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Presidential Internet Campaigns Weak



Last week, we announced the results of the 2008 Presidential Election Candidate Reputation Study. You remember—15 of the 18 candidates studied had negative listings in the top 20 on Yahoo and Google.

This week, another study follows suit. iCrossing published the “How America Searches: Election 2008” study yesterday, examining the 42% of voters who turn to the Internet to inform their voting. According to their study, which looked at candidate- and issue-related keywords, social media sites and news media sites outranked candidates’ own sites:

The candidates’ own Web sites trail behind news and social media sites as preferred sources of information; and candidates are sorely lacking in visibility when it comes to voter searches on specific issues in both natural and paid search.

Ouch. The study also found that “younger online voters” are especially prone to turn to social media: “61 percent of 18 to 24 year olds and 55 percent of 25 to 34 year olds seek answers on user-driven content sites such as blogs, YouTube and Wikipedia.” Feel free to take solace in the fact that these Wikipedia-informed voters probably won’t end up voting, if past trends hold true.

However, the turn to social media sites might come because candidates’ sites continue to disappoint visitors:

Issues matter to voters, but candidates are not responding. Issue-oriented searches dominate over explorations of candidates’ voting and personal histories by a margin of nearly two to one; yet nearly all candidates rank poorly for issue-based search visibility.

Sounds like they need some massive link building. How hard can it be to amass tons of natural links when you already have a legion of fans throughout the US? It could be as easy as putting the platform in blog form, and periodically adding appearances, sound bites and speeches.

And, just for kicks, one little bit of trivia that made it into the press release:

eBay trumps McCain in paid search. John McCain currently dominates the overall paid search candidate landscape, but online auction house eBay still ranks first in paid search [visibility] for the tested issue-based keyword set.

I know who I’m voting for. eBay for president! Actually, their observations must’ve been before eBay’s Google strike experiment, since I’m having a tough time replicating their results—I’ve only had eBay come up for 1 keyword out of the first 50-60 I checked (they searched for 126). (Though, interestingly, a search for “racism” brings up an ad for Ask.com. Good choice.) Pity, I was really hoping to find “lobbyists” on eBay.

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  • http://www.manfatta.com Steven Tolliver

    Wow, interesting stuff!
    “Wikipedia-informed voters probably won’t end up voting, if past trends hold true.” – is that based on age correlation (young = wikipedia = doesn’t vote)?

    But more importantly, this points to a possible opportunity for the candidate capable of becoming associated with an issue of importance to dissaffected voters, bridging the gap between candidates running on personality and people concerned about issues, and getting the people who don’t normally vote to do so.

    The one person with the best positioning to do this, Al Gore, is also not running. He has obstensively stopped being a politician and become an issue-activist. Perhaps this is a model for future candidates: issues and page rank first, “character” second?

  • Jordan McCollum

    My statement is directly based on the study’s findings about the age of people turning to Wikipedia (“61 percent of 18 to 24 year olds and 55 percent of 25 to 34 year olds seek answers on user-driven content sites such as blogs, YouTube and Wikipedia”) and the well-established fact that voters aged 18-24 vote less frequently than any other group (less than 42% voted in 2004, while nearly 70% of other age groups voted). 25-34 year olds were second (less than 47%).

    The more I think about the study, the more that I’m not sure that “character” should be abandoned in favor of issues. The study’s “issue-related” keywords were rather wide-ranging, including everything from “racism” to “social conservative” to “AIDS” to “DNC.” Certainly not all of their keywords would even be appropriate for candidates to position themselves for, and many of them are more “character” keywords.

  • http://www.thevanblog.com Steven Bradley

    Jordan, I think politicians tend to be conservative in the way they run their campaigns and most of the front runners will wait for someone else to show the value of campaigning online, while they continue with the tried and true.

    In 2004 Howard Dean showed you could raise money online. This time around more candidates have been raising funds online. No one’s yet showed what can be accomplished through search and until someone does I think the candidates will be slow to respond.

    4 years from now the situation may be different and let’s face it the campaigns haven’t really heated up yet. We have another 6 months or so before that happens. The candidates may still have something planned, but I expect to see it more the next time around.

    Someone in this election is probably paying attention to search and will maybe make some waves. The other candidates will notice and be more prepared 4 years from now.

  • Jordan McCollum

    Definitely true. However, before we hold up Dean as a success story, we have to remember how his campaign ended. Yes, he raised funds online, but did it help him in the end? His story might ultimately be taken by candidates as a cautionary tale.

  • http://www.lff.com Fitness guy

    Good point Jordan…And, I have to believe that as much polling and research as the candidates do, they are well aware of the voting age of Wikipedia users and have probably already factored in the 18-24 yr old voting probabilites.

  • http://pardonmyfrench.typepad.com Eric Frenchman

    In the next few weeks, we’ll take down eBay too! :-)

    Eric

  • http://opinionhead.com CarpetGuy

    As far as Wikipedia goes, I use it for reference, but the accuracy of what is found there varies. I feel it is a useful tool but it is NOT always true, so when using it, you need to do some fact checking.

    CarpetGuy’s last blog post..Ronald Reagan: Tear down this wall: As I remember it!