SEO’s Role in the Election

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An Internet marketing slip-up in the presidential candidates’ websites was uncovered by Atlanta search engine optimization company (SEO) Prominent Placement.

Voters are apt to have a difficult time searching the candidates’ positions online according to a recent observation by the Atlanta SEO consultants. The search engine optimization company examined individuals’ web search statistics related to the election’s issues, and analyzed how the two major party presidential candidates fared.

“Despite spending untold amounts of money to build and maintain their web sites, both the candidates as well as the Democratic party (DNC) and Republican party (RNC) have overlooked the role web search can play in the overall communication process,” said Prominent Placement’s SEO expert Matt Williams. “Each of the websites offer numerous ways to interact – educational materials, volunteer opportunities, donation options, content en Espanol, a political blog – you name it, they’ve covered it. However, that’s only after you get to the website. For the undecided voter doing a web search on the 2004 election issues, how are they going to find what the presidential campaign organizations want them to find? Perhaps more importantly – which web sites have better search engine placement than the official presidential candidates’ web sites?”

Prominent Placement began its web search analysis on October 12, 2004 to determine how potential voters are conducting political-related web searches. Top line findings include:

?Searches on the key phrase “John Kerry” outnumber searches done on the key phrase “George Bush” by a 4-to-1 margin. If you also account for those searching on key phrase “George W. Bush,” “John Kerry” is ahead by a 2-to-1 ratio.

?Internet searchterms “Republican Party” and “Democratic Party” are even, but searchterm “RNC” shows up one-and-a-half more times than searchterm “DNC.”

?The key phrase “homeland security” produces twice as many Internet searches as the searchterms “gun control” or “poverty.”

?The searchterm “war in Iraq,” generates twice as many Internet searches as the key phrases “civil rights” or “health care.”

?In looking at search engine placement, neither of the official presidential campaign sites was among Google’s first page results when searching upon the key phrase “homeland security.” Johnkerry.com could be found on the second page, ranking 16th. Georgewbush.com could be found on the fourth page, ranking 41st.

In addition to their lack of a search engine optimization strategy, the presidential candidates and political parties are not managing their reputations on the search engines. “Between 20% and 40% of Google’s top-10 results for both presidential candidates’ names are derogatory or parodies,” said Williams. “By not understanding, or not considering the challenges of SEO, the candidates and parties will lose the online public relations battle to anyone employing a strategic search engine optimization campaign countering their platform or issue positions. They’re not alone, however; we’ve seen this with a number of companies and organizations that are just now beginning to understand the power of search.”

The study’s second phase identified which Internet marketers have earmarked advertising budgets for pay-per-click advertising programs (PPC) based on the presidential candidates’ names. Also on October 12, 2004, the following was observed:

On Yahoo!, a total of 20 Internet marketers were bidding on the term “John Kerry.” Among these Internet marketing advertisers:

?Seven were web sites selling campaign merchandise;

?Four were media download sites;

?Two were anti-Kerry sites; and

?The remaining sites included the National Democratic Party site, the moveonpac.org site, an anti-Bush site, a sweepstakes site, a news-information site, a site en Espanol, and an online dating website for single Democrats.

?PPC bid amounts among these Internet marketers ranged from 10? to 39?.

Also on Yahoo!, a total of 20 Internet marketers were bidding on the terms “George Bush.” Among these Internet marketing advertisers:

?Eight were web sites selling campaign merchandise;

?Four were anti-Bush sites;

?Three were media download sites;

?Two were websites pitching books or DVDs; and

?The remaining sites included the National Republican Party site, a site en Espanol, and a sweepstakes site. There were no online dating web sites trying to attract single Republicans.

?PPC bid amounts among these Internet marketers ranged from 5? to 37?

In total, 26 Internet marketers were bidding on the searchterms “George Bush” or “John Kerry,” with eleven (40%) of them bidding on both key phrases.

Neither the Republican Party (RNC) nor the Democratic Party (DNC) is the top bidder for their respective presidential candidate’s name. The Democrats are willing to spend 23? per click. This bid amount ranks third with the top paid listing going for 39? per click. The Republicans are slightly more competitive, willing to spend 35? per click. However, they also rank third, as the top-bidder is prepared to spend 37? per click to grab the top sponsored listing.

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