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Political Search Engine Marketing

October 30, 2004

Using Search Engine Marketing to Spread Democracy...What?

When you know search engine marketing you can spread any message you like. You can also do it on the cheap. :-)


Is sometimes a bad thing for a marketer to cover. I am going out on a limb here though.

The primary differences between Republicans and Democrats generally come down to the fact that people either have a nurturing parent world view or stern father world view.

Their political beliefs are an extension of that world view. For example, in a stern father world view welfare "handouts" prevent people from reaching their full potential.

Somewhere in the Middle...

Most people are predominantly one way or the other in most of their life. Most people are also at least passively both. On a personal level I fall under the nurturing parent world view, but as a worker I am more stern father based.

The Trick to Politics...

Some people have their minds made up and will not be changed. Others fall somewhere in the middle in various parts of their lives.

The trick to doing politics properly is to activate the portions of their minds that agree with your world view, extend that into their family, and then to politics in general. Get them to take your opinion to the voting booth with them.

Political framing is all about getting others to see the world the way you want them to.

Over the last 30 - 40 years the right wing think tanks have refocused and outspent the left wing...by a ton. They have become better at framing their debates and controlling public issues.

The Joke...

Is that democrats are a right leaning centralist brand of republican, and in their actions they show it. John Kerry at the presidential debate was talking about how he supports tort reform.

Tort reform allows large corporations to factor the cost of killing people or destroying lives into their business costs. Not very democratic to support that position.

But I Digress...

Politicians spend a large some of money trying to convince people they are right to lead the country. I think most of them are puppets for large corporations, but I also think stuff is leaning a bit too far to the right in government right now.

My goal is to hopefully help shift it to the left a bit, just to help keep it in balance...and so I tried my best to help sway the presidential election.

One of my favorite authors, Steven Berlin Johnson recently did a piece on how politicians were under spending on online ads, and there were ripe opportunities for those who did. This article is about using Google AdWords to target voters on the cheap.

The following sections are about some of the ads I ran...

The Nader Factor...

Some people try to demean Nader for screwing up the election, but if you look at history some of the smaller third party political campaigns were responsible for causing some of the most important major social change.

The smaller parties are usually the ones who keep the larger ones in check. Although I want many people to vote for Nader I do not want those votes to cause a repeat of 2000.

A site called Vote Pair was designed to help swing state voters vote for Kerry by trading votes with voters in sure bet states.

I do not think they know it, but I helped market their site on Google AdWords. I started running this ad for all the major third party candidates the day I found out about it.

Vote Pair Google AdWords Ad.

The {KeyWord:Nader} part is dynamic keyword insertion. It will put Nader or Badnarik or whoever in the title based on the search query.

I did not start this ad as soon I would have liked, but the ad pulled rather well.

I targeted this ad (as well as all my ads) to swing state voters. Not only did it gain hundreds of clickthroughs from search results at a nickel a click, but it also pulled at over 1% clickthrough rate on content syndication AdSense ads. The ad also pulled strong for Badnarik and had an average position for his name of 1.3 at 5 cents a click.

Voter Outreach of America...

Is a scam that destroyed many democratic voter registrations. Daily Kos wrote an article about it. It was paid for by the RNC, so I advertised for them and pointed people at the Daily Kos page.

RNC Sponsored Voter Suppression Scam Google AdWords Ad.

I did not expect the ad to pull at a great rate (and it did not), but even if people did not click through it still showed on thousands of search results and I am sure a good number of people saw it.

The National Preparedness Month...

took 3 years to put together and was being announced officially on September 9th, the year of the election.

I thought they were going to try to make a big deal of it to manipulate voters, but perhaps Bob Harris's article on the topic squashed it early.

Thinking it was going to be a big deal I released a press release via PRWeb (text here) on September 9th, the same day as the official announcement came out from Tom Ridge (though my press release page was approved early and I started sending traffic toward the site a day sooner).

My press release was a general "what is wrong with this picture" type commentary all rolled into a few page article (like this one). It may have been better if I kept it a bit shorter.

The "War on Terrorism" is broken AdWords Ad.

The above ad appeared over 3,000,000 times. While remaining a nickel a click for all but one of the words that ad was clicked on thousands of times for keywords such as:

  • Iraq
  • 9/11
  • world trade center
  • war
  • war on terrorism
  • compassionate conservative
  • and many others, including my favorite "who should I vote for"

The press release and ad I wrote helped me express my opinion and it felt great. Lots of people read my press release and had something to say.

Press Release Feedback...

Some of the people who read the press release left feedback. Below is their email, the date they left feedback, and their comments.

  • spkramer@frognet.net, September 8: "Wake up!! Our country was attacked on September 11th; there are people who love killing us; a sympathetic, pacifist attitude about this will destroy our country. Stop worrying about what you think is some conspiracy; quit your whining and get on board!!!"
  • mpevar@comcast.net, September 21: "Sick paranoia.
    You should be ashamed."
  • mwaite613@yahoo.com, September 23: "Didn't I just see the Jersey ladies(family of 9-11 deceased) at a Kerry campaign rally? That is disgraceful,isn't it?"
  • soskloppy@comcast.net, September 23: "in a time of global war i find this release untrue with its assumptions, but extremely helpful to our al quaeds and surrogate terrorists enemies that we are currently at war with. in my opinion this borders on the verge of aiding and abbetting our current terrorist enemies."
  • pkandersen@royal.wednet.edu, September 30: "Your use of words is interesting. Under democratic control we were constantly under terror attacks on foreign soil. We did not fight back. All that happened was terror against us continued until they attacked New York and we fought back. Why would anyone say "You can't fight terror with terror", which says one is like the other. Terror must be delt with by force. Unfortunately that is all they understand."
  • Fake email address, October 4: "bs"
  • lblair@oldsaltworks.com,October 10: "Let me get this straight. We should forget 9/11 and not associate it with a National Preparement Week. We should not forget that 9/11 showed us that there are terrorist who want to kill us. Why should we pretend 9/11 did not happen? We should be reminded every day.It should put a bit of fear in us. It is our respondsability to respond to this attack.

    On the issue of jobs, it is our job to prepare ourselves to make a living through education and training, not look to government for that.

    Your comments have one recurring theme, let government replace my personal respondsabilities and please Mr President, don't remind me of the realities of life, it might make me feell bad."

  • , October 20: "broken links in story:



The first link was broken due to CNN changing their site. The second link still worked when I tried it.

The fact that many people emailed me and a ton of people clicked on my ad makes me believe that I may have helped influence at least a few swing state voters.

One of the hardest things to do in politics is to activate the proper thought streams without angering people. When people are angry their defense mechanisms are alerted and you stand little chance of having any positive influence toward changing them.

Another trick that may be useful going forward is to create ads for other candidates which do not feel right and cause subtle anger and aggression against them, costing them many votes.

Active Research...

Most people are rather passive about most issues. We believe we are individualistic and that we exist in our own little worlds outside the world around us. The reasons many large corporations can get away with some of the stuff they do is because we have so many distractions that few people pay attention to what is actually going on around them.

Those who are searching for information are more likely to be people who:

  • will ask questions and seek more information ;
  • will use the information ; &
  • will spread the information.

In a sense the people who read your content are also likely people to keep learning and spreading information. In a sense you can reach swing state super voters for a nickel a click.

Improvements for Next Time:

One thing I regret is that I put too much into words (when I should have relied more upon imagery). I wish I would have found sites like this one to bid for earlier (average position 2.3 for Sadam with one d for a nickel a click).

This one was not intended to get too many clicks because I found it too late.

War in Iraq Google AdWords Ad.

Had I found the site a few days earlier my ad would have been better thought out. It may have came out something like:

Iraq Live Coverage Google AdWords ad.

Was the money I spent wasted? We will see in a couple days...joking of course :-)

Even if my candidate loses or my ads had no effect the small amount I spent was well worth the chance to participate in our political system. Our political system would work much better if more people used technology to speak their mind.

While I am at it...

Left Wing Political Blogs...

Please mail hate and comments to: Aaron Wall

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