Complete this sentence:
Presidential campaigns are full of _____________.
There are plenty of colorful ways you might have filled in the blank, but one that may not have come to mind is “relevant strategies for my business and marketing plan.” But turns out, that can be a pretty good answer.
The days of politicians serving as role models may be over (if they ever existed), but politics aside, the marketing techniques utilized by the candidates during a presidential campaign can actually provide some great lessons for your own marketing and SEO efforts—and you don’t even have to run for office to take advantage.
In the digital world, data is king. That is why two professors from George Washington University’s Political Management Program have been watching the data from news and social media to see how the candidates for the 2016 election are performing where it counts: in the eyes of the public.
In partnership with Zignal Labs, a data analysis company, the GWU professors looked at the 60-day period from March 15 to May 15, then tallied up some stats on how much the eight announced candidates were mentioned in media (social and news) as well as how their share of the chatter changed over time, whether it tended to be more positive or negative, and what particular events, comments, or marketing efforts made the biggest impact.
Using their data, the power of different strategies becomes clear.
When it comes to SEO, being first can provide a significant benefit to your traffic. Content (in the eyes of Google, anyway) is best when it answers a question, or else provides information that real people are looking for. Given the vastness and diversity of the internet, it is easy to assume that all questions already have answers somewhere out there, and feel like offering a new one stands little chance of making an impact.
That is exactly the wrong attitude. Whatever your industry, expertise, area, you are primed to find out what questions people are asking most—or, better yet, what questions they should be asking—and provide your own answers.
Senator Ted Cruz answered two questions the media was interested in: who, among the field of potential candidates for president, will actually run? And which expected Republican candidate will actually announce? By going first, Cruz positioned himself to dominate conversation in social media (and traditional media) by a huge margin, even after new candidates started to trickle in.
As powerful as this initial boost was, however, it doesn’t guarantee Cruz a permanent spot in media coverage of the ongoing contest.
Identifying and responding to a need with original content is a powerful way to get search engine attention. Of course, being first can quickly lose its luster if it isn’t reinforced by quality. It also makes you a target for anyone who feels he can do better—in answering a question, providing information, whatever. That is why answering it well, and thoroughly, and creatively, are also important to making your content evergreen.
Beating the rest of the pack gives them a template they can imitate, improve, and generally make sound stale compared to their new, more effective message. Cruz benefitted from his early announcement, but as the data show, several other candidates had more success in getting their messages to echo through the media.
Social sharing doesn’t necessarily promote your message; it can also turn it on its head. Making your content stick (and encouraging sharers to preserve your message, rather than tear it apart) requires some forethought, not just timing, to make sure your intended audience will actually appreciate what you provide. Shoddy images, confusing language, or worst of all, thinly disguised advertisements are all poison to your content.
Putting your audience, rather than your business, first in conceiving and creating content helps ensure quality, relevance, and originality.
Hillary Clinton was a household name long before she announced her latest presidential campaign. That is why when looking at how her announcement echoed in media compared to other candidates makes her an outlier: no one else had the same brand recognition.
Whatever your business niche, you can count on there always being someone bigger, more recognizable, and who can leverage their marketing much more easily on the strength of their brand. McDonald’s hardly needs to market, because its name is synonymous with America, fast food, and burgers.
That doesn’t mean you can’t make yourself heard with some strategic planning, effort, and careful targeting of the right influencers.
Bernie Sanders, the clear dark horse through the study, was able to outshine even Clinton in one important metric: generating a positive media response in the days immediately following his announcement of candidacy. Every other candidate, regardless of how much anticipation there was or how well-received their initial announcement, saw an immediate decline in positive media mentions afterward—except Sanders.
Unlike the folks at the top, being relatively unknown gives you more opportunity to make a name for yourself or brand, be creative with your message and content, and generally make moves upward. Finding the core audience that wants or needs whatever you have to offer gives you powerful leverage to get your name and message out there. There are a lot of tools available to help you; use the ones that make the most sense and give you the most direct exposure to your core audience, and you will be amazed at how dramatically it can improve your marketing and SEO performance.
Most importantly, getting your message and your content to stick online means continually refreshing, updating, and finding more ways to reach your audience.
Sanders managed to rehabilitate a relatively quiet media presence by aggressively courting the press, making himself visible by sharing his message through as many different portals and mediums as possible. For your own SEO efforts, this means simply throwing a blog post up on your site or publishing something to your social media accounts is not enough. Make connections with people who share what you are trying to share, read the sort of thing you are writing, and influence the audience that you are targeting.
Remember: if your content is not advertorial, there is more chance that others will naturally feel like sharing it. Find influencers, and give them something of value to share.
It is easy to be cynical toward politicians, because they so often promise more than they deliver. Unfortunately, so do businesses.
That is the final element of effective marketing: quality content backed up with a quality product or service. The data in the GWU study are bound to change as the election itself gets closer; strategies will change, and more people will join the conversation and redirect conversations in the media. The candidates will have to be responsive to stay relevant as the field changes.
SEO strategies don’t hinge on one successful endeavor; they are fluid, and can change almost overnight. If one message puts you on the map, you need to not only back it up with performance (lest reviewers and social media influencers out for justice punish you), but supplement it with a continuing stream of unique, meaningful content and ideas.
Modern audiences can smell insincerity and opportunism, and they will not go for it. That is why when you work on your content and messaging strategy, you back it up, cater to your audience, and provide real value. That will not only make your efforts pay off, but allow them to move forward and stay relevant.