January 27, 2008

Effective PPC Strategies For Political Campaigns

By Account Deleted

Ppcandpolitics In a previous post on SemGeek.com entitled "Study: Search Marketing In Prime Spot To Play Major Role in Political Spending" I discussed the great opportunities that awaits for the Search Industry to get a bigger piece of the campaign spending pie. The only thing in our way is convincing the Politicians and Campaign Managers to see the value in all that the Search Industry has to offer. Especially the "high level" online strategies that can be created, implemented, tested and reported on in Paid Search. If we can convince them of that, then we will strike that "all important" commonality of getting a greater ROVP (Return On Voter Participation). However, it is that same messaging power of the web that also scares them to put more money into it. But over time, Analytics and actionable data will change their minds.

To help reinforce this skepticism, acccording to this study done by Borrell Associates which states “The jury is still out regarding the Internet’s effectiveness for reaching and targeting the undecided,” the report read. “There is a fear that their message may end up going to an unintended recipient. Consultants would need to be convinced of the accuracy of this type of direct advertising reaching and persuading the intended targets before they would find sufficient value to devote much money toward it.”

Who's Helping To Get This Message Out:
I have been fortunate enough to be a part of a new company called CampaignGrid which is headquartered in Philadelphia, PA where the goal is to not only educate and persuade the massive opportunities in SEO, PPC, Social Media, Analytics and Testing, but also drive measurable results that help the candidates, non-profits and charitable organizations who need help. In a nutshell, it's all about Raising Money, Advertising and Organizing Online to drive the best possible results. Results consist of online donations, capturing information from volunteers and cross channel support.

Campaigngridlogo2_2

Here are just a few of the things we are doing at CampaignGrid:

  • Behavioral Targeting with Interactive Video and Transactional Banners
  • Using PPC to persuade voters of all parties on the candidates messaging.
  • Counteracting negative campaigning tactics (which is essentially reputation management)
  • Testing different messaging tactics across different Geo and Demographic  audiences.
  • Creating streamlined data flow processes to maximize the effectives of all online advertising
  • Implementing robust analytics tracking to provide political campaign managers with everything from the amount of donations and volunteer submissions on any given day to how effective specific PPC campaigns are doing against others.

In conclusion: There is a big perception problem with political parties that the Internet is a very dangerous playground and it's easier to spend millions on traditional media such as TV, Radio and Print. However, we can bridge that gap by simply educating the political arena that Search Marketing is not only much more cost effective, but it is comprised of "cutting edge" strategies, best practices and highly detailed analytics which allows for a greater understanding of how the campaign's money is being spent.

As an old Mentor used to tell me you need to tell clients "Fish where the Fish are!" It doesn't get any easier than that in Search.

January 22, 2008

Democrat John Edwards: 2008 Presidential Candidates & Online Marketing Strategies

By Li Evans

John Edwards Official Photo This review is one I was really excited to get to do.  Back in December of 2006, John Edwards was the first presidential candidate to ever use an internet medium (YouTube) to announce his candidacy for President of the United States.  That prompted my closer look at the "potential" candidates and their websites to see what they were doing with social media.  At that time, it wasn't much at all, thus prompting my "Barack Obama Doesn't Know What a Widget Is" post.

John Edwards is an exciting candidate to review, because it is obvious, he recognizes the power of the internet as a medium to get out his message.  However, there is disappointment in my review too.  The enthusiasm that seemed to power this campaign and its connecting through social networking has definitely slacked off and even has fallen off the radar.  So, lets get to it and learn about John Edwards Presidential Campaign's Online Strategies.

John Edwards Presidential Campaign Site: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategies

John Edwards Presidential Campaign Homepage The SEO Strategies for this site are hit and miss.  Just like most of the other sites that I've reviewed, their title tags change, but only the "ending" part which highlights what page you are on.  It doesn't include the word "Democrat" or the word "Candidate".  There are no meta description nor meta keywords tags.  Again, a missed opportunity to present the candidates web pages in the manner they want them to be presented in, not in the manner that the search engines choose by pulling snippets from their web page content.  There's also one of those annoying "Splash" pages to contend with.

There's also no use of alt text for the photos or images on the site save for a few here and there.  There is some use of hierarchal header tags, but the text within them isn't optimized at all.  However, there is more content than pictures on most of the pages on the John Edwards Presidential Campaign site.  They also realize that his name is "John Edwards" and not just "Edwards" like so many candidates seem to forget.
SEO Grade: C+

John Edwards Presidential Campaign Site: Social Media Strategies

John There are two great efforts of the John Edwards Presidential Campaign website that his team should be proud of, however, one seems to have really slacked off in the last few months.  That one is the Social Media piece.  John Edwards identified early on that Social Media was a definite key in reaching the younger population and also reaching niche areas with his message.  From his historic announcement, in that he used YouTube to announce his presidency, to is total embracing of all things social, the Edwards campaign was utilizing a lot of different ways to deliver his message last year.

Now, notice what I'm saying here, last year.  Social Media, as we all know very well, isn't a flash in the pan, it takes a LOT of hard work to keep up with profiles on various social sites.  There seems to be phases of when some of the social sites that are publicized on the site "slacked off" and just stopped updating.

The John Edwards campaign still keeps up the YouTube, Facebook (they need to fix the link from the JohnEdwards.com site though), MySpace and Flickr profiles with regularity, as well as podcast and vodcasts.  However, the rest of the 20+ social sites are in serious need of updating and some don't even work right (Ning would be one example).  It reflects badly if you haven't updated your profile, blog, or information on your social networking profile since May of 2007.  Here's some of the screen shots of the social sites that haven't been updated in quite a while.

Social Media Grade: A-

John Edwards Presidential Campaign Site: PPC Strategies

The PPC Strategies for this site are non-existent.  Not even for his name, "John Edwards".  One campaign that is taking advantage of this, is John McCain's, I found his campaign purchasing "John Edwards" on Ask (which I'm taking as they are buying on Google, but funny it didn't come up when I searched on Google).  There's nothing being done on Yahoo or Live either.
PPC Grade: F

John Edwards Presidential Campaign Site: Blogging Strategies

John Edwards for President - Blog The strongest of the online strategies, that I review, for the John Edwards Presidential Campaign site is it's blogging strategy.  When it comes to blogging, this campaign is spot on, and has all cylinders running at top notch speed.  From incorporating posts from John himself, his daughter Cate, wife Elizabeth, campaign team, news pieces from outlets that are friendly to their campaign, to prominently displaying "Your Blogs" (people who blog on Edward's site), they obviously know the power that is here.

It's not just the frequency of the content either, it's the total engagement.  From comments to social media promotion, they have figured out things that no other campaign have figured out yet.  Add on that you can subscribe to different types of blogs (campaign, news, "yours", John's etc), there's no limit to the way you can be updated about this campaign.
Blogging Strategy Grade: A+

Overall the effort the team has clearly placed for this campaign is in social media and blogging.  Two of the more powerful of the online strategies.  If you had to choose where to lay your money and how to reach the greatest number of people, this isn't a bad strategy.  If they could only tweak the SEO and maybe buy "Democrat Candidate" (or similar terms) on Google and Yahoo, it could help make a bit a difference in getting his message out more.
Overall Grade: B

Interested in seeing the other reviews done by Search Marketing Gurus?  Check out the online marketing strategy reviews for Republicans John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, Fred Thompson & Duncan Hunter, and Democrats Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden and Dennis Kucinich.

We've also done reviews on both the Democrat's online strategies for their debate in Nevada and the Republican's debate in South Carolina.

January 16, 2008

Democrat Debate in Nevada & How the Presidential Candidates Promote it Online

By Li Evans

Obama, Clinton and Edwards at the Nevada Democrat DebateLast night a debate was held in Nevada for the Democrat Presidential Candidates.  Those remaining front runners that participated were Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.  Dennis Kucinich  was blocked from participating in the debate by MSNBC and also lost his court battle to force MSNBC to allow him to participate.

Last week I did a quick rundown of how the Republicans promoted their performance in their debate in South Carolina.  It was all prompted by Republican Candidate Fred Thompson's Twittering.  So I feel it is only fair to do the same type of analysis of the Democrat candidates and their debate in Nevada last evening.

The one thing different with this review is that I had some time to do "Pre-Debate" screen shots of the site, and now "Post-Debate" screen shots of the debate.  I do have to point out one thing I found rather interesting, the Democrats have all spun this as their candidate is the "clear winner" of the debate last night, that was not that way with the Republicans and their debate in South Carolina.

While there's not a clear winner in who "won" the online promotion of the debate (to me I see it as a tie), there is a clear loser.  So lets take a look at what the Democrat Presidential Candidates have done to promote their appearance in the Democrat Presidential Debate in Nevada.

Democrat Presidential Candidates Promoting The Nevada Debate

John Edwards:

John Edwards Nevada Debate PromotionJohn Edwards' campaign was really on the ball with promoting Edwards' appearance in the debate, both before the debate aired and now afterwards.  On the homepage yesterday there were a number of links leading into news pieces or blog posts promoting Edwards' appearance.  This morning (1/16/08) there are new links into new news pieces and blog posts promoting Edwards' performance.

This morning blog for Edwards' Presidential Campaign has videos of his performance in last night's debate, and is using them out in his YouTube Channel.  There's also some nice discussions going on and different pieces of analysis of his performance in the Neveda Presidential debate.

Barack Obama:

Barack Obama Nevada Debate PromotionBarack Obama's team has also been really on the ball with promoting Obama's appearance.  His homepage both before and now after the debate in Nevada, linked to blog posts promoting the debate and currently posts showing his performance in the debate.  Obama's campaign is utilizing their YouTube channel, just like Edwards has to promote Barack's performance in the debate last night.

Along with the videos in blog posts, they also had a Flickr photo stream of the pre-debate activities going on around the debate event.  Along with the videos and the Flickr photo stream/slide show, there is a small bit of analysis on his performance.

Hillary Clinton:

If there's a loser in online promotion of the debate, it's Hillary Clinton's campaign website.  This debate was basically treated as a "blip" on the screen by the folks running her campaign website.  There really wasn't any type of promotion of the Nevada Democrat Presidential Debate by her website save for a small bit that was on her blog.  There was nothing on her homepage yesterday and there's nothing on her homepage today (as of 11 a.m. when I looked again).

This morning on the Hillary Clinton Campaign Blog, there's nothing but text and commentary from her team, quoting various news outlets on things they have said about her performance in the debate.  Not one photo, not one video clip. 

I'm not all that surprised by this however, the Clinton camp is very controlling and very .... almost "fake" in its use of social media and it website to promote Hillary (more to come on that in her review).  Like the video she used on YouTube to announce her presidency run, it was very staged, and controlled, unlike Edwards who announcement felt a lot more "real".  So only having a few blog posts totally in "text" this morning pointing out their spin on her performance from quotes news outlets are saying seems to be exactly more of the "boring" approach they've continued to take.

I'm thankful that there was only 3 sites to review for this Democrat Presidential Debate in Nevada unlike the 6 I had to review for the Republican debate in South Carolina.  Seeing both Edwards and Obama's campaigns incorporating social media and website promotion of their appearance in the debate, just like Thompson and Giuliani priorly, was rather refreshing and great to see.  I like the fact that even though I couldn't watch this past debate, I can see pieces of their performance for myself, and not just take the word of rhetoric and spin from the news outlets on how they performed. 

Kudos to both Obama's and Edwards' campaign teams!

Interested in seeing the other reviews done by Search Marketing Gurus?  Check out the online marketing strategy reviews for Republicans John McCain, Ron Paul, Fred Thompson & Duncan Hunter, and Democrats Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden and Dennis Kucinich.  Also check out our review of the Republicans and their promotion of their debate in South Carolina.

January 14, 2008

Republican Mike Huckabee: 2008 Presidential Candidates & Online Marketing Strategies

By Li Evans

Mikehuckabeeofficial As we're coming to the last of the candidates, I've got four more to review after today's Mike Huckabee review, two more Republicans and two more Democrats.  It's been interesting.  I've been watching all the candidates, and still watch what's going on. For example, John McCain's PPC campaign pops up, now and then for certain candidates (some days it's there, some days its not) and has been showing up for some words I was monitoring before that they weren't.  Fred Thompson's campaign has really picked up on the use of blogging and communicating. So if you think these candidates are standing still, they really aren't.

That being said, Mike Huckabee is probably the one candidate whose site has seen a heck of a lot of change.  The Mike Huckabee Presidential Campaign Site seem to like to change it up a bit every few weeks, which by interests standards, keeps people coming back.  The site is rather easy to navigate and it's easy to find information.

There is one thing I did with this campaign that I hadn't done with the others.  I tried to contact the campaign to ask them about their social media usage.  I got a reply from Darrel Brown from the campaign who directed me to the person who is the campaign's internet director, think I ever heard back from him?  Yeah, not even a reply of any kind.  Which lead me to not contact the other campaign.  So Mr. Brown, if you're reading this, thank you for at least your gracious reply.

Mike Huckabee Presidential Campaign Site: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategies

Mike Huckabee for President Main PageMike Huckabee's site, thankfully, has no splash page.  They have their "sign up" that all the other candidates have on their splash page in the upper right hand corner of the site.  However, when it comes to SEO it's sort of hit and miss, more like the "I heard I should do things this way, but I don't know why" type of optimization.

The title tags of the pages change, however, just like the rest of the candidates who have changing page titles, it's just the last part of the Title Tag.  Those changes as well are just for the page your on like "About" (instead of "About Mike Huckabee Republican for President").  Both the meta keywords and description remain constant through out the site.  This is particularly an issue on pages with not a whole lot of actual content like the main page.  They also leave it the search engines to create their "snippets" by not customizing each meta description tag.

There's some use of the hierarchical header tags on the pages with content, but again, it's got to have the content optimized.  Unfortunately for those people with disabilities, or those that run without images on, there's no alt attribute being used on their homepage other than for the "Sign In" part of the page.
SEO Strategy Grade: C-

Mike Huckabee Presidential Campaign Site: Social Media Strategies

Mike Huckabee for President social media promotionSocial Media seems to be Mike Huckabee's stronger suit, when it compared to SEO.  At least here he's got the major social media sites as well as two "meetup" type of sites that he promotes.  He's got both Meetup and Eventful and there seems to be quite a lot of networking going on with both of these social media sites.

I am disappointed though in how they keep things "up to date" on some of the social media sites and how they don't integrate like the other candidates do (Barack Obama for example).  For example the YouTube channel, the latest video is the Florida campaign chair up in New Hampshire, yet, there's videos out on their blog that are newer than this video at the top of the channel, and you have to dig for them on the channel.  They also don't have a video library type of page to house some pretty good videos, such as Chuck Norris explaining why he endorses Mike Huckabee.

They have a rather active Flickr account, but yet don't integrate the photos into the site at all (instead they have some weird flash piece going on).  Past candidates have used Flickr slide shows and just the images and links to sets in their Flickr accounts to promote their Flickr usage.  They also don't rename, geotag, describe nor tag the photos, they are just "out there".  Again like the SEO it sort of feels like, "I should do this, but I don't really know why".

Mike Huckabee for President Facebook ProfileFacebook and MySpace fare a little better, but not much.  The accounts are there and seem to be up to date, but they just don't seem to be utilizing them to their full potential - to really reach out and grab those interested folks and make them into true Mike Huckabee evangelists. 

The campaign is also missing a really great vertical potential in social media.  If you didn't know, Mick Huckabee has lost over 100 pounds, in a very healthy manner.  Relating his story out in health and weight loss communities could also help him reach an entirely different segment of potential voters, especially with his video that shows his view on health.

Social Media Strategies Grade: B

Mike Huckabee Presidential Campaign Site: Search PPC Strategies

Mike Huckabee PPC - buys Mitt Romney's nameMike Huckabee's on the ball when it comes to PPC strategies.  He buys PPC ads on his own name as well as other republican candidates and has been for the last few months.  The campaign buys Huckabee's name on Google and Yahoo (Ask of course shows Google's ads), but the purchasing of candidate's names like Romney's name seems to be limited to just Google.  That said, there's nothing on Live (MSN) at all.  Still, that's a lot more than what other candidates are doing.
PPC Strategies Grade: A

Mike Huckabee Presidential Campaign Site: Search Blogging Strategies

Mike Huckabee's Presidential Campaign BlogThe Huckabee campaign blog is quite active and interactive as well.  It just needs "little things" to make it even more of a valuable communication tool than it is right now.  It's active, a number of posts a day from the campaign team members and Mike Huckabee himself.

First I almost missed the RSS button (it's rather small and it's just Yahoo), they should make it easy for people to subscribe, put one of those big orange RSS buttons where it's easy to find.  If they used Feedburner, of course they'd have more of an idea about who's subscribing to the blog, and promote that.  Currently they use AddThis.  Then there's the optimization issue, the blog post titles could use a little optimization and the title tags on each post need work.

There's a bunch of good things on this blog.  The promote use of social news with Digg (but what about Reddit, and Newsvine?) and social bookmarking.  They actively used videos within the blog posts.  They also allow comments (although linking that Ranger icon would be a good thing to what a Ranger is) and  you can send the post to a friend.  Along with these features, you can also get banners and widgets that help promote the Huckabee campaign.

Huckabee also does something no other candidate had done so far, they have a blogroll of people who are blogging for Huckabee.  If you blog for Huckabee you can submit to have your blog included into the blogroll and you can also submit for an interview.  That's a nice touch.
Blogging Strategies Grade: A-

Overall Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign website isn't that bad off.  It just needs tweaks here and there and it could be firing on all cylinders.  It could help them reach audiences they are missing out on.
Overall Grade: B

Interested in seeing the other reviews done by Search Marketing Gurus?  Check out the online marketing strategy reviews for Republicans John McCain, Ron Paul, Fred Thompson & Duncan Hunter, and Democrats Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden and Dennis Kucinich.

January 11, 2008

Republican Debate in South Carolina & How the Presidential Candidates Promote it Online

By Li Evans

Republicans in Sand ScuplturesThe Republican Debate in South Carolina was held last evening (1/10/08), and by some of the candidates websites, you'd never event know they participated in one.  I know, presidential debates can be one of the most boring things you can watch.  Sometimes watching Rocky for the 50th time seems more enticing to me.  But, by a sort of odd happening I tuned in last night, and I got intrigued, not really by the debate itself, although parts were rather interesting and funny.

Fred Thompson's Tweet about liveblogging the debate in South CarolinaTwitter, my friends, can lead you on trips down roads you wouldn't think you could go on.  That was me last night.  I'm following all the candidates that have Twitter and use it.  Right now, Barack Obama and Fred Thompson are the two most active Twitters.  Last night I get a tweet from Thompson's campaign, that they are live blogging the debate.  I thought to myself - "WOW, now that's a change!"  So I went off to investigate.

Sure enough there was actual live blogging that was going on.  It was even more live than what we see for Search Industry conferences, there were times in the post and what was happening.  It was actually pretty intriguing.  But what it aimed to do, it did - it got me to turn on the TV and watch the rest of the debate.  It got me interested because of what they were posting about what Fred was saying in the debate. 

This wasn't about whether or not I support him as a candidate for President in 2008 - it was more about aiming to get people to the blog, then to give them a reason to turn on and watch Fred's performance.  It worked, and I have to say the guy made me chuckle, but it also made me listen to what he was saying.

After the debate was over I went around to the other candidate's blogs who participated in the debate.  By some of their blogs, you'd wonder if they even participated.  By some of their sites, they seemed to treat the debate as a blip on the screen.  So lets take a quick look at each of these.

Continue reading "Republican Debate in South Carolina & How the Presidential Candidates Promote it Online" »

January 10, 2008

Democrat Bill Richardson: 2008 Presidential Candidates & Online Marketing Strategies

By Li Evans

Billrichardsonofficial With all the rumors swirling of the impending announcement that Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico, will drop out of the 2008 Democrat Presidential Nomination Race, I wanted to squeeze in the review of his site before it was taken down.  There are good and there are bad things with this site, but the one thing that stood out is that it appears to me that Bill Richardson's site is on the same platform as John McCain's Presidential Campaign site (that I reviewed last night).

Little things lead me to this conclusion, I could be wrong, but just like McCain, Richardson has his speeches on his site.  Just like McCain, you can rate the blog posts (in the same manner).  The feel of the site as well, especially the navigation, is the same.  I don't know what that says about either site, but it's something to keep in mind.

Bill Richardson Presidential Campaign Site: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategies

Even though it appears that Bill Richardson's Presidential Campaign site is similar to John McCain's, the site is a lot better off than McCain's SEO wise.  If we take away that Splash Page that so many of the other candidates have, and look at the real pages of the site, some optimization - not much but some.

Bill Richardson for President home pageEach of the pages have unique title tags, although like the other candidates whose title tags change, only the end of the title tag changes.  Forget about the meta description or keywords, the description is the same throughout the site and the keywords are non-existent.  Use of hierarchical heading tags  is sparse, mostly left to just h1 tags on the  underlying pages.  With headings like "Growing Up", that really doesn't help the optimization of the site either.

Like 90% of the other candidates reviewed, for some reason this campaign site forgets the candidates name is "Bill Richardson".  Throughout most of the site you might think the candidate's name was "Governor Richardson".  On the main page, there's not one phrase of "Bill Richardson", not even in the "Paid For" area, it is either "Richardson", or "Governor Richardson" and just one lone "Bill".  However when you get to the About Bill page, you do see "Bill Richardson" together. 

Bill Richardson for President, About Bill PageLooking at these underlying pages - most of them, textually do not answer who the page is for.  The Multi-Media pages (Video and Photo Galleries) have headers that do not even include Bill Richardson's name, not a Bill, not a Richardson or even a Governor in site.  You might be lucky to find one of those names in one of the descriptions of the photos or videos. 

There are two positive things to note on the site.  They do use alt text with their images (but it could be optimized!) and they actually describe what the videos are about that are displayed on the home page.  The description of the videos is a really nice touch and does help to optimize the page just a little as well as the video.
SEO Strategy Grade: C+

Bill Richardson Presidential Campaign Site: Social Media Strategies

Bill Richardson Social Media Promotion Bill Richardson uses some social media, and I am happy to say it's rather easy to find on his site, too.  Richardson has social media buttons / widgets that promote his profiles on MySpace, Facebook and PartyBuilder (that's the DNC's own social network).  Richardson also have active accounts on Flickr and YouTube.

Richardson actively utilizes YouTube within his site to display videos the campaign has shot or they have received from the media.  As described before, one the front page of the Bill Richardson for President site, they even add small descriptions to what the videos are about, which is a nice touch. 

Bill Richardson's Flickr ProfileThe one thing that left me a little bewildered is the fact that the Bill Richardson for President Campaign site has a Flickr account, but doesn't integrate it into the photo gallery.  Instead they have their own custom built flash piece.  Not only would this saved them development costs by using the slide show feature in Flickr, but it would have promoted his profile and pictures on Flickr through his site.

It probably would have behooved the campaign to become a little more active in more social media sites.  Like Obama and McCain, Richardson has his own network, and like I said before, these do little for spreading the word about the candidate outside of this "walled garden" of a social network.  Richardson might have benefited by utilizing Meetup, Upcoming, Twitter or even LinkedIn.
Social Media Strategy Grade: B-

Bill Richardson Presidential Campaign Site: PPC Strategies

Probably weakest link in the online marketing strategy for the Bill Richardson Presidential Campaign is the PPC efforts.  There is none to speak of - not in Google, Yahoo, Ask nor Live.  Just as Dodd, Biden, Kucinich and Hunter have, this campaign left so much opportunity behind without a PPC campaign.
PPC Strategy Grade: F

Bill Richardson Presidential Campaign Site: Blogging Strategies

Bill Richardson for President BlogThe Bill Richardson Presidential Campaign website does have a blog and its pretty easy to figure out how to get to it from the navigation on the site.  They certainly are not that active when you compare the to the efforts of Barack Obama or even Ron Paul.  Just like McCain's blog, it really seems like an after thought and just "something we need to have but we don't know why" situation.

There's no RSS buttons on this blog which I find incredibly odd, since the Speeches, In The News, Videos and Photo Galleries all have RSS subscription buttons.  You can also subscribe by RSS to the comments made, and like McCain's blog you can rate the blog posts (both McCain and Richardson have similar layouts in this area - strikingly so).

There is no social media promotional buttons anywhere on the blog or blog post.  The best you can do is email the blog post to a friend.  There's no real way to help promote what's going on with the campaign to others on the social media sites.  Sure you can comment, but when no one really reads your blog, why bother?

Is it really Bill Richardson's Blog?Then there's also this whole thing like McCain's with the involvement of their own social network.  Even though the blog says it's Governor Richardson's, when you click into the blog post, it says it is someone else's.  Just a little odd, and confusing.  Is it Bill Richardson's official blog, or is it someone else's writing on his behalf (the latter is probably more likely)?
Blogging Strategy Grade: C

Overall, had this campaign really and truly thought about its online presence and use of social media online, they might have had a bit more success at the polls.  A lot of people say "Who's That?" when you mention Bill Richardson, and it's evident from the friend/member counts on the social media profiles, that even though they have the profiles, they did not work them to their advantage.
Overall Strategy Grade: C

Interested in seeing the other reviews done by Search Marketing Gurus?  Check out the online marketing strategy reviews for Republicans John McCain, Ron Paul, Fred Thompson & Duncan Hunter, and Democrats Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden and Dennis Kucinich.

January 09, 2008

Republican John McCain: 2008 Presidential Candidates & Online Marketing Strategies

By Li Evans

Johnmccainofficial The first thought about John McCain's Presidential Campaign site that I had when I started my in-depth research it a few days ago was "Wow, what a difference 3 weeks makes!"  I also found myself frustrated and let down.

Last year in March, I did a blog post on the Republican front runners in the presidential campaign. I featured Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and today's reviewed site John McCain.  At that time, McCain's campaign website left a lot on the table, fairing a D in natural search, a B+ in PPC and an A in Social Media.  My, how the times have changed.

John McCain Presidential Campaign Site: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategies

John McCain for President Campaign Website This site is in need of some help.  Even though this site ranks #1 in Google for "John McCain", it doesn't in Live nor in Ask.  I have somewhat of a sneaky suspicion from doing so many reviews that there has been some "hand tweaking" in Google & Yahoo, to make sure these candidate's sites come up first for their names.  Regardless of that, this presidential campaign site has done little SEO wise to improve itself, it has removed the Splash page, and even that is suspect because 3 weeks ago, it was there.

Title tags, meta descriptions and keyword tags are all the same throughout the entirety of the site.  They do use "spotty" alt text on their images, which is better than what they had before.  Beyond that, on the main page of the site, unless it's a properly written "In The News" or "Straight Talk Express" sections article title, the phrase "John McCain" doesn't appear until the visitor sees "Paid for by John McCain 2008".  There's very little in the way of actually "content" on the main page, just as it was back in March.

On other pages, the phrase John McCain does come together, such as on the "About John McCain" Page.  However, there are pages, such as the John McCain time line, that have a heck of a lot of great content, but that content is either locked away in a flash file or an image.  There are some pages of great content - McCain's site does something the rest of the candidates don't do, put his speeches, in text, online.  Now if they could only tweak those, and optimize them, he could benefit from a lot of long tail searches.  If found the site in a little better SEO shape than I did back in March, but not much to make a difference.
SEO Grade: C-

John McCain Presidential Campaign Site: Social Media Strategies

John McCain's OLD Social Media promotion Analyzing the Social Media Strategies of the John McCain presidential website was probably the biggest let down of any site I've come to. Three weeks ago, John McCain's website was promoting social media usage to connect with his campaign.  I took a screen capture of it then, but now, now it's no where to be found in the navigation of the site, like so many other candidates are doing.  You have to hunt down the social media information for John McCain's presidential campaign.

Press Release about John McCain's Social Media PromotionI had to go to the Get Involved/Action Center section of the site to find a hint of their social media strategy is even still in play.  Even that page makes it hard to find, because you click from there into a press release from back in March about their social media initiatives to get links to McCain's MySpace and Facebook profiles.  To top things off his Facebook profile in the press release doesn't even work, I had to go hunt down the John McCain profile on Facebook myself.

McCain has this own hybrid "myspace" sort of own social network similar to Barack Obama's.  The major problem with these networks is that they don't reach out and integrate with other social networks.  It's a lot like a walled garden, only others in the McCain community can really see what your are doing, and honestly what good does that do with spreading your message?

I have to say, this is the campaign I'm most disappointed in.  Back in March they got an A for promoting social media and for creating the McCain space.  But since they've since taken off the social media buttons/widgets, it's  really seems like "Why Bother" to even have a YouTube channel or Veoh channel?  This campaign has made some serious back steps when it comes to online marketing, especially if they want to reach not only that younger college age crowd, but also those in their 30's as well.
Social Media Grade: D+

John McCain Presidential Campaign Site: PPC Strategies

Three weeks ago, McCain's campaign was buying ads on both Mitt Romney's name and Rudy Giuliani's name. I know I sound like a broken record, but what a difference 3 weeks make.  The campaign is back to only buying ads on McCain's name, and only on Google, just like it was back in March of 2007.  I'm downgrading their grade from last assessment because they are just in Google now and just for his name alone. 
PPC Grade:  C+

John McCain Presidential Campaign Site: Blogging Strategies

John McCain for President BlogJohn McCain's Presidential Campaign site has a blog.  They blog pretty regularly, but nothing like Democrat President Candidate Barack Obama's or a few of the others we've reviewed here at Search Marketing Gurus.  There's a post about the win in New Hampshire, but it looks like the blog is more of an after thought than a real tool in getting the message out about the campaign. 

They are doing some unique things on the blog posts that other campaigns aren't.  You can rate the blog post, which is quite unique.  They also have limited social media buttons - Digg & Delicious are on each of the blog posts.  They also allow comments and for the posts to be emailed to friends.  One opportunity they are missing out on is the tagging of the blog posts.  All of the recent ones have "none" for the tags feature.

John McCain's Blog RSS OptionsIt is almost like someone is blogging but doesn't even really understand the concept or true use of a blog.  I say this not just because of the non-use of the Tags feature, but because you can't just subscribe through their RSS buttons to the entire blog.  You can subscribe to issues like "Iraq", "Health", etc.  There is one for "Campaign" but does that mean I only get posts that are categorized as campaign?  You can't really tell because from the blog posts I looked at not any of them were visibly categorized.

Lastly, it's not optimized.  The same title tag and meta description that runs for the rest of the site runs for each blog post.  With blog post titles like "Firing Up The Troops", it doesn't help either.  Does this post mean the troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, or does it mean his campaign troops and if so, which state?  All of these small things really make it seem that whoever is advising them on their online strategies doesn't really grasp the full concept of online marketing.
Blogging Grade: C+

Talk about a let down, after seeing a lot of promise and knowing they originally had some kind of online marketing firm helping them.  Seems like McCain's website team has been taken for a ride down a dark, dark tunnel, I wonder if they'll find their way out?
Overall Grade: C

Interested in seeing the other reviews so far?  Check out the online marketing strategy reviews for Republicans Ron Paul, Fred Thompson & Duncan Hunter, and Democrats Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden and Dennis Kucinich.

January 08, 2008

Democrat Barack Obama: 2008 Presidential Candidates & Online Marketing Strategies

By Li Evans

Barackobamaofficial Probably the most interesting candidate to date I've reviewed is Barack Obama.  Not just because this guy is "on fire" in the polls and on the campaign trail, but because the website itself can just suck you right in and lead you to all sorts of different kind of information.  Not that some of this information wasn't on the other candidates sites, but more in how it's presented.

I've also noted subtle changes in the site as well.  When I first started looking at candidates sites', well over a month ago in preparation for this Online Review of Presidential Candidates Websites, I took some screen shots.  Looking at them then and now, Obama's is the one who is adapting and changing.  Much like Republican Ron Paul, Barack Obama has become VERY web savvy - this is a complete turn around since December 2006 when I wrote a piece entitle "Barack Obama Doesn't Know What a Widget Is".  I can tell you, he's read the book, manual, forums and message boards - or at least his campaign staff has, and now he knows.

Barack Obama Presidential Campaign Site: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategies

There are good things and there are not so good things when looking at the Barack Obama for President website.  Thankfully, for Obama's campaign team, the good out weigh the bad, it's just that if they could adjust and tweak some key things, they could benefit so much more.

Barack Obama for President Splash PageFirst we have one of those splash pages.  As an SEO this is probably one of the things that drives me nuts about these political sites.  A usability person probably would have a field day as well.  As much as candidates think they need these splash pages, please stop and listen - you don't!  There are probably more frustrated people that sign up because they think they have to, not because they want to really help you.  These splash pages hinder people getting to what they want - your information!

Now beyond the splash page we come to the real home page and the rest of the site.  Title tags are different for each page, but only the ending portion of the Title Tag.  Unfortunately though, the meta description doesn't change across the pages of the website, so the search engines pick their own snippet to display with the listing in the search engines.  On the plus side, most of the images on the site have alt text, and there is hierarchical use of header tags (h1, h2, etc.).

Barack Obama for President Meet the Candidate PageThe one thing that's been very common across all these sites, is that they forget that the candidate's name is their first and last name. Barack Obama is no different in this case, however, he does have two very unique names, so that does work to his advantage.  A search for "Barack" or a search for "Obama" across all 4 major search engines has his presidential campaign website ranking #1 for either name.

There's just some pretty key opportunities that the site is missing out on SEO wise, just like the other candidates.  If they could work on those opportunities they might be amazed by what happens.
SEO Grade: B

Barack Obama Presidential Campaign Site: Social Media Strategies

Barack Obama Social Media PromotionIt's really a toss up between John Edwards or Barack Obama on the Democrat side of this campaign as to who is really the Social Media guru.  I'll cover Edwards in the next few days, however here's the reason why I state it now.  While Edwards has the most social media accounts, he's not active on them all, so what use is that?  But Barack Obama is active, even now - just a half an hour before I started writing this post, there were updates on his social media profiles.

Barack Obama has figured out social media and how it can connect young voters.  Did you hear about that turn out in Iowa?  Although a lot of it can be attributed to Oprah, I have a feeling that the younger vote turn out had a lot to do with the social media networking that has been going on.  On MySpace alone, Obama has over 270,000 friends, Facebook shows over 200,000, YouTube shows over 16k in subscribers and on the very niche but not so small social network BlackPlanet.com he has over 400k in friends.  Even on LinkedIn, Barack's Profile has over 500 contacts listed.

Barack Obama for President GroupsObama's site has changed it's promotion of social media.  Right before Christmas, he was promoting Eventful and Party Builder (the DNC's small social community), now those buttons/widgets are gone (you can see the old buttons here).  I'm disappointed to see the Eventful button go.  The Obama site does promote it's own group/event gathering system with the my.barackobama.com section (you can set up your own groups, your own blog, etc.) but I don't believe it can reach other social community participants like a site like Eventful, Meetup or Upcoming can.

Barack's also integrating Flickr & Videos (although not his YouTube channel) into his site as well.  This adds a nice multimedia / social media touch to the site.  I think though they should be integrating the YouTube channel a bit more into the site (not just on the blog), and actually naming their Flickr images & describing them a bit better.  This could help them take advantage of the audiences they already have on these social sites as well.
Social Media Grade: A-

Barack Obama Presidential Campaign Site: PPC Strategies

The only other candidate to date in these reviews to have a PPC strategy was Republican Fred Thompson.  Well Barack Obama joins him in these ranks. Barack's campaign is actually purchasing advertising on his name, and just his first and just his last name across Google, Yahoo & Live (Ask by default brings in Google's PPC).  Which is the best effort to date of all candidates reviewed (Thompson only purchased on Google).

Still there is room for improvement.  The opportunity that is lost is not purchasing "Democrat Candidate" or "Presidential Candidate", unless you know his name, you won't know that he's running for president and as stated before, that's pretty much across the board for all of the candidates.
PPC Grade: B+

Barack Obama Presidential Campaign Site: Blogging Strategies

Barack Obama for President BlogBarack's got a blog.  His campaign staff are avid bloggers.  Right before I started this article they had just posted videos (uploaded to YouTube) and images from a rally in New Hampshire that started at 10 p.m. EST tonight.  These folks know they have a very active and captive audience on the blog.  When I last checked it had over 30 comments already (I just recheck, the post now has over 130 comments).  So people are watching and reading this blog very actively,

The downfalls?  There are a few, it's a little confusing as to this whole "Community Blog" thing they have going on there.  There's also no RSS button to easily subscribe to just the campaign blog and the social media buttons to promote the blog entires are at the bottom of the entries main blog page, not at the end of each blog post's separate page.  You can RSS to the comments, but I searched high and low for an RSS to the campaign headquarters blog and couldn't find one.
Blogging Strategies Grade:  B+

Overall, this campaign really only needs to tweak here and there, and they could have a killer online strategy.  They are good at a lot of things, just not "good enough' for that A score at the moment.
Overall Grade:  B+

Interested in seeing the other reviews so far?  Check out the online marketing strategy reviews for Republicans Ron Paul, Fred Thompson & Duncan Hunter, and Democrats Chris Dodd, Joe Biden and Dennis Kucinich.

January 04, 2008

Republican Ron Paul: 2008 Presidential Candidates & Online Marketing Strategies

By Li Evans

Ron Paul Republican for PresidentWith all the fervor in the air tonight, it's really exciting looking at all that's gone on in Iowa.  Tonight I'm going to review a candidate who FoxNews apparently doesn't consider a real candidate, like the front runners, but did get 10% of the caucus votes in Iowa.  Tonight I am going to review the "Internet Phenom", Congressman Ron Paul of Texas.

Ron Paul has a huge internet presence, anyone who's an online marketing professional cannot go one week without running into Ron Paul on some social media site.  Whether that translates into actual votes or not will only been seen at the polls, we're here to look at what the Ron Paul for President campaign has put together online.

Ron Paul Presidential Campaign Site: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategies:

Ron Paul for President website The is definitely some efforts to optimize the Ron Paul for President campaign site.  There can be definite tweaks that can be done, but over all this site is in a decent spot for optimization.  Unlike the rest of the candidates reviewed before, the campaign is not missing out on the "Republican" side of optimization, however, it's more about how people are linking to Ron Paul that helps Ron Paul's site.  Believe it or not, Ron Paul's site is the only Republican candidate's site that ranks in the top 10 for "Republican Presidential Candidate".  Although that's "good", it should be tempered with the fact that the DNC's site ranks higher for that phrase than Ron Paul's site.

The Ron Paul presidential campaign site is utilizing only some basic optimization.  Title tags are good, each page has its own title tag that addresses what the page is about.  Although these could be more finely tuned, they are much better than the other sites we've reviewed.  The header tags (H1, H2, etc.) are being used in the proper manner, as well.  Looking further into the code though, the meta description and the keywords are the same throughout the pages on the site.  Also what was curious is all the other meta tags on the site that hold no value but being used.

As you go through the content on the site, it is actual content.  They actually realize that this candidate's name is "Ron Paul", not just "Ron" not just "Paul".  It's very apparent throughout the site, when referring to the candidate you'll more than likely see Ron Paul, or Congressman Paul rather than just a first or last name.

Ron Paul Presidential Campaign websiteThey could use some tweaking, adding alt attributes to the images on the page would be a nice help, as well as unique meta descriptions.  The site could use some keyword research to help Ron Paul really hit those sweet spots where people who are not familiar with him, find out about him.  I do think the Ron Paul interactive videos on top of the issues page are a great addition, if they could put some kind of page that translate what he says, it'd be great additional content to the site.
SEO Grade: B+

Ron Paul Presidential Campaign Site: Social Media Strategies:

When it comes to Social Media is the Republican powerhouse.  This campaign understands social media and knows how to use it.  From photos and videos to networking and meet ups, Ron Paul is everywhere.  You cannot go on any major social media site and not run into something that is about or for Ron Paul.

Its not just that Ron Paul is on these sites, the profiles are active and the profiles have followers.  We're not just talking about a few hundred followers, we're talking about sometimes over 10k in the number of followers.  When you look at the popularity of him within these sites and compare the other candidates to him, it's amazing, he is truly utilizing these networks for promoting his grassroots efforts.

Ron Paul Stumbleupon PageHe's got YouTube, JustinTV, Flickr, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, LinkedIn, MeetUp and the IPhone Network.  Ron Paul even promotes the Stumbleupon review of his site.  When you look at his Meetup profile, there are over 90,000 members, with over 8,000 waiting for RonPaul Meetups.  That dwarfs the closest followers, Mike Huckabee & Barack Obama by well over 85,000 members. 

When it comes to utilizing social media, promoting their networks and communicating through them, all of the candidates on this 2008 trail, can certianly learn a lot from the Ron Paul Presidential Campaign website.
SEO Strategies Grade: A+ 

Ron Paul Presidential Campaign Site: PPC Strategies:

The PPC strategies for this campaign are its weakest spots.  Just like most of the others reviewed, there is no PPC to speak of - not in Google, Yahoo, Ask nor LiveDodd, Biden, Kucinich, Hunter and now also Paul just leave so much opportunity behind without a PPC campaign.  (Note: as of tonight Dodd & Biden have now dropped out of the campaign)
PPC Strategy Grade: F

Ron Paul Presidential Campaign Site: Blogging Strategies:

Ron Paul for President BlogRon Paul's got a blog, it's a little difficult to get to it on its own, but it is there and it is active.  It's not quite as active as some of the others that have been reviewed.  It's also hard to tell who's writing the blog posts, which is a big help when trying to understand who's perspective the information is coming from.

There's social media promotion on the blog, links to submit the posts to Digg, StumbleUpon and Delicious and others are provided.  Also helpful, is the RSS feed button is displayed in the lower portion of the left column.  So having these on the blog help to promote the blog even further in the social media outlets.

Probably the most disappointing thing about the blog is that they do not allow comments.  The candidates who do allow the comments, it really gives the candidates a more "open" feel and the perception that their blogs are really read and are interactive.  Right now, it just seems like Ron Paul's blog is just "there'.
Blogging Strategies Grade: B+ 

Overall Ron Paul's got a decent website and an awesome social media strategy.  If they could maybe spend a little money in PPC it might just help out the campaign a little.  Sure they have a blimp, but there might be more people searching for presidential candidate information than looking up at the sky in New Hampshire.
Overall All Grade: B+

Interested in seeing the other reviews so far?  Check out the online marketing strategy reviews for Republicans Fred Thompson & Duncan Hunter, and Democrats Chris Dodd, Joe Biden and Dennis Kucinich.

December 29, 2007

Democrat Chris Dodd: 2008 Presidential Candidates & Online Marketing Strategies

By Li Evans

Chris Dodd for PresidentConnecticut Senator Chris Dodd's Presidential Campaign website is the next candidate we'll be examining for their online marketing strategy.  A 5 time senator, Dodd according to his biography, has had public service in his blood, because of his father's, Senator Thomas Dodd, days in office and their influence upon him as a child.

Chris Dodd Presidential Campaign Site: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategies

Compared to the other sites that have been previously reviewed, (Hunter, Kucinich, Biden & Thompson) Chris Dodd's site actually appears to have some form of optimization to it.  Now with that stated, it doesn't mean that it's great, it just means compared to the other sites that have been reviewed, it's a step or two above the previous efforts that were displayed.

Chris Dodd for President Main PageFirst, the Chris Dodd official presidential campaign site doesn't have a URL that's only part of the candidates name - chrisdodd.com spells it quite well who the site is about, just like Joe Biden does.  Second, thankfully, there is no splash page to hinder a visitor getting to the information about Chris Dodd. 

It does seem that the Dodd Campaign team put a little thought into some kind of optimization for the site.  Each page actually has a unique title tag, however there is no meta description, so while they are cognizant of the title tags, they are letting the engines actually pick what should be displayed in the snippets in the search engine listings.  They are also missing keyword meta tags, but since that isn't as an important of a optimization element, the fact they aren't including them won't really hurt much with the site and its rankings.

Chris Dodd for President Meet Chris pageThe most positive thing I can say about the site, is that they realize that the candidate is "Chris Dodd", not just "Chris" or not just "Dodd".  You see that throughout all the pages.  It's even in the alt attribute of some of the images on the page (surprise they are even utilizing that!).  There is also limited on page optimization - use of H1 tags in the right way help to round out the minimal optimization that's been put forward.

The common theme through out 99% of the candidates, is that it seems that all they care about is there names.  There's been no keyword research into what else people are searching on for information on the candidates.  Sure, the name is going bring in the biggest amounts of traffic but what about those long tail terms, or those terms people use that don't know your name?  Someone in New Mexico might know Bill Richardson, but not know who Chris Dodd is, how do you get their attention?  That's what all the candidates are leaving on the table, including Dodd.
SEO Grade: B+

Chris Dodd Presidential Campaign Site: Social Media Strategies

Chris Dodd for President Social Media PromotionOut of all the candidates reviewed so far, Dodd has the most extensive social media strategy, and actually keeps most of these profiles up to date and current with new information from his campaign.  Dodd actively promotes connecting through his campaign through Facebook, MySpace, Eons, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, MyGrite, MTV's Think, Gather and UStreamTV.

Believe it or not, this candidate campaign staff is really putting the effort behind utilizing the social media.  Most of the profiles are up to date, and include fresh content from the ChrisDodd.com website.  Most of the profiles show that they've been logged into within the last few days, and they are even utilizing Twitter with messages that Chris Dodd recieves - they "tweet" them out to the followers.

Chris Dodd for President Video PageWhere Thompson and Biden incorporated Flickr for their photo galleries on their sites, Dodd is doing the same with YouTube and UStreamTV.  You can watch the videos in the channels right from the ChrisDodd.com website.  That's a nice touch, it would be even better if they incorporated Flickr in as well since they have such an active account.

Again though, there are some disappointments, a common one so far, no social media "meetup" sites are included in the promotion.  Then, if they could make their social media widgets/buttons open up in a new tab/window, that'd be a great added touch (even if it is for usability).

In general Dodd's campaign team is doing a great job on the Social Media front.
Social Media Grade: A

Chris Dodd Presidential Campaign Site: PPC Strategies

The weakest spot of this online marketing strategy for the Chris Dodd Presidential Campaign is the PPC efforts.  There is none to speak of - not in Google, Yahoo, Ask nor Live.  Like Biden, Kucinich and Hunter, they leave so much opportunity behind without a PPC campaign.
PPC Strategy Grade: F

Chris Dodd Presidential Campaign Site: Blogging Strategies

Chris Dodd for President BlogChris Dodd's site has got a very active blog.  Matt Browner-Hamlin, is the Campaign's chief blogger, and the man is a writing machine.  The blog puts out as many posts as Joe Biden's blog does.  These blog posts are chalk full of pictures and relevant information about the campaign.

Chris Dodd's blog is also the first Presidential Campaign Blog I've reviewed that is optimized.  In fact it's more optimized than the rest of the site.  Title tags are in line with the blog post titles, on page optimization is present, it makes me wonder why this didn't follow through the rest of the site.  They also allow visitors and readers to comment on blog posts.

Chris Dodd for President Blog - No RSS Button for BlogWhile they have a very active blog, its still lacks in a few areas.  There's no RSS button for just the blog.  Half way down the page (throughout the site) on the right hand side, there's an RSS button for the site itself, not the blog.  Then there's no social news, social bookmarking or any kind of other promotional options like "send to a friend" or to submit to StumbleUpon.  Not having these blog promotional tools lets a lot of networking opportunities behind.
Blogging Strategies Grade: B+

Overall the marketing strategies for this democrat presidential candidate are that bad.  If they implemented some sort of small PPC campaign, this would be the best review so far, but unfortunately there's none to review which brings down their overall assessment.
Overall Grade: B

Interested in seeing the other reviews so far?  Check out the online marketing strategy reviews for Republicans Fred Thompson & Duncan Hunter, and Democrats Joe Biden and Dennis Kucinich.

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