If Historical Figures Had Been Webmasters  
      What would their page ranks have been?      

homeward bound


Like some giant high school class, Google, through its popularity-based search engine algorithm, rewards the popular and punishes outcasts.
    As a measure of a page's popularity, Google assigns it a page rank (PR). Inbound links (IBLs) from pages with high PRs will raise a page's own rank (the page has, in effect, been graced by the magic touch of a prom king or queen, bestowing a fraction of their popularity upon it). Not surprisingly, this system has been subject to a fair bit of abuse, with avaricious quarterbacks and cheerleaders selling their blessings to viagra and smut peddlers and the like.
    The public form of page ranking is a scale from 1 to 10. How would historical figures have fared in this system?

PR0: Emily Dickinson

No incoming links, no outbound links. This sad orphan website will never be discovered by anyone.

Except to heaven, she is nought;
Except for angels, lone;
Except to some wide-wandering bee,
A flower superfluous blown

PR2: Shakespeare

The bard would be handicapped by what search engine optimation types call "canonical" issues. There would be no clearly authoritative versions of his pages. What's more, his variant spellings would confuse Google's index:

You searched for Shakespeare
   Did you mean Shackespeare?
   Did you mean Shackespere?
   Did you mean Shackspeare?
   Did you mean Shackspere?
   Did you mean Shagspere?
   Did you mean Shakespear?
   Did you mean Shake-speare?
   Did you mean Shakespere?
   Did you mean Shakespheare?
   Did you mean Shakspear?
   Did you mean Shakspeare?
   Did you mean Shak-speare?
   Did you mean Shaksper?
   Did you mean Shakspere?
   Did you mean Shaxberd?
   Did you mean Shaxpeare?
   Did you mean Shaxper?
   Did you mean Shaxpere?
   Did you mean Shaxspere?
   Did you mean Shexpere?

Shakespeare would also be hurt by claims that his content wasn't original, and he wasn't the true originator of it.

PR4: Carolus Linneaus

The father of modern taxonomical nomenclature was one of the most influential figures of his time, and he would have a lot of inbound links. Needless to say, his site would be logically structured. His rank, however, would be limited by three factors:

  • Links pages: Oddly, for a search engine predicated on links, Google hates links pages, as each outbound link may drain a fraction of a page's PR. (Google prefers links that occur within syntax.) Linneaus, with his worldwide network of botanists and plant hunters, would have extensive links pages. Not only would Google penalize his PR, but it might mistake him for a link scraper (a person who culls links from other sites).
  • Duplicate content: Google looks askance at elements that are repeated on a large number of pages. All of Linneaus's pages would repeat a few terms over and over: family, genus, species, etc. A clear case, to Google, of duplicate content, and probably keyword stuffing as well.
  • Canonical issues: Google sometimes ends up punishing sites that are too successful, in the sense that popular pages tend to get copied so often that the originator of the content may be lost in the thread and perceived as secondary to a copying page. Everyone adopted Linneaeus's schema.

PR6: Leonardo da Vinci

This guy would have killer content. His website would feature excellent graphics and innovative animations and interactive elements. He would be the master of all things web 2.0. Links from high-PR sites by Michelangelo and Raphael, along with some good .edu and .gov links would boost his ratings.

The reason he would be stuck at PR6 is that his website would be too diverse. Google likes a website to have a tight focus, but it would have trouble identifying Leo's main thrust. By dabbling in a variety of things, he would water each one down a little.

I suppose you could say he would be too much of a Renaissance man for SEO.

PR8: Niccolo Machievelli

Machievelli would be what is called a "black hat seo." He would use the whole arsenal of knavery: cloaking, scraping links, keyword stuffing, hidden text, mirror sites, reciprocal link schemes, spoofing competitors and bombarding them with crap links to drain their page rank, posting to forums and wikipedia to get IBLs, hosting multiple dmoz sites under a variety of names, filing false spam reports, and on and on.

Niccolo's websites would all rank in the top three search results for their chosen keywords, but he would occasionally be set back by penalties and bans. No worries: he would have bought up dozens of expired domains with positive PR. He would move his penalized pages over to those addresses, and they would quickly regain their top positions.

PR10: The Buddha

The Buddha's IBLs would be of the prized kind that Google calls "natural." And he would have a lot of them, because many of his messages would resonate with the on-line community, such as:

  • The essence of SEO is suffering
  • All traffic is transitory
  • There is a rank beyond page rank
  • No ban is permanent — all pages get reborn

The Buddha would also be well served by a start-up cadre of sharp South Asian web gurus. He would go on to rapidly recruit legions of talent in West Asia, Southeast Asia, Tibet, China, Korea, Japan, and elsewhere.

But he would teach that search is pointless. What is needed is already found. Increasing acceptance of those teachings would lead to the decline of Google, which would continue losing market share until it would finally be purchased by a group of former Alta Vista executives.

They would repurpose it as a tool for locating holiday-related graphics.



PR0: Emily Dickinson
PR2: Shakespeare
PR4: Carolus Linneaus
PR6: Leonardo da Vinci
PR8: Niccolo Machievelli
PR10: The Buddha

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