In 2012, then Presidential candidate Rick Santorum became legendary for falling for a political search engine optimization trick used against him. An adult themed website with malicious intent was able to outcompete Santorum’s search engine results which directed anyone looking for information on the senator to them. This is bad enough for anyone, but even worse if you’re a conservative Republican. While this isn’t the only such case where political search engine optimization or political SEO hit the headlines, it is a textbook case of what not to do. What is important is handling political SEO right for 2017 and beyond.
Own Your Name and Domain
The first and foremost step in political search engine optimization is to own your name and your domain. You need to own the domain names based on your name, your campaign, and ideally your political slogan. Given the importance of Twitter, you also need to create the hash tag for your candidate or group’s name and then dominate it.
Search Engine Optimization
It is not just a matter of owning the websites others may use to mock you or criticize you. Santorum’s case was made worse when liberal columnist Dan Savage started claiming domain names that included Mr. Santorum’s name to rank them above his. Mr. Santorum still ranked first when people searched on his whole name, but he didn’t rank at the top for every search for every variation of his name.
A partial solution is applying search engine optimization to your website and content shared elsewhere, including social media, so that good content about your candidate ranks high in any search related to the candidate. A necessity is understanding which key search terms people are using to try to find information about your candidate and then tailoring content to rank well for them. SEO and political campaigns have to be well coordinated. This is why it is important that anyone earning a masters in political science online is learning about SEO so they can plan the digital marketing side of the candidate’s campaign. You don’t want to end up like Chris Christie’s campaign where searches for the Presidential candidate in 2016 showed predominantly negative news and nothing by the candidate’s own campaign.
Keep Up with the Sources of Information
Most students in an online masters in political science will study the Trump campaign because of its unlikely success. And part of his success revolved around having control over various sources of information. He was able to generate tons of buzz by appearing on various radio shows that had a massive online following to Tweets that were utterly shareable and completely hilarious whether or not you agreed with them. This all contributed in to generating social signals which have a direct impact on search engine results and overall visibility.
Online Reputation Management
Online reputation management is essential for political candidates. It may mean demanding that false content be taken down by search engines. It requires reviewing the articles that come up in search results and either publishing rebuttals that rank higher in search results or demanding corrections and retractions by those sources if the content is incorrect. You cannot control the news cycle, but you must promote positive content about your candidate far and wide.
Political search engine optimization is essential so that candidates aren’t hurt by the search results others see when they look for information about a candidate. It will surely continue to play a predominant role in political campaigns from now on, and those refusing to get with the times will have to suffer the consequences.