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Using search advertising effectively

Over at BlogPI, Bill Beutler takes a look at which candidates are using Google Ads. After all:

Considering that Google controls just about half of the market for search in the U.S., that Google estimates its advertising network reaches 80% of U.S. Internet users, and that their program is extremely flexible, any political campaign should think strongly about using them.

Bill's little study consists of searching on the names of John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Mitt Romney -- and checking to see if they've bought an ad for that search.

Hillary has incorporated Blogads into her online strategy and Edwards has been running an online campaign since early 2005, yet neither have bothered to make sure their campaign sites are the top result on Google. ... Obama is indeed playing, but he’s not all in. His ad displays less than half the time — so if you don’t see it, hit reload. ... For all three Republicans, their Sponsored Link appears almost every time, but not quite.

I think Bill is thinking about this in the wrong way.

Let me suggest a counter-intuitive idea: It's entirely stupid to pay for a Google Ad for your own name. For every single one of these six candidates, a search for their name yields a top hit for their campaign site. It'd be dumb to pay the nickel for those.

Rather, the candidates ought to be using Google Ads to drive traffic from people who don't know that they're looking for them.

For example, John Edwards is the only one with a specific and detailed universal health care reform plan. A search for "universal health care" should yield an ad that says, "John Edwards for President. The only candidate with a plan for universal health care. Learn more."

The point of a Google ad isn't to find people who know they're looking for you -- they should be able to find you just fine. It's to find people who are looking for something else; and your candidate is the answer to their question.

This will work even better for the second-tier candidates who aren't getting much media attention. (And certainly, it works very well for non-presidential politicians trying to make a name for themselves.)