What could SEO learn from last year’s farcical presidential election?

Mar 5, 2021 by
What could SEO learn from last year’s farcical presidential election?

Now that Joe Biden is firmly ensconced as the 46th President of the United States, it can be easy to forget just how insane and hectic things looked last November.

Forget the Trump supporters storming the Capitol Building for a second (tough as that may be) and cast your mind back to election night and the confusing mess that followed in its wake.

This was a race fought and lost online by everyone from Russian bots to vigilant Trump supporters and left-leaning Bidenites.

It’s also a race that can teach us digital marketers a little something if we’re willing to look a little deeper into the Trump vs Biden race of 2020.

The genius of the crowd

There is a famous example that states if you get a crowd of people to guess the weight of something, the average will usually end up being incredibly close to the actual weight.

This is, in essence, the logic in which Google operates. Consider every time you search for something online and consider the link to click to be the ‘vote’ you’ve cast and the parallels become apparent.

Negativity doesn’t work

American politics is notorious for its “attack ads.” These are supposedly advertisements endorsing a candidate but they are more likely to revolve around why the other choice is so bad.

This virulent negativity fuelled both sides of the aisle this time around but it was Trump that comfortably went on the deepest attack.

Biden’s eventual success proves that negative ads rarely work and the same is true of good digital marketing. Not only is online marketing more restricted than political advertising in terms of what could be considered libellous, but appealing to negative emotions rarely leads to clicks you want.

Opinion polls can’t be trusted

More often than not, opinion polls are misleading. Biden had a comfortable lead in the opinion polls and put him leagues ahead of Trump, whereas the final tally was significantly closer.

For marketers, this reveals that while analytics are certainly an important aspect of advertising, they should never be relied on 100%.

Keyword flexibility

The two candidates were competing for just 2% of keywords such as “presidential campaign” and “for president,” which underlines just how minimal the overlap was. This not only reveals the major gulf between the two campaigns and what they represented but how many keywords there are to go around!

So, next time you’re deciding on keywords, don’t just go for the obvious – think outside the box.

Be relevant 

When researching this piece, I noticed that many of the searches relating to Trump around the time of the election last year had very little to do with actual politics and a lot of his sites, perhaps as a result, were dedicated to merchandise over policy.

In contrast, Biden’s sites were all neatly structured with relevant  political topics front and centre. And look who’s sitting in the White House 3 months later.

In US politics perhaps more so than anywhere else, it’s very much an “us vs them” system with very little overlap. Rarely will you see democrats and republicans switching sides so it becomes a war of attrition.

In that case, it’s always going to be the ones hammering home the right points at the right time that are going to break through. It remains to be seen what the landscape is going to look like in 3 years when Trump presumably runs again, but he could certainly stand to learn a few things from his rivals. SEOs certainly could too.