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!

Identifying Your Target Audience (Online City Guides)

People trump numbers every time.

When you begin to do niche research don’t make the mistake of obsessing over the numbers. Focus on a group of people who have a certain need that you can meet better than anyone else.

Like a lot of internet marketer, my first inclination is to immediately jump into keyword research when doing niche analysis. Keyword research, once you understand its power, can be addicting.

However, more important than knowing the keywords that people are searching for is identifying the people themselves.

The most important step in niche analysis is identifying your target audience.

Consider these questions:

  • Who are you serving?
  • What are their greatest needs?
  • What unique solution do you have for their needs?
  • Where do they hang out?
  • How can you reach them?
  • What kinds of things do they like to talk about?

These are all questions you will want to answer when you research a niche. I don’t advocate for research that just tries to exploit niche markets that could give you a competitive advantage.

One of the principles that I promote in digital marketing is never to forget the people you serve and the problems you solve. If you lose sight of the people and the problem/need, you won’t be able to find fulfillment in your work.

And if your work isn’t fulfilling, it isn’t worth doing.

Identifying the Target Audience for Online City Guides

So who are the visitors to the websites that offer online guides to cities around the world?

Let’s do a little brainstorming writing down all the groups of people that come to mind. Hold nothing back. Just write down all of your ideas.

Here is what I came up with in just a few minutes:

  • travelers
  • single travelers
  • single traveling entrepreneurs
  • single traveling business men and women
  • single travelers on vacation
  • married travelers on vacation
  • married travelers on a honeymoon
  • married travelers attending a wedding
  • married travelers looking to relocate
  • newly married couple looking for things to do in their local city
  • singles looking for things to do in their local city
  • families with kids looking for things to do in their local city
  • families traveling on vacation

The list above is just an open brainstorming session. At this stage we want to keep our options open before we pinpoint the audience with the greatest need or the best fit for the solutions we can offer.

In general, this stage is about identifying a broad audience (travelers or local residents) and continually targeting smaller groups (single travelers, married travelers, family travelers) in specific situations (married travelers on vacation). As you focus your audience, the market will get smaller (there will be less people to reach) but the more targeted you become the more likely you are to find a place in your niche.

Identifying your Target Audience

Even if you expand to target all of these groups later down the road, it is important to focus your content on one specific group with a specific need to find the greatest results.

Eventually, we’ll look at each of the groups to determine:

1) Is there an audience?
2) Is the market big enough to earn money for our time?
3) Can I gain a competitive advantage over the others in the market?

Cleveland Case Study: Who is the Audience?

As I mentioned in the last post of this series, we are going to focus on the city of Cleveland as a case study. I have not done any competitive research into this market yet. I don’t know what websites are out there meeting the needs of any of the people we will consider. Right now we’re just at the brainstorming stage.

Who would benefit the most from an online city guide for Cleveland?

Here is what I know about the city of Cleveland:

Cleveland is not exactly a vacation destination. I grew up about 45 minutes from Cleveland so I know that the city draws visitors from a large number of cities and small towns. People head into the city for Indians games, Cavs games (please, no LeBron jokes), and Browns games. They head to the Flats or the Warehouse District for a night out. The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame is a popular attraction in the city as well.

I don’t get the sense that any of the things above are family-friendly. This could mean there is an opportunity to serve the families searching for things to do in Cleveland. Maybe families have a hard time finding things to do and need some help. Or maybe there aren’t enough families looking to head to Cleveland for some fun. In this case, we might decide to shift our focus away from “Cleveland” to a geographic area like “Northeast Ohio” for families.

There does seem to be a lot to do for singles in Cleveland. There might be a large market for content that would help Cleveland residents explore the nightlife.

Here are some possible audiences that we might focus on:

  • twenty-something singles looking for nightlife scene
  • Cleveland sports fans
  • families looking for activities around Cleveland
  • young married couples looking for date night ideas
  • local business people looking for lunch and networking opportunities

How do we decide which group to help? We will use keyword research and competitive analysis to understand who the audience is and how we can enter the marketplace.

This post is part of a niche analysis series of Online City Guides.

Is the Online City Guide Niche Right for Me?

This post is a part of the Online City Guides Niche Analysis series. The goal of this series is to provide a step by step process for starting a website in this niche with analysis and strategies that can be applied to any niche market or online community.

Before entering into any niche, you have to ask yourself if you have what it takes to make it happen. In this case, is the online city guide niche right for you? This isn’t just a question of skills and strategies. Those things can be learned. The bigger question is: can you see yourself being excited about this project on a daily basis? Are you passionate about your area and the things to do there?

Before you focus on the competition, you need to look internally. The competition will be there, I guarantee it. If someone didn’t have this idea in your area already then you should be worried. You’ll find other websites and local magazines providing advice and tips on local things to do. Don’t be discouraged. I’ll show you how to do competitive analysis and clarify your “niche within the niche” (your unique selling proposition).

Questions to Consider Before Creating an Online City Guide

  • Are you engaged in your local community?
  • Are you plugged into networks that would be able to share their experiences with local events in your area?
  • Are you able to attend local events or go on local excursions?
  • Do you like where you live?
  • Do you know of fun things to do in your area that you would be excited to tell people about?
  • Are you passionate about your city or local community?

If the answer to some or most of these questions is “no” then think twice before entering the niche.

Choosing the Online City Guide Niche

I can promise you, however, that you’ll learn something from the forthcoming analysis we’ll be doing in the coming weeks.

Why You Should Chose to Enter the Online City Guide Niche?

Wherever you go or wherever you live, people are looking for things to do. The web is the perfect place to find a solution to this problem. People will be looking for things to do via search engines and through their online social networks. They’ll be talking with their friends about the best family event to attend, the best late night bar hangout, the best Thai food, the best museum, the best place to get their oil changed, etc.

There are a number of reasons I think this niche would be an exciting area to explore. First and foremost, there will always be a great need. Finding local things to do or tips for travel to a certain city is a need that won’t go away. The opportunities to develop creative content is nearly endless. And if you are interesting in making a little money online, the opportunities to build relationships with local businesses for advertisements or paid reviews should be nearly self-apparent.

The Cleveland City Guide Case Study

I’ve seen a number of websites in this niche in my own area, but I wanted to start fresh without any idea what is out there. In this niche analysis series, I’m going to use the city of Cleveland as a case study. I grew up near Cleveland in a small town with nothing to do so we went to Cleveland often on the weekends. The Cleveland area has a lot to do as long as you are willing to do a little traveling.

So keep checking back here for more updates or subscribe for updates. Soon we’ll be doing some initial keyword research, competitive analysis, content-creation tips, and monetization advice.

Go Browns!

Niche Analysis: Online City Guides

At Analyze Niche you will find in depth analyses of various online communities, markets, niches, etc. The goal is to show a step-by-step process that bloggers and businesses can use to research and strategically plan how they will successfully attract traffic, build a list, develop a community, and make money with a website.

Online City Guides This month we will analyze online city guides. These websites and blogs give readers ideas for things to do, places to be, places to visits, restaurants to try, fun activities for the kids, and community events.

This analysis will be organized as a blog series. What is a blog series? John Saddington at Tentblogger is the blog series guru. He provides a great explanation here: How to Create a Blog Series and Why You Need Them.

Online City Guides Analysis

This is the first in-depth niche analysis so I am excited to pilot this little experiment. Whether you are interested in entering this niche yourself or curious about the Analyze Niche process, follow along and subscribe to the blog.

  1. Is the Online City Guide Right for Me?
  2. City Guide Niche Brainstorming: Identify Your Target Audience
  3. Baseline Keyword Research: Things to do in Cleveland
  4. Niche Market Research: Defining the Target Audience
  5. Competitive Analysis: Local Events Blogs
  6. Developing a Unique Local City Guide Website
  7. Website Strategic Planning: Local Events (Outlining the Strategic Flowchart)
  8. City Guide Blog Networking
  9. City Guide SEO
  10. City Guide Content Creation
  11. City Guide List-building
  12. City Guide Community Building
  13. City Guide Monetization
  14. Go Mobile: A Unique App Experience for City Guide Publishers

If at any point you have any specific questions, just let me know!