The last presidential election had its fair share of scandalous accusations, drama, and “dog and pony” tricks surrounding one of democracy’s cornerstones. However, the election was drastically different from any of the elections that preceded it. Just as the telegraph allowed people to get information faster than ever before, the advent of cable news helped keep people more informed about “headline news.” Now, Google now holds more political clout than ever.
Instead of waiting for updates about the biggest “headlines” to roll across their screens, people today have the ability to find and choose news detailing information about their favorite candidates, and they can find it whenever and wherever they want it. Presidential candidate Barack Obama was both the beneficiary and the victim of this new and exciting power. In 2008, the authenticity of his citizenship came into question. The internet fueled rumors that Obama was born in Kenya. Google maintains it constantly updates its algorithm to always show the most relevant result. And yet, as everyone in politics knows, “relevant” is a moving target in the midst of election season.
How does a candidate implement a solid digital strategy to help their campaign?
“Share The Good News.”
Many would agree the best defense is a good offense. In terms of burying bad press, it’s harder to rank less than flattering results on the first page of Google if it’s already jam packed with good news. This means implementing an extremely comprehensive web strategy including everything from popular social media profiles like Twitter and Facebook, to having a website fully optimized for SEO.
Just like any brand, controlling your image is paramount to success. The front page of Google should include results to the candidate’s political website, personal website, Twitter, Facebook Page, major news articles, press releases and/or a Wikipedia entry. These strong websites can all align with the web strategy, and are fairly easy to rank.
A politician’s profession is much like that of a judge, it encompasses a lifestyle where it’s hard to please everybody. Any serious political candidate has detractors, and any viable political candidate has vocal detractors. Unfortunately, it’s easier than ever for these detractors to find an internet soapbox where they reach the eyes and ears of millions of potential voters. Sometimes these detractors tell flat out lies, other times they skew the truth to serve their own agenda; but regardless of their methods, mitigating these people is key to a positive online strategy:
- Press Releases – Make sure that every event is followed by a press release. These are syndicated by major news sources. If you cite relevant news articles in each release, the citations will also help move those articles up in the rankings. Press releases are a great way to alert the press about accomplishments. If done right, they can yield positive press coverage you can leverage personally.
- Blog Posts – Right alongside press releases, you should have an ongoing schedule of content posting to your website. This helps keep your content fresh and relevant in the eyes of Google. As controversy arises, write blog posts that firmly state your position and link to your other sources, like Tweets and Facebook pages, where you’ve upheld this view in the past. By tying your properties together in this fashion, you help grow the authority of all your social pages and websites.
- Interviews – Interviews are the bread and butter of any serious political campaign, but encouraging reporters to push readers to your website for increased educational value is sometimes challenging. Make sure your press packet is exceedingly clear about what website to link to and has explicit instructions about how to do so. Also, include boiler plate text they can include at the bottom of their articles. For example, “To learn more about Ralph Nader’s views, visit his website at http://RalphNader.com.”
- Meet The Press – Cultivate connections with well connected bloggers and reporters. Finding reporters on Twitter is one great way to make media connections. While you can certainly connect with people who list their social media profiles at the bottom of their articles, you can also take a more aggressive approach. Tweepz is an example of a service that aggregates Twitter profile information. You can search Tweepz using the “exact match quotes” feature. Here’s an example that Vuurr would use to find potentially sympathetic reporters: http://tweepz.com/search.php?q=%22Reporter+For%22
For lesser known reporters, offer your interview opportunities contingent upon getting a link to one or all of your web properties in return. This will give less experienced reporters a chance to interview someone of import, all the while helping you control your web strategy.
Political SEO is not like public relations. You need to have a strategy to convince not only the people whose vote you’re soliciting, but also the robots that index and rank your websites. Knowing how to work the algorithm is a diverse set of skills that takes years to develop. If you’re running for office and want to make sure that your online identity compliments your real life, Vuurr is the only company that deserves your vote.