At times it looks like political strategists are hell-bent on ignoring the potential benefits of basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to drive voters toward their campaign message.
Political parties and causes seem to be either baffled by the “new” online age or have been convinced that they need to throw money at Google ads to get a little SEO love from the search engine giant. Online political SEO strategies tend to focus on old-school digital advertising, real-time marketing and news coverage. Failing to leverage the bread and butter of search - organic keyword searches.
The need for online campaigns to be more Google savvy and rank for evergreen keywords using evergreen content is a must. It’s a sure fire way for supporters to be able to find your political cause without you having to spend a fortune on marketing masquerading as SEO.
Defining Your Keyword Mandate
The first step is to define the keywords you want to associate with your campaign. Like regular SEO, the terms you choose should match what your potential visitors will be searching for.
Defining political keywords is pretty much like defining regular keywords. The critical requirement is to choose keywords that are relevant and specific to your product to bring in new people, but not so vast that you compete against other, impossibly more popular sites using the same phrases.
The challenge for organic political SEO is associating the campaign with key political issues like health, jobs, crime and environment. The hard work lies in the fact that most people searching for these issues are searching for solution-based results (health cover, find jobs, crime levels).
These keywords along with your campaign name are going to churn out search engine results. And your objective should be to rank first for these more advanced candidate-specific results.
Once you have defined what key terms you want to rank for your campaign, the hard gritty work starts but this is also where political campaigns have a foot-up. Political parties have two juicy resources at their command and control – backlinks and real-time SEO from news stories and the potential army of grass root supporters to blog.
1. A keyword press pack
Hire a tech savvy press officer. News sites get millions of hits a day and they turn to press releases to do all the work for them. Any press officer worth his salt should factor in keywords and terms into the press release that they want to associate with your movement.
2. Finely tuned social media strategy
Be human on social media but have a clear strategy. Given that it sounds pedantic but in order for people to share your message the content needs to be shareable. Each social platform speaks to a different audience and your content approach needs to be tweaked accordingly.
3. Get tagging
You don’t need to be a developer to include keywords in your site map. Choose a keyword URL for your movement that includes the campaign or candidate’s name. These keywords should also be included in the title-bar and main headings of your site.
4. Get blogging
Get your supporters to blog about your movement and link to your site. Regional supporters can start their own Nations or micro-sites that link and spread the word about your cause. And create content that stands the test of time.
5. NationBuilder SEO optimized
All NationBuilder sites are optimized for SEO and its CMS gives you complete control of all the tags associated with your movement. Tectonica takes care of the more advanced SEO issues like page code and design.
Negative SEO and Google Bombing
Another factor that differentiates political SEO are the needs of political parties to avoid negative search results. Former NYC mayor, Mike Bloomberg, got bad press for his megalomaniac approach to buying out domains associated with his name. But there was of course method in his madness.
Web crawlers head straight for domain names and so it’s a good start to buy a few backup domain names that could be associated with your campaign. Although you don’t have to go full-out Bloomberg on this but it may help to shell out a few extra bucks on the .org domain when buying the .com.
The Internet is a high school prankster’s endless recess break and Google Boombing can be as devastating as it sounds. Rick Santorum discovered this the hard way when the LGBT activist Dan Savage took issue with Santorum’s homophobic stance and decided to wage online war on the Republican.
The Google savvy Savage began the campaign for the neologism "santorum" by asking his supporters to invent an unsavory definition of the candidate’s name. He created a website based on the alternative meaning of santorum and his followers bombed the Internet, out-ranking Rick Santorum’s Google results. Santorum’s online presence was destroyed by the campaign spearheaded by Savage. Checkmate, Ricky.
It’s your job to counter any Google bombing by getting your own army of supporters to associate your campaign with positive keywords and images.
Don’t be like little Ricky and allow the news story be that Googling your campaign serves up some embarrassing results. Take an organic keyword approach to your online political SEO. It does mean getting your hands dirty but ultimately you’ll be spending time rather than money.