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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.


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Unfortunately, you are really clueless on where and when and what words the McCain campaign is buying. Try spending more time with a real evaluation.

On the contrary Mr. Frenchman, I've been monitoring "Republican Candidates" "CAndidates for PResident" "democrat candidates" and the names of the candidates themselves, as well as there derivatives. These are all pretty high volume terms which are driving traffic to the sites that are ranking (such as the NY Times, WSJ, etc.). McCain WAS purchasing on Mitt Romney and Rudy Guiliani however that was three weeks ago, when I started putting together the piece, McCain had ceased all PPC on those names in Google, and Google was the only place he was spending.

If he's since picked up again, good for him, smart move - but at the time of this review he wasn't.

Li Evans,

Perhaps you should visit my blog to see why I know slightly more than you do about where John McCain's search ads are. :-) We haven't stopped purchasing those names, you missed them.


Eric -
more to the point I didn't miss them, they didn't appear and weren't appearing at least during the times I was looking at them.

So what tells me (and should be a red flag to you as well) is that either your budget might be low and you need to up it because Google is scaling it back after it reaches a certain threshold or shutting it down all together, or you've got something going on with Geo-Targeting and you're turning off the Philly area. Most of the time I was looking later in the day EST and at night - and there were no McCain PPC ads on Google for Romney or Guiliani, only for McCain.

Also no ads for the other words I stated either.

I will take a look at your blog though :)


Believe me, I know why the ads shut off when they do and if you read some of the links on a post here when I got fired up at someone else (http://pardonmyfrench.typepad.com/pardonmyfrench/2008/01/sendtec-and-med.html)
you'll see that we have a strategy for these types of words and I was buying them long before anyone else.

I appreciate that fact that you answered my comment. Most people won't respond when they are confronted. Cheers.


Eric fair enough:)

now by your blog it seems you are just doing the PPC? is that correct? cuz man, what the hell possessed them to get rid of the social media buttons?!

I was liking this site back in December - thought everything was going great - online marketing wise, but it was like january 1 came and someone pulled the plug?

I do more than paid search for them, but not involved in the website. Believe when I tell you this, the folks that manage the site are the best in political marketing. They would not have pulled it if it was getting traffic.

Cheers and no hard feelings.


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