Google to Determine the Presidential Election

With all of the media coverage of presidential candidates and their campaigns you’d think the election was only months away. The pollsters, pundits and prognosticators are fixtures on the cable news channels and the blogosphere is buzzing. But what about Search? How are the candidates positioning for searches on their names? Are they using Paid Search to their advantage? I decided to do a little research.

I limited my searches to Google and Yahoo. I searched on the candidates full name and found no surprises in the organic results. The SERP’s listed the official candidate sites at or near the top of the listings. Other listings included blogs, YouTube videos and newspaper articles.

What I found in the Paid Sponsored Listings was much more interesting and may offer insight into campaign finances, perceived competition and campaign staff smarts.

When searching in Google for “Hillary Clinton” the Sponsored Links included a YouTube ad and a campaign button site.

A “Barak Obama” search produced pretty much the same sort of results. Yawn.

But search on the Republican front-runners and a much more intriguing set of results is presented. Type in “John McCain” and you’ll see Sponsored Links for Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. What’s going on here? Search on “Mitt Romney” and a John McCain ad appears. A “Rudy Giuliani” search displays, yup, you guessed it – Romney and McCain ads.

Google allows bidding on competitor names. Under the Google system it’s theoretically possible for Apple to bid on “Dell” as a keyword provided “Dell” is not part of the corresponding ad text. So Rudy bidding on Mitt’s name is allowed by the rules. Yahoo does not allow bidding on competitor names so no such intrigue is evident there. But what campaign strategy might be at work in Google?

The Democrats aren’t bidding on each others names. Do they not feel threatened by competition within their own party? Is it too early in the process for such tactics? Perhaps they aren’t aware that they can. Is the Republican strategy of bidding on the other candidates meant to blanket the SERPs with only Republican candidate names and ensure a Republican victory? And why is neither party bidding on the other party’s candidates in an attempt to win voters over to their side?

Stay tuned – The election is a long way off and Search will have a big role to play. The Oval Office may be the prize for the candidate and staff that’s makes the most of what SEM has to offer.