We're still well over a year away from "Decision '08", but that hasn't stopped aspiring presidents from announcing their candidacies on platforms like YouTube. Online political marketing for 2008 presidential campaigns got their kick start when John Edwards was first out of the gate with his announcement to seek the democratic nomination for president airing on YouTube. By in large, the democratic candidates have become quite savvy internet marketers, and yes, Barack Obama now knows what a widget is (or at least his internet team does!).
What about the republicans? John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney - officially those are the ones we know about, how are they using internet marketing, social media and search? Compared to their democrat counterparts, they are leaving a lot on the table. I took a look at these three front runners and came away thinking, they really need some serious help when stacked up to Edwards, Clinton and Obama.
Below is a quick synopsis on how these three front runners stack up:
John McCain's Presidential Campaign Website: www.JohnMcCain.com
Natural Search: There's a reason why when you type in "John McCain" into Google, this website doesn't come up, it's first page, on first visit is entirely in Flash. However, a 2nd visit back to the site, you no longer get the splash page because a cookie tacked on in the first visit tells the site to present the "real" home page. Title Tags for the website are all the same. Content is really lacking, meaning actual "text" a spider could read (if it could get to the pages in the first place). Rating: D
PPC: Campaign seems to be limited to his name. Obviously since the site doesn't rank naturally for "John McCain" they have to get visitors to the site who are searching for him. Rating: C
Social Media: This is the site's and campaign's strongest feature. They have a deep social networking program being run here. From creating your own blog and "JohnMcCainSpace" on the site, to a YouTube and Veoh channel, they've definitely got a handle on the social media mix. Rating: A
Rudy Giuliani's Presidential Exploratory Committee Website: www.JoinRudy2008.com
Natural Search: Rudy Giuliani's exploratory committee's website fairs a lot better than McCain's when it comes to ranking for "Rudy Giuliani". The site is a mixture of content and images, however heavier to the image side. Places where they could capitalize on utilizing keywords, those words are embedded in images. Where they could break out content and capitalize on focusing around special key words, they combine all the information, thus making pages with no real key word focus, that makes the inner pages tough to rank for much of anything beyond "Rudy Guliani." Rating C+
PPC: Like McCain, the campaign is limited to his spending for ads to appear when Rudy's name is searched on. Rating C
Social Media: If one would qualify RSS feeds in with Social Media, then they have one element. However, other than the RSS feeds, there's no elements of social media on the site at all. Rating D
Mitt Romney's Presidential Campaign Website: www.MittRomney.com
Natural Search: Of the three candidates, Romney's site has the best natural search optimization. That being said, it's still leaves a lot to be desired. There is definitely room for improvement and keyword research & implementation for this site could catapult it to the next level. There's a nice mix/balance of images and content - it just needs to be more focused. Rating B+
PPC: No difference than the other two, ppc campaign just focuses on "Mitt Romney" (not even just Mitt - Rudy does just "Rudy). Rating C
Social Media: Mitt's site promotes his Facebook and his own YouTube channel, but that's the extent of use of social media. There is a section called "Mitt TV" but, that's totally interactive media, nothing social about it. Rating B-
Overall these sites are leaving so much behind. Whether it's not capitalizing on simple searches like "republicans for president" or even misspellings of their name in natural and paid search, they should start beefing up their sites and PPC campaigns.
Social Media wise, McCain by far is ahead of this particular pack. However, not one of these candidates have their own blog. All of their democratic counterparts have them and they are all rather popular. John McCain has a "Blog" link on his site, but it leads you to the social media part where you, yourself, could create your own blog on John McCain's site.
When it comes to online marketing, the republicans have a long way to go. Lucky for them November 2008 is well over a year away and they have some time to beef up their sites and implement new online strategies that could counter what the democrats are doing. If the race for president were held today, I'm pretty certain more people on the web are aware of the democrats and their websites, than the republicans - who do you think that would fair better for?