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.
First 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.).
The 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
It'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.
Obama'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'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.