Anyone Doing Political SEO?

Most the attempts at political SEO I have seen this year have been grassroots GoogleBombing or half-thought out campaigns asking fans to comment online (and the occasional robotic sounding request for viral content creation).

Obama was estimated to have spent over $2 million on Google ads, and Google political ad man Peter Greenberger claims that limited and inconsistent search ad spend hurt Hillary Clinton, going so far as saying

The McCain campaign was the savviest among the Republican presidential primary campaigns. We think it's not a coincidence that the two savviest primary campaigns with Google are the winning ones.

How well rounded was their search engine marketing? How savvy were they with Google? Were they doing organic search optimization as well? Does anyone know a SEO working for one of their teams? Are any SEOs working for other political candidates like the Senators or members of the House of Representatives?

Published: August 20, 2008 by Aaron Wall in marketing


August 20, 2008 - 9:26am

I think what the candidates (all of them have missed out on) was to rank for keyterms related to specific issues such as war in Iraq, gas prices and such. I don't know anybody right now working for any of them, but I am surprised they did not put more effort capturing a wider variety of terms and topics and getting people THEIR side thru targeting what all spectrums of the masses are most interested in.

But maybe then again, politicians like to flip flop so much, they didn't want to have their stand today be found in Google's cache or tomorrow ;)


August 20, 2008 - 10:11am

The flip flop thing you said...I think you were spot on with that. Hard to take a hard stand on too many issues too early because as news happens and the populous is mislead the politicians need to be flexible.

August 20, 2008 - 11:23am

I used to work for the campaigns department of a UK political party and have come to the conclusion that they are failing to make the most of SEO techniques.

Also political parties are ideally placed to take advantage of Digg, et al due to the nationwide geographical spread of their supporters to drive traffic and links.

I also checked out the party website, which has a huge amount of backlinks, but was shocked to see how they failed to rank for obvious key terms such as NHS, health, crime, environment. All key campaigning issues.

Also with so many party bloggers and elected representatives (MPs and Councillors) online it should be relatively easy to co-ordinate and get plenty of anchor text into key pages to help them rank for key campaign terms.

I guess I better give them a call before the other parties crack on! Lol!!

How does this situation compare with you guys in the US of A?

August 20, 2008 - 2:26pm

Hi Aaron. Read Eric Frenchman's blog:

He handles online advertising for McCain. He was also mentioned in this Wired blog post:


August 20, 2008 - 9:01pm

Thanks for the heads up Richard, and congrats on all the good media exposure you have been getting.

August 20, 2008 - 5:19pm

Thought about doing this way back. I wrote about the provincial election here where adwords was a big deal, yet none of the campaigns did it right. No calls to action, sites that weren't even complete yet (still had placeholder text) and no tracking.

Thing is with political campaigning you need the hookups to get those contracts, and that takes a long involvement in that world. Those people with the long involvements are not also keeping up with search marketing.

Also, I recall Obama's campaign putting job ads on Clickz. Kept seeing his name in their newsletters.

August 20, 2008 - 5:22pm

Oh, and for the record, I advertised on relevant terms during the primaries to try and attract the campaigns' attention. Clicks were dirt cheap and there was huge volume. And the presidential campaigns didn't offer much competition as I recall.

August 20, 2008 - 7:28pm

Obama seems to be more active in PPC than McCain on our end. I see Obama related ads everytime I login to my Yahoo Mail Account.

Here in the PH our next national election will be 2 years from now but I dont think anyone will be doing any ppc campaigns. They are mostly focused more in creating fancy websites about a candidate and spams all over the Philippine Blogosphere to check out and support a candidate.

One successful political site was where it hit millions of page visits that it reached its server's bandwidth limit every week (this was last 2006). It had no ads of any kind, but a strong message asking for support to oust the president. All thanks to the news buzz aired on national television.

August 21, 2008 - 12:11am

My company (NewSunSEO) recently began Political SEO services (we are working our way up the google serps for "Political SEO".)I think politicians will have no choice but to use SEO services in the future. If this election brings out the "internet" demographic, you will see a huge increase in politicians running to the internet. The internet also allows politicians to speak to people on a one-to-one level (well they make it seem that way) using social media websites, forums, and blogs. I think this great niche market for future SEOs to get into. Take a look at our Political SEO page. We are currently developing an online reputation management software as an add-on to our political SEO services.

August 21, 2008 - 2:56pm

Mr. Frenchman makes good points in the wired article about what terms need to be targeted. But looking up some of the most important ones in Google, he does not seem to target them. Not sure if he is busy doing something else and has no help, but it's pretty crazy to see a campaign with such a high amount of funding, where the best opportunities get overlooked.
Ouch, the one who does the best to create a positive internet presence is John McCain's daughter Meghan and she doesn't seem to do anything SEO wise.
She ranks for all sort of music related terms and whatever else she blogs about, but she does a good job "humanizing " her dad.

Mike Dammann

August 22, 2008 - 3:10pm

obama hasn't been skimping on Facebook ads either.

Re: the organic ads - thinking there are probably some opportunities for media buys on those organic pages at least. They could also perhaps even rent those hop ad pages in some cases like one sees on larger media sites (yeah, I think they're annoying too but they must be working for someone). Either of those two options gives politicians an easy out should their position change without a substantial upfront cost for seo work. Probably get McCain a bit more traffic than his #8 position adwords spot for gas prices.

August 22, 2008 - 10:03pm

There was a pretty good NPR story with both campaigns being represented. Looks like they actually did a fairly comprehensive job on targeting specific messages on the paid advertising.

August 22, 2008 - 11:55pm

Thanks for the link JK :)

August 30, 2008 - 12:27am

Hi Aaron,

I've been absent for a while doing a bit of what I guess counts as political SEO. Having achieved a minor success, and with a few minutes to spare, I return here to discover (as usual) a relevant post on your estimable blog.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts:



August 30, 2008 - 6:17pm

Are you saying that someone else is using one of your trademarks?

August 30, 2008 - 11:43pm

Not exactly. The words ecodriving and ecodriver are not officially registered by anyone yet. However we've been using those words on our site for months. We're not the only ones.

Those eternal champions of all things ecological, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, displayed those words with the trademark symbol appended on their brand new website, launched August 18th 2008, with the able assistance of the Governors of California and Colorado on video. I suppose they're trying to rebrand hypermiling whilst taking out all the "dangerous" stuff.

We're a nascent non-profit with no money and no expensive lawyers, but a real Eco message. Not that we argue against Arnie's speech, as far as it goes, but we do think allowing the Auto Alliance to control those words, and that brand, would be a very bad idea, so we're doing what we can to prevent it.

August 31, 2008 - 12:34am

If you were using those words before them I doubt they could actually win any attempt at going after you.

Plus real non-profits that want to change the world should not worry about trademarking language core to their ideas...they should hope that many other people use those words to raise awareness to their issues and their messages.

August 31, 2008 - 7:12am

Hi Aaron,

I am not worried about econnexus trademarking those words. Are you?

I am worried about the Auto Alliance trademarking those words. Are you?


August 31, 2008 - 9:44am

If they send someone a takedown notice over it ping me and I will try to help sort the issue out.

August 31, 2008 - 12:38pm

Hi Aaron,

Thanks a lot for the offer. It is very much appreciated.

So far they have removed one trademark symbol on their home page. There are a few more to go though.



August 30, 2008 - 11:03pm

some more DIY political smears going on here

interesting to see the exposure those sites are getting, and that the people who do not like them are still direct linking! Sorta ignorant of them to support the sites they do not like!

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