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Political Off-Season? Should Never Be For Paid Search

For many political candidates from Local Congressional Races to the Presidential, many political strategists are turning a blind eye to PPC and Advertising until the races pick up steam in August and September. But in the PPC world, they should have completed their Search Marketing Strategy and have already started building History in Google’s networks. As we know, Google’s quality score is built on account history and a strong CTR%. Furthermore, with regard to the content network which can provide a great opportunity for candidates for blogs and other related "content based" targeting, takes a much longer time to accrue click history since the CTR%s are historically pretty low.

Convincing the Political Campaigns:
Trying to make the case to spend campaign money on PPC during the summer months is very challenging, as the campaign is used to TV, Radio and Print Ads starting in August/September. It’s one of those "hard to break" cycles that need much more persuasion with realities of how the search engines work.

When a new campaign launches PPC, no matter how relevant you make the adgroups, Google will inflate the CPCs to $1, $5 and $10 until the account will accrue the history it needs. So, getting a heard start on the full strategy and getting that history started is the preferred way to ensure your CPCs will not be inflated when the candidate needs it most.

I recommend taking this "downtime" to analyze the following:

Monetization during the Slow Season: When running PPC or Banner Ads, it’s important to measure every interaction and put a $$ value behind it. I would also ensure that all analytics is being accurately tracked and that every email sign up, volunteer sign up and donation can be tracked back to your online advertising efforts. I would even put a value on the impressions (eye balls) and clicks as many political analysts are familiar with the offline (TV, Radio & Print) where "eyeballs" are just as important as a click.

Content/Placement Networks: By running the Ads on these networks early in the game, allows the review of which sites are performing well and which ones are bleeding you dry. It also complements your efforts to build the history needed for Quality score.

Ad/Creatives: This is the prime time to perform high level Ad testing to see which messaging works best. This could be Issue based, persuasion based or even language based. Here are some basic examples:

  • Donate works better than Contribute
  • Conservative does better than Republican
  • Democrat works better than Liberal

Keyword Expansion & Long Tail Winners: This is probably the most important to analyze. By allowing for a few months of data to identify which "long tail" keywords are performing best with CTR% and/or conversions is truly the goldmine to winning the "War on PPC". Using Google’s search query tool will not be enough to capture this information, so I would recommend using a more robust analytics package which give you the TRUE Queries.

Web Analytics Reporting:
To a political strategist, they will throw up at even a 10 page powerpoint of basic analytics which is coined "traditional" in the non-political arena. All they care about is Impressions as they are the same as Eyeballs from a TV and/or a Radio Ad.

So, what’s important to a Political Strategist is just the following:

  • Eyeballs (Impressions)
  • Clicks
  • Emails
  • Volunteers
  • Donations

In Conclusion:
Political Advertising online is being defined by the Presidential candidates such as Barack Obama and Ron Paul who are literally changing the way Politicians connect with the public using impressive websites and effective viral methods. However, there is a disconnect with the smaller political races who don’t always have the budgets for an elongated online advertising strategy. It is our responsibility to educate the political process about how this new medium for them.

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