other users to collaborate on a knoll. This helps with accountability and transparency, factors that significantly contribute to consumer trust.

The original author dictates future edits

“In Wikipedia, there’s really no control. There’s no way to verify ownership of Wiki articles,” Bille said. “With Google Knol you have the ability to verify the authenticity of the author by phone. The original author has control of who can edit their work.”

Another unique feature of Knol is the advertising potential of the online encyclopedia, both for advertising and for selling ad space.

“You can link an AdSense account to your Knol and generate revenue that way. If you’re a retailer, you can’t go in and post banner ads all over your Knol, but you can activate your AdSense account,” Bille said.

Selecting “Show ads” in the Knol management menu will link a Knol author’s AdSense account with their Knol, generating revenue on their article. If an author doesn’t have an AdSense account, Knol will prompt a user through the setup process, according to Knol Help’s advertising knol.

Because of these unique features and the Google name, many experts believe Knol is destined for popularity and has the potential to become a viable marketing channel for ecommerce merchants.

“I think it will rival Wikipedia,” Bille said. “All things Google become big. It’s going to be the hot new thing.”

Related Article

Google Knol Looks To Take On Wikipedia

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons

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  1. Karen July 31, 2008 Reply

    Aargh! <gumble> While your attention is rightly focussed on the ecommerce aspects of this new Knol business (you are, after all, Practical eCommerce) and I do not fault YOU for it, on general principle this just makes me kinda sick. Must EVERYTHING, even shared knowledge, have an advertsing angle? I don’t know whether to blame Google or ecommerce merchants as a whole. Wikipedia has its faults, but at least it’s not (yet?) primarily a marketing tool.

  2. Brendan Gibbons July 31, 2008 Reply


    Thank you for the comment.

    The beauty of user-generated content is that people can choose what they want from a medium, using services provided by companies like Google to fit their needs. User-generated content can be as varied, complex and multi-functional as the users themselves. There are already plenty of articles on Knol meant simply to inform with no hidden advertising or marketing angle.

    This article is meant to inform ecommerce merchants about a potential marketing opportunity. Many merchants are very passionate and knowledgeable about their products and industries, and they could fill dozens of knols with their valuable information. This presents an opportunity for the best kind of advertising, the kind that goes hand in hand with the free exchange of knowledge. And if Google didn’t think Knol would bring in revenue, would they have even created it?

    Brendan Gibbons
    Staff Writer

  3. jonniefromoz July 31, 2008 Reply


    The question you that should be asked, is whether it creates better content for the end user or not. My opinion is that having a monetary reward in exchange for someone’s knowledge, will make it more attractive to the experts to add some content, compared to wikipedia where the reward is more of "a community" feeling.