Getting elected – what Google can do for you (or to you)

Want to get elected? Get the power of Google behind you – just ask Scott Brown of Massachusetts.  As elections become increasingly web dependent, Google is poised to be a power player and offers some compelling advantages given its top spot in the search engine marketplace. See more on this on Madisonian.net blog. Want more? Check out the Google Policy Blog’s top 5 strategies for political campaigns:

1. Use search advertising to build your email list and raise money.
Everyone has seen the “Sponsored Links” on Google search results. These simple text ads, called AdWords, have been compared to direct mail because of their precise targeting and cost-effectiveness—you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. At the start of the campaign and throughout, running ads in your district on the names of your candidate and opponents, and on some of the key issues, can be a great way to capture voter interest. But rather than seeking a donation right away, put the email signup form front and center. It can help you build a bigger list, with greater potential for donations and engagement in the long run.

2. “Blast” the Google Network when you need to make a big splash.
The Google Content Network is made up of over a million websites that run Google ads as a way to make money, through a program we call AdSense. These ads can be simple text links, or video and image ads (“display” ads in industry lingo), tailored to your campaign’s personal brand. When you want to dramatically raise the buzz level or increase momentum for your campaign—such as when you announce, or before Election Day—you can use a technique called the Google Network blast to blanket the Internet in your district or state with ads. Just about every election since 2008 has seen one or more Google Network blasts, including in Virginia and Massachusetts, and it’s a great way to grab attention at crucial moments.

3. Join social networks to further amass and interact with your list of supporters.
Social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube represent massive gatherings of audiences, so they can’t be ignored. Social networks allow supporters to “subscribe” or “follow” your campaign, and they’re great for sharing information about your candidate and seeing that information passed on. Keep your free YouTube politician channel fresh with short videos that call out your supporters and show your candidate’s human side. And don’t hesitate to ask your followers to take action when needed.

4. Use data to inform your campaign decisions.
One of the most exciting aspects of campaigning online is access to real-time feedback, and many of the necessary tools are free. Google Insights for Search tracks searches for your candidate and the competition within your state. Google Analytics highlights what content on your website is catching fire—and what’s not. Metrics like click-through rates in Google AdWords tell you which of your campaign messages is working best right now. For an even more data-driven campaign, use Google Website Optimizer to run controlled experiments on aspects of your site to see which variations help you, for example, gather the most donations.

5. Remember: Rapid response happens online, with or without you.
Americans go online when political news breaks (see: Joe Wilson). The chance to be a part of the conversation, shift perceptions, enlist support, and raise funds begins within minutes, and the window usually lasts less than three days. Bob McDonnell’s campaign deftly used search advertising to answer questions raised by his controversial thesis. Within hours of the story breaking, Virginians searching for “mcdonnell thesis” saw ads directing them to the campaign’s official response.

We’ll be posting further insights and best practices throughout the 2010 cycle, so keep an eye on this blog and on the Digital Playbook label. And let us know what you think—we’ll be using your comments to help determine what we write about next.

Update: If you’re a campaign or candidate looking for help on getting started with advertising on Google, don’t hesitate to give us a shout. You can get started on AdWords yourself, though—all it takes is a credit card and a few moments to create your first ad.

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