Daily Kos: SEO Political Strategy for Grass Roots Constituents

By Justin Seibert| 5 Min Read | October 14, 2010

The more we run search/display ad programs for and follow online political marketing campaigns, the more interesting behind the scenes machinations become.   So you can imagine how interested I was to be forwarded an article from Daily Kos about “Grassroots SEO” to its constituents.

Don’t get your dander up.  I realize Daily Kos is a very polarizing site and evokes visceral reactions on both sides of the equation.  We’re going to keep this right in the center of the teeter-totter.  The closest thing to saying something that could be perceived negative to one side that you might read in this post is that Democrats got into the internet marketing game sooner than Republicans, who mostly do now realize what online marketing can offer.

So if you want to learn more about how PACs, campaigns, and other organizations are trying to influence the 2010 midterm elections AND you promise to not attach nonexistent persuasions to this post, continue reading. 

The article from the Daily Kos is a touch long but well worth a read if you’re interested in either politics or SEO or both.  Otherwise, here’s an excerpt:

Campaign Goal and Theory
The goal of Grassroots SEO is to get as many undecided voters as possible to read the most damaging news article about the Republican candidate for Congress in their district. It is based on two simple premises:

  1. One of the most common political activities people take online is to use search engines, mainly Google, to find information on candidates. (For more information, see the Pew Internet and American Life Project’s report on 2008 online political engagement.)
  2. These results of these searches are always in flux based upon hyperlinks anyone posts anywhere on the Internet, including message board comments and social networking sites (but not email).

As a result of this, not only is it possible for us to use our hyperlinks to impact what people find when they search for information on candidates, but we would be foolish not to do so in a way that benefited our preferred candidates. We are already impacting search engine rankings whenever we post any hyperlink anywhere, so we need to make sure the way we use hyperlinks helps result in our preferred political outcomes.

When we did a Grassroots SEO campaign in 2006, we reached over 700,000 voters in 50 key congressional campaigns in the final two weeks of that midterm election.

The site then goes on to tell its readers how to identify the most damaging articles (and those that make it easier to promote to the top of the organic rankings) and provides an email address for where they can be submitted.  From there, Daily Kos will handle the rest in pushing those articles to the top of searches for candidate names in midterm races throughout the country.

There are a few major takeaways here:

  1. Online Reputation Management Paramount.  Protecting your online reputation through owning the SERPs (search engine results) is paramount.  Start early.  If you’re even thinking about ever running for office (and even if you’re not, there are plenty of good reasons to), buy a domain with your name and put up some content / redirect it to your LinkedIn profile, and get as much exposure as you can now through social media properties.  SEO usually takes time, so it’s easier to do when you own a lot of the SERPs already.  There are people you’ve never met that will seek to tear you down just because of the letter next to your name.
  2. Don’t Forget about Paid Search.  If you get caught behind (and really – you should be doing anyway), don’t forget about buying your own name in Google AdWords and Microsoft adCenter.  Tailor the copy to the search query in question and answer negative claims if necessary.  And if you’re like most campaigns and PACs we know, you’ll probably be even more interested in buying your opponent’s name.
  3. Empower Your Fans.  Whether you’re a campaign, political organization, business, or organization, you have a lot of people in your camp who like you.  Empower them.  Give them an action plan.  Tell them how they can help.  No candidate is an island.
  4. Left Leading Right in Political SEO.  Liberals are still outpacing conservatives on search engine marketing.  They’re both doing it now, some campaigns and PACs on both sides extremely well.  But the fact that there’s a well-found mechanism like this already in place on the left side says they’re more organized to use individuals across the nation.  I know the GOP and other parties are making similar efforts before and in response to this article, but they’re not as coordinated on this front.  (If anyone has evidence to the contrary, please speak up in the comments.)

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a quick plug about our own political search engine marketing offerings.   It’s not too late.  If you’re running a campaign or a PAC and want to learn more about raising funds and increasing name recognition to get your candidate elected on November 2, give us a call at 800.979.3177.

We can get some campaigns up within hours of receiving payment and can get your ads hundreds of thousands or millions of impressions on everything from local newspaper sites to sports sites and everything in between for just pennies on the dollar.  The reach you get costs just a fraction of what you’ll pay for tv and radio.

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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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