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Disconnect Between Candidates And Voters

By: Bill Hartzer

According to a new study by the digitial marketing firm iCrossing, voters are searching for information related to where the US...

...Presidential candidates stand, but the candidates themselves are not responding.

The study also reveals that most of the candidates have a web presence-but their current online strategies are failing miserably.

The iCrossing study says that the Presidential candidates are failing to fully reach the forty two percent of voters who look on the web for information about the issues and the candidates. The candidates' own Web sites trail behind news and social media sites as the preferred sources of that information. The Presidential candidates are lacking in overall visibility when it comes to voter keyword searches about specific campaign issues in both the organic/natural and paid search results.

Some of the key findings of the study include:

- New media is more essential than ever to politics. 42 percent of voters look to the web for information about issues and candidates in the upcoming presidential election. The Internet is a considerably more popular information source than newspapers among those who responded to the survey who were between the ages of 18 and 34.

- Almost half of online voters use search engines for political information. 47 percent of those who go online for information about candidates and issues use search engines to conduct their research, equal to the 46 percent who do not; usage is roughly equal among Democratic, Republican and independent voters.

- Traditional news organization and social media sites are more popular than the candidate web sites. 88 percent of those who use the Internet for information about candidates and issues in the 2008 presidential election visit sites of news organizations such as CNN and The New York Times and 42 percent go to a range of social media sites; only 30 percent go to candidate Web sites.

- More than half of younger online voters are turning to social media for election information. Of the potential voters who are looking for election information online, 61 percent of 18 to 24 year olds and 55 percent of 25 to 34 year olds seek answers on user-driven content sites such as blogs, YouTube and Wikipedia.

- Issues matter to voters, but the US Presidential candidates are not responding. Issue-oriented searches dominate over explorations of candidates' voting and personal histories by a margin of nearly two to one; yet nearly all candidates rank poorly for issue-based search visibility.

- Barack Obama and the War in Iraq are the most popular subjects in the current candidate and issue-related keyword searches. Obama attracts the largest share of searches among candidates in the survey of voter interest as of May 2008, topping Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. The war in Iraq is the most searched for issue.

- eBay trumps John McCain in the paid search arena (also known as PPC or Pay Per Click). John McCain currently dominates the overall paid search candidate landscape, but online auction house eBay still ranks first in paid search visibility for the tested issue-based keyword set.

According to the iCrossing, the majority of candidates in the 2008 presidential race have made a point of leveraging the Web. All candidates, however, need to do a better job of implementing comprehensive online strategies to actually reach voters.

Candidates need to build out content around highly-searched issue-based terms, and focus their online marketing efforts on building visibility for them in both paid and natural search. Campaign planners need to ensure that candidate Web sites are optimized for a broad range of content, including Web search, news, images, videos, local search and blogs. Fresh content brings repeat visitors, and increases the odds that other users and Web site owners will want to share that content with their visitors, groups or friends.

As the Internet evolves into more of a "participation"-based social network, providing useful information such as articles, opinions, news, video, and audio files about products and services (in the politician's case, positions on relevant issues) will become an increasingly vital ingredient in a site's overall success. For candidates, a core benefit of encouraging social networking activities will be increased visibility in natural search.

Furthermore, candidates can capitalize on voter search data to plan display media campaigns on those sites that are highly-visible for relevant terms. Close attention to crafting an intelligent and efficient online media strategy - one that is holistic in terms of understanding how interested voters use the Internet, the topics they search for and the sites they visit - will be vital over the course of the next few months to ensure good positioning as the campaign gains momentum.

The complete study, including methodology and citation policy, can be found here at the iCrossing site.


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About the Author:
Bill Hartzer manages the Search Engine Marketing and Social Media Marketing team at Vizion Interactive, a leading search engine marketing, social media marketing, and web design firm based in the Dallas, Texas area. Hartzer recently joined Vizion Interactive, where his vast experience in the both search engine marketing and social media marketing bolster’s Vizion Interactive’s already robust search engine marketing and social media marketing offerings.

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