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New Hampshire Republican Primary: A Look at Candidate AdWords Campaigns

By Justin Seibert| 5 Min Read | January 4, 2012

With all the news coverage of the Iowa primary yesterday, I thought I’d pull up and share some very quick information about how Republican candidates are using Google AdWords (as a proxy for search engine marketing and internet marketing in general) right now in the next stop on the trail: New Hampshire.

Again, this is going to be very brief.  I didn’t have time for a longer post and didn’t want this to become stale.  You should see the terrific post I had going for how Herman Cain was handling online reputation management…and then he dropped out before I could finish and post.

Quick Beginner Notes on How Google AdWords Works

For those of you not intimately familiar with paid search marketing, a couple important notes that can be difficult to grasp:

  1. Ads don’t necessarily display all the time.  With Google AdWords – and Microsoft adCenter for that matter – you may be advertising on a particular keyword, but not see your ad.  This can happen for a variety of reasons, but one of the most common is due to budget.  Usually you’ll set your account spend to be spread out evenly throughout the day, meaning that if you can only afford 100 clicks and Google estimates you’d get 150 if they ran you full force, you may only see your ad 2 out of every 3 times you check.*  To counteract this, I did run test searches multiple times, but that doesn’t mean I saw everything.
  2. These are New Hampshire results.  Using Google’s Ad Preview Tool, I pulled searches specifically in the state of New Hampshire.  It’s possible candidates are targeting just certain districts (as we’re familiar with from running political search marketing campaigns).  So, if they only care about a particular part of NH for whatever reason, they could just be targeting that region and I wouldn’t be seeing their ads.  Also, the Preview Tool doesn’t let you open up links – I’d normally comment about landing pages as well.Update: Assuming he’s using the same tactics in NH as he is across the US, give Romney’s team credit.  Their landing pages are taking people to a donation page.

* Advertisers should also use Google’s Ad Preview Tool to weed out any personalization effects of search.

2012 NH Primary Search Engine Marketing

Alright, here we go.  In the interest of time, I ran only on exact candidate names (first name, last name) and just a couple phrases pulled completely at random.  Any proper AdWords campaign concerned with anything other than branding will have much larger lists of keywords.

The following is the search term and who I could see advertising on them, in order of Iowa results for candidates.  I’m including Michele Bachmann even though she ended her campaign just now because…well I already did the searches.

Update: Now two days after the primary, some more sites are cashing in.  New advertisers noted in green to distinguish.

  • Mitt Romney: himself, on a couple searches, then CSPAN later, then finally Rock the Vote. Now add
  • Rick Santorum: none the first day.  Now people jumping on board: Rock the Vote and
  • Ron Paul: a couple times.  Later the Endorse Liberty YouTube channel ( BTW – did you notice the YouTube layout changes Google stealthily made over the holidays?
  • Newt Gingrich: himself (  And now a new one, also from Gingrich – the awesomely named
  • Rick Perry:
  • Michele Bachmann:, Minnesota Public Radio (  Later CSPAN.  Now,the Endorse Liberty YouTube channel – seems like odd timing.
  • Jon Huntsman:


Here are a few things I found interesting, in no particular order:

  • Interesting that in most cases the ads were showing at the bottom of the page, rather than the top where Google was showing Iowa Republican Caucus results in most cases (its own, bug with credit given to AP) along with news results and sometimes image results.  Speaking of which, some of these candidates are just getting destroyed still by Googlebombing image results.  Unless, of course, the Newt Gingrich photo of him posing in tinfoil hat with Nazi flag is an official campaign photo that I’m not aware of.
  • Mitt was going strong earlier this morning, but now I’m having trouble triggering his ads at all.  Maybe he ran out of money in that campaign due to higher search volumes?
  • Interesting how CSPAN has jumped into this advertising so heavily this afternoon.  They must be paying a pretty penny.
  • No love for Rick Santorum?  Seriously?  The guy lost by 8 votes, which I can, like, count on my hands.  Quality Score issues aside, isn’t there an entrepreneur out there that can take advantage of the lack of competition and make some money here? Photo Credit: AP Photo/Eric Gay.
  • Although, CSPAN surely hasn’t paid as much as  Fortunately for them, they’re paying only on a per click basis and not per impression.  (This assumes they’re not doing cost per acquisition bidding, which should be a safe assumption).  Curious why they’re not on all the candidates – would love to know if that’s a budget issue, oversight, part of their plan based on who they think has a shot at winning, or other.
  • I know it’s early with Iowa just wrapping, but really surprised not to see more PACs there.
  • Equally if not more surprised the political campaigns aren’t advertising on their opponents’ names.  Perhaps there’s a gentleman’s / woman’s agreement as being part of the party?  You wouldn’t guess it by some of the talk by the candidates themselves.

What stood out to you?

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Written by Justin Seibert

Justin Seibert is the President of Direct Online Marketing. Justin holds a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University. He contributes a wide range of online business-oriented topics, including the subject of exporting. His contributions can be found on publications such as the Pittsburgh Business Times, AdAge, SES Magazine, and La Voz del interior. Justin and his family enjoy learning about new cultures during their travels.

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