Move over PR, here's OR

PR – remember when that used to mean Public Relations. However I would guess the majority of people seeing these two letters would think immediately, PageRank. It’s been an extraordinarily strong branding element for Page and Brin as they’ve grown their astonishing business success we all know as Google. Page is of course the reason why it’s called PageRank. PR is perhaps one of the best ever examples of ‘viral marketing’. PageRank is a numerical measure of all the back links that a given web page has. A back link is defined as another web page that has a link to the page in question. Page and Brin suggested that the number of back links was like a count of votes for the web page. By this logic, a web page with more back links is likely to have more valuable content than a web page with less back links. Their early search engine algorithm gave a lot of weight to this PageRank factor.

Unfortunately Google became the dominant force in the search engine market. Everyone realized that you had to score well with Google. So the name of the game was getting more back links. This created a sub-industry of software and agencies to create back links for web pages. Google began to drown in this tsunami of back links.

That’s still where we are today. The experts differ in their views. One offers “How to fix PageRank – If it is indeed broken…“. Meanwhile other experts on the SearchEngineWatch Forum are asking themselves whether “Links can now penalise?“. So they seem to be asking whether PageRank is a negative rather than a positive weighting factor for web pages.

If that wasn’t enough, we now have the explosive growth of what has been called the Blogosphere. Blogging allows anyone with a point of view to write a blog entry and, in effect, create a mini-web page to display that view to the world. The software is incredibly user-friendly and allows for links to be created to other web pages or other blog entries with mind-boggling rapidity. So whatever problems PageRank had before, it’s worse now by an order of magnitude at least.

I wonder whether PageRank has lost its usefulness by now. Of course Google cannot publicly abandon it, but it seems to be doing more harm than good. It would be nice to have some measure that could highlight the more useful web pages out there. Particularly now, when we have some blog entries that are just computer additions of other newsfeed lists from elsewhere. Some human entries are little better: for example, “Look over there, B has just said this.” It struck me that it would be really useful to have an originality scale. So I offer the OriginalityRank, or OR, to take over from PR. The OR would flag to potential visitors the worth of checking the content of the web page. The scale goes from 0 to 9 and can be defined by a few benchmarks.

OR = 0: the web page is generated by computer software from other data on the Internet.
OR = 1: the web page has this type of information content “Look over there, B has just said this.”
OR = 2: the web page has this type of information content “Look over there, B has just said this, and he’s wrong.”
OR = 3: the web page has this type of information content “Look over there, B has just said this, and I agree with him for these reasons.”

OR = 5: a visitor in the target audience for this web page would say “I do remembering reading about this, but you’ve created a very good summary of the topic.”

OR = 7: a visitor in the target audience for this web page would say “That’s a novel idea.”

OR = 9: a visitor in the target audience for this web page would say “That’s a novel idea and I don’t know how anyone could have thought of that.”

So this is not a computer evaluation of a web page or blog entry. Instead it’s an evaluation by appropriate visitors to the web page of the originality of the content. So having proposed the idea, I leave others to work out the practical details of this new measure. I trust the concept will prove to have legs and look forward to folk seeking high OR rather than PR in the not too distant future.

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