There’s been a lot of talk about what the Obama and McCain campaigns are doing in both paid and organic search optimization, but not as much on what they do with that traffic once visitors land on the site. Campaign sites pose a unique challenge because they have multiple goals for visitors who land from different sources with a wide range of intentions.

One Site, Many Goals

These are the 3 major objectives I think a campaign site has to accomplish:

1) inform
2) persuade
3) solicit

The problem is that not all visitors progress through each stage, nor do they follow them in any particular order. It’s a bit of a chicken and the egg…and, uh, the cow problem. Luckily, it’s also the perfect scenario to bring your acquisition marketers and site marketers together. Your acquisition channels can help segment your visitors by goal and communicate that back to the site. More on that later through real examples from the Obama and McCain campaigns…

Time = Voters

What I find interesting about political campaigns is the urgency that drives execution at a much faster pace than most companies out there can accomplish today. I suspect that the marketing team behind each candidate ranks near the top for agility and speed because there simply is no other option. The primary problem is not whether there has been enough budget and headcount allocated for 2009, it’s about who bid on the right keywords representing the issues voters are searching for today and who can react fastest to the latest event to hit the headlines.

As we’ve all seen over the last few months, advertising is one of the major vehicles driving a campaign’s messaging and branding. It shows us which topics candidates are focusing on and which channels they are spending the most money on. What’s sometimes missed, though, is what that advertising then tells them about us. There are few advertisements that don’t ask you to do something in return, whether it’s donating on a website or joining a mailing list. Below is a comparison of each campaign’s ad on the same day in the same location, along with the corresponding landing page.

The McCain campaign’s ad on Drudge Report:

Ad’s Landing Page:

Obama Campaign’s Ad on Drudge Report:

Ad’s Landing Page:

You’ll notice that there is a widget available to input information about your income so that you can calculate how much you could potentially save under the Obama/Biden tax plan.

Connect the Offsite and Onsite Experience

Could these two experiences be any more different? McCain’s ad is a straightforward call-to-action to donate. It focuses singularly on the “solicit” goal. However, there are key elements of that ad that are lost once the visitor lands on the site. For example, what does it mean to “Invest in Victory”? Should we at least see that headline reinforced on the landing page, if not elaborated on with how individual contributions can help?

It’s also interesting to note that the call-to-action specifically uses $50 as the amount to contribute, but it is neither highlighted nor pre-selected once the form to donate is presented. I would imagine that some market analysis led to the emphasis of $50 in the ad, so why not continue that through the experience by making the process to donate $50 just a little bit simpler.

In contrast, Obama’s ad is targeting voters based on the issue of taxes. It takes the approach of focusing on the “inform” and “persuade” goals. You’ll see that the landing page calculator asks for anonymous information and then returns an estimate of savings. Here’s what the page looks like after filling out the calculator:

Note that the calculator has changed into a form that now asks for my information to keep in touch. We’re now moving into the next stage of solicitation.

Engage the Visitor

From a design, flow, and relevancy perspective, I think this ad to landing page experience is very well-executed. Beyond that though, I think it’s also a clever way to get a lot of information about your visitors in a way that is not explicit. Let’s take a closer look at what we learn as the visitor progresses through the ad and landing page.

After the visitor clicks on the ad:
We can infer that this visitor is interested in learning more about taxes and saving money.

After the visitor fills out the calculator:
At a minimum, we know the visitor’s annual income and filing status. On top of that, we may know how many dependents they have, whether they are over 65, if they have child care expenses, if they are saving for retirement, the outstanding balance of their mortgage, and if they have college expenses. That is A LOT of information when you look at it from a profile targeting and segmentation perspective. Imagine how much more relevant and engaging you can make this visitor’s experience across multiple channels including display, email, and site by having this type of data.

After the visitor fills out the “Stay Informed” form:
We now have the visitor’s email address and zip code to tie all the information together in the database.

To recap, here’s the wealth of information that the Obama campaign has in their database now after a visitor clicks one ad and fills out two short forms:

  • email address
  • zip code
  • issue interest
  • income bracket
  • filing status
  • age*
  • # of dependents*
  • mortgage balance*
  • saving for retirement*

*optional field

Would you send a different email to the voter in a swing state making $40,000 a year vs. the voter in New York making $300,000 a year?

These Principles Apply to More Than Politics

The strategies employed here are not unique to politics. They might just require a shift in how you approach your business and define the goals of your acquisition marketing efforts.

For example, let’s say you’re a retailer that sells HDTVs. Instead of an ad promoting a specific model, maybe you show an ad that provides information on how to select the right HDTV for you. The landing page then asks the visitor about their budget, preferred size, and other relevant parameters. Maybe that then leads them to personalized search results, or you display another short form that enables them to receive alerts when an HDTV goes on sale within their budget.

Think about how you can make each touch point with your visitor more relevant and engaging so you can draw them through a cohesive experience that both leads them to the water and increases your bottom line. In other words, ask not what your visitor can do for you, but what you can do for your visitor. And don’t forget to vote!


Hi, I have created one main and 3 territory level reporting suites in Omniture. All the 3 territories data is going to main reporting suite also. But I found that the Average time spent of main reporting suite is more than the 3 territory reporting suites. How can it be possible?


All Voters need to read this article A.S.A.P. We, the voters, get overwhelmed with political campaigns, and after while, just can't stand to hear any more. We need more articles like yours to keep our mind sharp and full of knowledge. After reading this article I'm excited to seek out more information about the election and use "These Principles Apply to More Than Politics" as listed above. Thank You! Holly