Political Campaigns & Search Engine Optimization

By: Rand Fishkin

Public Relations

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Although the topic of political figures (and parties) requiring SEO work had been burning a hole in my head for some time, Wired News has an article from Saturday on just this subject – Pols Hire Web-Savvy Staffers.

Consider Ari Rabin-Havt, 27, who blogs for a living as a staffer to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, 66. Rabin-Havt’s duties include watching the blogosphere for what’s being said about his boss and others, and helping manage the blog and other web-based activities for Reid.

Rabin-Havt said the way politicians and their staffs view blogs and other internet tools is dramatically different from just two years ago when he was helping Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry of Massachusetts with his internet strategy…

…Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, responds on a weekly basis to questions on his blog. He also is among several politicians who have recorded podcasts, self-made audio or video broadcasts that can be downloaded from the internet to a computer or portable gadget.

The former heart surgeon who is considering a 2008 presidential bid said he saw the power of podcasts when one in which he discussed avian flu was featured on a conservative blog and downloaded a million times.

Fundamentally, I believe the importance of the online social environment (blogosphere, search sphere, social tagging sphere, etc.) is not only characterized by the numbers (i.e. Frist’s million downloads) but also by influence. The heavily engaged users of these online mediums fit terrifically well into Gladwell’s Tipping Point meme on influencers (below from Wikipedia):

  • Connectors: Those with wide social circles. They are the “hubs” of the human social network and responsible for the small world phenomenon.
  • Mavens are knowledgeable people. While most consumers wouldn’t know if a product were priced above the market rate by, say, 10 percent, mavens would. Bloggers who detect false claims in the media could also be considered mavens.
  • Salesmen are charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills. They exert “soft” influence rather than forceful power. Their source of influence may be the tendency of others, subconsciously, to imitate them rather than techniques of conscious persuasion.

These three groups are all drastically over-represented in audiences at sites like del.icio.us, Digg, Reddit, Techmeme, Wikipedia, YouTube, Technorati and others. If a political campaign can reach these spheres, they can effect recognition, branding and frame the debate – things that political consultants tend to feel are critical to the process of winning an audience.

I’ve talked to a lot of folks in the industry recently about this topic and found that, with one exception, no one had been specifically contacted by a political party, candidate or campaign to help “frame the debate” in the search results. I suspect that’s going to change very soon and we’ll start to see some pretty ugly SEO tactics and heated fights over search results. Although we’ve done “reputation management” style contracts in the past, it’s never been on the political side, where millions of folks would wish to influence the results in favor of their views.

Has anyone ever done SEO in politics? Would you be willing to share your experiences? How do you feel about this might affect the industry (for both SEOs and search engines)?

I think this may be one of several posts on this subject over the next 2.5 years.

Reposted content from https://moz.com/blog/political-campaigns-search-engine-optimization