In 2018, according to Google’s data, “How to vote?” and “How to register to vote?” were two of the most searched ‘how to’ questions in the U.S. Now, more than ever before, voters are turning to Google Search to learn about the candidates on their ballots.
Increased vote-by-mail gives voters even more time to spend on researching their choices. How your candidate appears (if at all!) on Google around key search phrases is now an essential part of get-out-the-vote strategy. Two digital strategies, called search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM), are involved in maximizing your website’s appearance on relevant searches.
In this article, you’ll learn how to solve some of the most common SEO and SEM challenges facing campaigns.
Your Campaign Website Doesn’t Appear For Searches Of Your Candidate’s Name
This is the most common issue in the first few days of a campaign launch. Google’s search results are largely dependent on signals like how many others clicked on your site to answer their search query or how many other sites mentioning the keywords link to your site.
With a new website, you don’t have that historical data. When you launch, make sure your social media profiles are completely filled out and include your campaign URL. You should also ask media outlets reporting on your campaign to include the link in any stories.
While this organic SEO is happening, it’s essential to purchase Google Search Ads around your candidate’s name to fill the gap.
Searches For Your Name Include Inaccurate Information
Most searches around a candidate’s name will feature a Knowledge Panel, a brief biography automatically generated from Wikipedia with additional links. Google allows candidates to claim their own Knowledge Panel and ensure all information is accurate.
The main body of search results will include links to websites, a summary of recent stories by Google News, and previews of recent Tweets. Which items are included and in what order is determined by Google. If the search results (like news stories and websites) include inaccurate information, your best option is to reach out to the site owner directly and ask them to make a correction.
Unwanted Ads Appear Around Searches for Your Name
In addition to Google’s organic search results, you may see paid ads related to your candidate’s name. If you believe these ads violate Google’s advertising policies, you can report them. Otherwise, you can choose to bid on this search term to drive up the cost of the ads or offer your own message in the same space.
Again, this is beyond your control, but you can fight back. On the organic SEO side, you can create a page on your own site that addresses claims made in the ad and work to make it appear on the search results page.
You Don’t See Your Own Ads
Google Search Ads are governed by a sophisticated algorithm that takes into account a user’s history, preferences, and demographics along with the advertiser’s budget and goals. Use Google’s Search Ad Search Preview Tool to see whether or not your ad could appear for a given keyword or phrase. If it doesn’t, the application will help you identify issues.
You Want to Edit Your Search Preview
The first page of Google Search results (where 75% of users stop) might be the most valuable real estate on the web – and you can get it for free. Use Google Search Console to create site links and monitor your site’s appearance.
Yoast SEO offers a free tool you can use to customize your search snippet for specific pages.
You Want to Rank Higher on A Search Phrase
If there are common searches around your candidate’s name or key campaign issues you want voters to hear from your campaign about, your best strategy is to build a dedicated page on your site that follows the latest in SEO best practices (Google maintains its list here). Yoast SEO will provide page-specific guidance on how to improve based on your targeted search phrase.
As you build up your organic ranking, search ads around a focused group of phrases are another way to instantly get this information in front of voters when they are seeking it out.
Your Official Site Outranks Your Campaign Site
If your candidate is already an elected official, his or her taxpayer-funded website will likely outrank the campaign’s website on searches for his or her name. As permitted by law and regulations, encourage the public office to ensure the website makes the most relevant information, like accomplishments, legislative priorities, and issue stances, easy to find.
Don’t let your campaign site go dormant in between races. Regularly update the campaign website and drive backlinks from social media, email, and guest posts.
Voters are seeking out your campaign on Google to learn more about the candidates on their ballot. Ensuring your campaign’s website is optimized for appearance on search engines is an investment in digital infrastructure that will bear compounding results all the way until the final vote is cast on Election Day.