Twenty years of political campaign websites
It’s been thirty years since Al Gore “took the initiative in creating the Internet,” twenty years since Bill Clinton and Bob Dole launched the first presidential campaign websites, a decade since Howard Dean first embraced social networking to mobilize supporters, and over five years since Ron Paul raised $6 million in one day with the first “money bomb.”
What campaigns are missing
While many candidates are beginning to make inroads in the adoption of digital strategies, most campaigns and consulting firms still neglect the bread-and-butter of online marketing: Search Engine Optimization.
SEO is standard practice for companies and organizations, large and small, attempting to drive traffic from search engines. Implementation of SEO strategies on political websites, however, is virtually unheard of in many communities.
This phenomenon holds true at all levels, from local city council elections to high profile, nationally recognized Presidential contenders. The candidates, their campaign managers and their consultants fail to see the full potential of political SEO – let alone recognize it as a viable campaign investment.
The importance of ranking for your own name
Many political campaign websites do not rank for the candidates’ own names – even high-profile, well-funded campaigns.
Recently, I searched for Chris Christie’s official website by keying in the phrase “Chris Christie.” The official campaign website did not appear anywhere within the first ten pages of results. Instead, I found dozens of articles from Politico, The New York Times, the Huffington Post, and the Daily Kos — several of which were critical of the Governor.
Imagine searching for your favorite brand and finding not the official website, but dozens of bad reviews of the products. A marketing professional would get to work immediately to resolve the issue – no questions asked.
As individuals continue to turn to the internet to research candidate’s backgrounds and policies, it’s even more important that
candidates closely monitor their reputation online and have strategies in place for dealing with potentially problematic issues. Political SEO is a strategy that works.
Two decades of political websites and campaigns still fail to realize the marketing potential of the Internet.
Neglecting high-traffic keywords
According to Google Adwords, over 90,000 people are searching for the exact phrase, “Chris Christie” every month. This amount of traffic is larger than the population of Trenton, New Jersey. And instead of finding the official campaign website, these people are likely reading criticisms instead.
A campaign manager would naturally find this performance unacceptable. If implemented early enough, a well-tailored SEO campaign could have easily placed Chris Christie’s official campaign site within the top search results.
Recent polls suggest that Chris Christie is one of the most popular politicians in the United States. He leads gubernatorial contender Barbara Buono in nearly every poll. It’s unlikely that his campaign team views SEO as critically important, but this level of neglect will be evident in future campaign cycles – especially in 2016 if Christie decides to run for President.
A campaign with a strong understanding of SEO could easily use it as a strategy against an unprepared candidate. A savvy campaign might launch a website similar to “MullinFacts.Com,” a website from the 2012 election cycle that contained negative information regarding Markwayne Mullin. Paid for by an opponent in the Oklahoma 2nd District primary election, the site was well-optimized for Mullin’s name – and contained very negative information. The site could have been damaging if the Mullin campaign had not been prepared.
Make your campaign’s message the most visible
Conservative strategist and digital marketing professional Nick Tomboulides further stressed the importance of digital marketing stating “A winning campaign must focus not just on the information it provides to the public, but increasingly on how that information is consumed. New media is essential to reaching the coveted next generation of voters.”
Candidates improve their digital strategies every election cycle, but they continue to neglect SEO.
Political SEO is critical to success, reputation management and control of the candidate’s message. An SEO strategy allows candidates to more effectively impact voters’ first impressions online – and that is vital to the success of any campaign’s digital strategy.