Presidential candidates are savvy enough to know they need to spend real dollars on their online marketing strategies. Money flows in and agencies make purchases on behalf of candidates. However, campaigning isn't just about the dollars spent. As we'll see, optimized content created for candidates can tip the scale.
Online or on the city square, campaigns are about reputation management. First and foremost, candidates should be prepared for attacks from competitors and know their weaknesses before opponents have a chance to strike. Statements, supporting documents, short casual videos and even infographics should be ready to go when an attack is launched. The content should be prominently posted on a candidate's website and other reputable third-party websites where the candidate can easily control the message. When someone searches for information on the issue, he or she will find the intended message instead of a third party's take on it.
For instance, when Newt Gingrich announced his campaign for President, he surely knew his marital track record would be an issue with voters and the media. Search terms like "Newt deathbed divorce" or "Newt Gingrich wives" drive substantial traffic. Instead of sending Internet users to newspaper articles or opponents' claims, Gingrich should have created a section on his website that addresses the claims with truthful, compelling content that is freshened regularly and easy to find. The same goes for Mitt Romney and his history with Bain Capital. He'd greatly benefit from building a defense foundation of strong content on his campaign site and then promoting it. One press release or a hastily prepared statement won't cut it. Tweet about it, link to it—put your message out there so that organic search results will push your webpage to the top.
In addition to searching for candidates by name, online users search the issues that matter most to them: the economy, foreign policy, jobs, or the War in Iraq. A savvy candidate would know what issues users are looking for and then become the go-to source for the information. Using tools like Google Trends or the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, anyone can find out what searchers are looking for. Candidates can look at hot-button issues in the race, optimize content around those topics, place it on their websites and be among the top search results.
Candidates don't need a team of social marketing geniuses on the campaign staff to make this happen—just compelling, relevant, fresh content based on sound keyword research on their websites or manageable third-party sites.