Political reputation management via paid search
I wrote an article for American Chronicle before the end of the election titled "The Politics of Paid Search - Combating the Obama and Palin Rumors". In it, I discussed how Obama's camp did a far better job squelching the rumors largely spread via e-mail proclaiming many unsavory "facts" about the various candidates. As I've continued to see interest in this topic, I decided to dive deeper and see why people have spent so much time discussing how the Internet was utilized in this campaign.
One of the most prevailing rumors spread via email was that Obama was a Muslim. As i stated in my previous article, Obama's team had put in place a paid search marketing campaign which appeared to be broad matching searches containing "Obama", "Barack", and "Muslim". In the sponsored search listings, two Obama ads ran unopposed. The first as more of a catch-all, titled "Researching Barack Obama?" and a second targeted add proclaiming simply, "Barack Obama: Not Muslim" leading to his brilliantly assembled Fight the Smears site, which provides answers countering all of the misinformation which his team constantly updated.
So how important was this site? Well, if my numbers mean anything, quite a bit. Initial keyword volume research on Google shows an average of 226,616 searches per month pertaining to Obama and the word Muslim. Considering Google accounts for about 70 percent of search traffic now, overall monthly search traffic likely eclipsed 300,000. It would appear that the word of mouth and email campaigns on that subject raised quite a bit of interest. While I am not privvy to the click throughs from the monthly traffic in October to the Fight the Smears website of 747,000 visitors.campaigns, Quantcast reported
Perhaps just as telling from the Quantcast numbers is the traffic to the Fight the Smears site's affinity for factcheck.org, a site aimed at shooting down both candidates' loose use of facts. That site showed monthly traffic of 2.1 million visitors. What does this mean? Well, it would appear that a growing number of Americans are utilizing the Internet as a reference tool. While I'm certain it drives the candidates crazy trying to deal with unfounded attacks spreading like wildfire via email and otherwise, it must comfort them to see that people are taking it upon themselves to utilize available resources to ascertain what is fact and what is fiction.
While Obama's team pushed the envelope to new heights in utilizing technology as a strategic and fundraising tool, it will be interesting to see how politicians leverage paid search management, and the Internet in general, as a powerful tool. With more independent organizations making information readily available to the public, it will be interesting to see if politicians are held increasingly accountable for their less than truthful rhetoric.
About Joe Ford
Joe Ford is a Managing Partner at Netvantage Marketing. In addition to overseeing day to day business operations of Netvantage, he directs paid search strategy for over 14 paid search clients. Ford is on the Lansing Chamber Board of Directors, and the Executive Board of the Capital Area IT Council.