Search conferences provide a great place for people to show that even the snarkiest professional relationships leave room for genuine friendship…or at least respect. Witness Aaron and Giovanna Wall chatting with Matt Cutts at the highly successful IM Charity event.
Manipulating Social Networks and Search Engine Results to Win Elections.
Candidates and parties need to broaden their view of the internet and see beyond the fund raising channel and a way to interact with supporters, so they can unleash the power of Electronic Grass Roots. Political pundits and organizers frequently refer to the grass roots and the ground game as important factors in winning elections. They stress the ability to get people on the streets, knocking on doors and engaging their friends and family to support the candidate. The internet provides new vehicles for individuals to impact the outcome of an election.
Individual users, bloggers and webmasters can influence others through posts, comments and discussions. Virtual conversations take place over time and without the pressure of a face-to-face interaction. They can be viewed by thousands of people and provoke additional discussion threads. Virtual campaigning by individuals can be at least as powerful as persuading people by knocking on doors.
Social Media Action:
Political operatives have not begun to understand the collective power of a group of hundreds of thousands of people as social media activists. Reddit, Digg and other crowd sourcing platforms are among the most heavily trafficked sites in America. It only takes 50 or 100 votes on these sites to make an article “popular” and perhaps a couple of thousand votes to keep it on the homepage for a day or more. Even the “marginal” presidential candidates can muster enough support to generate exposure for their point of view or to promote articles and sites that support them into the public discussion.
Search Results As Truth:
For most people, (even the few Americans who are not search professionals 🙂 ) the internet has become the way to get more information about almost any topic. The top 10 or maybe 20 results are the entire consideration set for people who want to learn about an issue or the candidates.
The true power in Electronic Grass Roots is the ability to affect search results. The power of a few hundred sites to influence search results has been demonstrated over and over again. We’re not talking about Google Bombing, we are talking about SEO and reputation management strategies combined with an organizied effort that influences link acquisition and/or distribution.
An army of hundreds of thousands supporters — orchestrated by a party, a presidential candidate or an interest group with a sophisticated knowledge of search optimization — has the ability to promote virtually any websites, articles and position it near the top of the search results for a given query.
The ham handed political SEO might focus on Rudolph Giuliani in drag, kissing Donald Trump or the fact that Giuliani , a Roman Catholic, demonstrated the strength of his convictions by getting divorced twice, including an annulment after 18 years of being married to his cousin. Ranking a YouTube video or a Wikipedia entry would not require a Herculean effort. Likewise, John McCain cannot escape his defense of Bush’s War in Iraq or the fact that McCain has new bedfellows the Right Wing, such as Paul Weyrich, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.
The subtle operative will recognize that this strategy is also effective when employed with a subtle hand. It is much more powerful to assassinate someone character by talking about a $400 haircut than attack John Edwards on the environment .
Pushing a highly negative article from a right wing pundit to the top will be much less effective at reinforcing peoples’ reservations about Hillary Clinton than promoting the New York Times article about Bill Clinton being Strategist in Chief. Equally important, it wouldn’t take a lot of external validation to rank an article from the Times that already contains plenty of content and keywords.
Who needs talking points when you can get Google, Yahoo and MSN to tell your story. That’s the power of Electronic Grass Roots.
I was in New York this week, presenting at the Search Engine Strategies conference on Search and Privacy. In between sessions and some corporate sponsored drinking, I got a chance to see a taping of The Colbert Report hosted by Stephen Colbert.
During the question and answer period before the show, Stephen said he would like to rank first on Google for Giant Brass Balls.
That seems way too easy, so I decided to do some keyword research and find other words that the show should rank for. A quick check on Google shows he doesn’t even rank for Truthiness, a word he invented.
So, Colbert Nation, it’s time to do some Google Bombing campaign! It’s time to for everyone to start linking to the Greatest Living American.
I seem to have never actually announced that I joined Alchemist Media, Inc, a firm a few months ago as the Senior Search Engine Marketing Director. Alchemist Media is one of the leading Search Engine Optimization companies in the world and I am thrilled to be working with them.
As of March 28th, 2008,I am back on my own and very happy to be heading my own SEO – SEM agency.
The opinions expressed here continue to be my own!