She hasn't announced her candidacy, and frankly, I doubt that she would accept a draft. But still, a curious chain of associations yesterday led me to wonder.
It all started when Andrew Sullivan linked to an article by Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones on "Why Rick 'Man on Dog' Santorum can't beat his Google troubles":
Santorum's problem got its start back in 2003, when the then-senator from Pennsylvania compared homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia, saying the "definition of marriage" has never included "man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be." The ensuing controversy prompted syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage, who's gay, to start a contest, soliciting reader suggestions for slang terms to "memorialize the scandal."
And the winning suggestion is currently memorialized in at least four of the top ten Google hits for Santorum. (This, of course, has nothing whatever to do with Prof. Althouse and her potential bid for the White House. Be patient, the connection is coming.)
The next step was site.explorer.search.yahoo.com, which I learned about from some experts quoted in Mencimer's article:
I wanted to ask Santorum whether he had a strategy for scrubbing his Web presence, but he didn't return my calls. So instead, I asked a few experts. "This is an unusual problem," says Michael Fertik, CEO of ReputationDefender, which specializes in helping individuals maintain a positive Web presence. "It's devastating. This is one of the more creative and salient Google issues I've ever seen." [...]
To at least make a dent, Santorum could try a concerted push to generate links to his domain on prominent sites and blogs, ginning its Google ranking; Mark Skidmore, an expert in search-engine marketing at the online strategy firm Blue State Digital, says Santorum should also consider buying paid search results for his name. [...] But like Fertik, Skidmore thinks Santorum faces an uphill battle, in part because Savage's site has been up for so long—with more than 13,000 inbound links, compared with only 5,000 for Santorum's own site, America's Foundation. "He's staring at a very big deficit," Skidmore observes.
Wait, I thought, those are pretty paltry numbers for a major national figure. And this made me wonder about the inbound link count of other possible 2012 presidential candidates. So I checked, starting with the list of possibilities here, and using Google to find each politician's most prominent campaign site, PAC, or whatever. The results of my researches, in order of increasing link count:
|Candidate||Site||Inbound Link Count|
These still don't seem to me like very large numbers of inbound links — Language Log gets 486,122 if you add up the "classic" site (http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog with 201,793) and the current one (http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll with 284,329).
And http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/ garners 1,092,907, or 17 times more than SarahPac. Of course, Andrew Sullivan isn't eligible to run for president, having been born in England. So I it occurred to me to check on http://althouse.blogspot.com/: 1,062,212 inbound links. And Wikipedia suggests that Ann was born in Delaware.
Seriously, these in-bound link counts (even if accurate) have little or nothing to do with vote-getting and fund-raising. They're mainly relevant because of their role in determining "page rank" and similar metrics that affect the order of web search results. And this matters a lot if you're fighting to keep an unpleasant joke from being the first thing that people see when they look you up, but otherwise, maybe not so much.
Also, one of the keys to accumulating lot of in-bound links is to have a lot of pages for people to link to. Thus site.explorer.search.yahoo.com tells us that http://althouse.blogspot.com/ has 70,072 pages, for 15.6 in-bound links per page, and http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/ has 59,138 pages, for 18.5 ILPP. In comparison, http://www.sarahpac.com has only 116 pages, for 63,260/116=545 ILPP. So by that metric, which might be a bit more politically relevant, Sarah is beating Andrew by a factor of 29.