Political Campaign Website Analysis

Political Campaign Websites 2012It is an election year in the United States and the web has never been more important to the success of political candidates. Social media has already been credited as a reliable source for predicting wins in presidential primaries. Some political candidates have struggled to implement effective online strategies with their campaign websites and some are exploring new services with relative ease.

Although there are many components that should go into a political candidate’s online strategy, I thought it would be fun to do a quick analysis of a couple of the presidential campaign websites at this point in the race.

Based on the success people have had implementing internet marketing strategies in various online niches, I have some suggestions that any political candidate should implement in their campaign website whether for a presidential race, governor’s race, congress, or even a local campaign.

What is the point of a political campaign website?

The way I see it, political campaign websites should serve have these primary objectives:

1. Lead Generation
Build an email list of supporters. Although social media followers, friends, likes, etc. look good, an email list remains the most effective way to connect with people who have visited any website. This should remain at the core of all political campaign online strategies.

2. Social Media Connections
Build a community of loyal fans and supporters on the social networks in which they are most active by offering website visitors the opportunity to connect via social media.

(Bonus: Political Campaign Social Media Strategy)
Focus first on the loyal fans and followers and provide information that would please them. Why? Because they’ll share your stuff. Let them do the work. Let them share your message and convince people who are on the fence. Focus on what they want for this country and talk about it. Don’t make the mistake of talking only about yourself.

3. Clarify Positions on Issues
Potential voters go searching to find out what candidates really say about the issues. They might watch a debate or two, but you can bet that they read up on you at your campaign website before they go to the booths. Hire a copywriter who can craft your message effectively for an online reader (note that this is different than any other medium).

4. Communicate News and Events
Where is the candidate and what events is he/she going to attend? Political candidates are on the road a lot. Use the web to share updates and thank yous to the places you are going and the places you have been. (This is a great opportunity for an app, by the way.)

5. Raise Money through Online Donations.
Barack Obama set a new standard for raising money online in the 2008 presidential election. Political candidates must leverage their campaign websites to raise money and solidify support. Make sure the donate button is prominently displayed and subtly points people to a landing page that converts website visitors to make donations. Build a relationship with website visitors via email (see #1) and social media (see #2) to subtly convince people that their money will make a difference (but don’t ask for the donation directly on either platform, just thank the people that are already supporters).

6. Give Supporters Action Items
Arm supporters with resources and volunteer opportunities. A campaign website can be used to provide volunteers with information on what they can do in their area and online to support the candidate. This might be information on a local campaign headquarters or information about upcoming events. (Bonus tip: Collect the zip codes of people signing up for the email list or pinpoint their IP addresses to determine their geographic location. Then segment your list to send geo-targeted emails to specific groups of people who are close enough to an event, rally, town hall meeting, etc.)

7. Convince People to Vote for the Candidate.
This may seem like a no brainer, but it ultimately THE goal. Many people have already made their decision, but some of them are on the fence. The core of your online strategy should focus on your most loyal supporters to spread your message, but you should also provide people who are on the fence with simple, easy-to-understand documents, videos, or interviews that most effectively provide and emotional reason to vote for you. If someone is having a hard time making a decision, it is probably not a lack of information, it is a lack of emotional connection or motivation to choose one person over another. Focus on the heart and you’ll find success.

Measuring the Success of Political Campaign Website

If was was managing a political campaign website, I would be measuring the following metrics (among others):

  • email list conversion rate (subscriptions per visit)
  • donations and donations conversion rate
  • click-throughs to social media sites (event tracking)
  • social shares (like/+1/tweet/etc. per visit)
  • browse rate (# of pages per visit)
  • new vs. returning visitors (% of new visitors)
  • visitor recency
  • geographic location of visitors (measured against the travel schedule of a candidate)

As an SEO, I would track ranking and traffic from the following types of keywords:

  • candidate’s name (and all variations of name)
  • most popular issues (issues + candidate name)
  • poplar news items or events that occur related to the candidate

And if I was an adviser to a political candidate, I would use the data in the web analytics of the campaign websites to suggest what campaign issues are most popular among website visitors and which ones need more clarity. One way to measure this is tracking the “time on page” of each issues page. Or if there is a video on the page, make watching the video an event that can be tracked via Google Analytics event tracking javascript. They could also look at the way in which these pages are being shared on social media sites. Look at the positions that are being shared with a negative sentiment and note the objections so that in forthcoming speeches these issues can be addressed.

A Look at the Presidential Campaign Websites Today

Barack Obama Campaign Website (barackobama.com) 

Not long ago I did a quick analysis of barackobama.com, the President’s political campaign website. The website has changed a little since then, but here are my thoughts on what the President is doing well and what he can do better:

Mitt Romney Campaign Website (mittromney.com) 

As the front runner after the first two primaries, Mitt Romney knows how important it will be to create an effective Presidential campaign website to compete against the web-savvy Obama team.

Here is my analysis of his website as it stands today:

Both of these websites are a work in progress and neither would be considered the best political campaign websites online, but they do have their strengths and a clear strategy in mind.

It is important to note that they both have a key goal in common: lead generation. This is something every online business should keep in mind as they develop their website strategy. No matter how annoying it might be ask for an email address, it is crucial for online success.

Regardless of your political views, it should be fun to watch these campaign websites change and adapt to the race in 2012!

Google Analytics Hides Keyword Data of Logged-In Users (and Every Niche is Affected)

Like most data junkies, I’m as angry as anyone for Google’s recent decision to hide keyword data in Google Analytics for users who are logged-in to their Google accounts. Basically, all searches by logged-in users will be in https://www.google.com rather than http://www.google.com as a secure way to search the web. Instead of reporting the keywords that these users typed to find your website, you will see (not provided).

So someone searching for “analyze niche” last week would appear as so:

Google Blocks Keyword Data

While a Google user searching for “analyze niche” this week would appear as so in Google Analytics:

Google Analytics Blocks Keyword Data

At first I thought this would only have a significant impact on websites in the tech niche or blogging niches, but I’m already seeing an impact on sites that typically have low-tech visitors.

Here is a screenshot of the (not provided) visits in the first week of the change:

Google Analytics Not Provided Keyword Results

To be completely honest I didn’t expect to see any impact yet, but even in a non-techie niche I’m seeing an impact. Granted it is less than 1% of all keyword traffic for the week, but if the number continues to grow I will get concerned.

If you are like me, you are signed-in to Google virtually all day long. And with Google+ and Gmail growing in popularity, this could really be a significant change for everyone. This is going to have a significant impact on blogs in every niche.

Find Out More Information 

Avinash Kaushik is the web analytics guru at Google and has already posted a tip on how to measure the impact of this decision. He promises to continue to guide users in the future on this topic.

Rand Fishkin posted an emergency Whiteboard Friday session over the weekend that should help as well.

Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land has some thoughts as well.

What Now?

Start tracking your (not provided) keyword results and see how much the data is impacting your ability to analyze the data. If you are seeing a significant impact, then look at the data from Bing and Yahoo search results. The keyword break-down of those search engines could really help put the Google data into perspective. If you see some keywords missing in Google, you might want to see how you are performing in the other engines and check your SERP rank.