It happens on every campaign. There’s a story about the candidate that doesn’t give voters the first impression you want but it’s there on your first page of Google Search results. Frustrated, the candidate wants to get rid of it. So what can you do?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a digital marketing tactic that focuses on how an individual or organization appears on Google Search and it’s important that you understand what it can and cannot do for your campaign. 75% of undecided voters went to Google Search to get more information about candidates in the 2020 election making it one of the most competitive campaign battlegrounds.
What Goes Into A Search Result
Google relies on a complex formula called an algorithm to determine which results to show in response to a search. Their goal is to help the user quickly get the information he needs so the user comes back the next time they have a question so they can sell more ads.
To serve the user the best possible results, the algorithm considers signals like the reputation of the site, how old the site is, social shares to the link, how quickly the website loads, and hundreds of other factors. Unfortunately for campaigners, media websites have a huge advantage because they have a long history, are backlinked from thousands of websites, and widely shared on social media.
Why The Result Can’t Be Removed
Because the results page is calculated programmatically, there’s no human editor to appeal to and Google won’t remove a site. Over time, especially with news stories, their recency will decay and they may fall off your front page of Search.
Promoting Better Results
While you can’t remove a result, you can promote alternatives and hopefully knock it off the front page. Work with a journalist to publish a story with a more positive framing. You’ll benefit from their outlet’s reputation with Google. If that’s not possible, or as a supplement, create your own content that follows all of the SEO best practices. I use the Yoast plugin on WordPress to maximize my chances of ranking higher.
Then, share the links widely on social media and encourage supporters to share on their own. More social sharing generates a signal to Google’s algorithm that a page is relevant to the specified terms.
Finally, work with other allied websites like a state or county party to link to the positive result. This generates backlinks, another important signal.
Because Google Search results are mathematically calculated by a proprietary algorithm, we simply have no idea why one web page outperforms another on the results page. Beware of any consultants or vendors offering you a “silver bullet” solution when it comes to search engine optimization.