The 2008 presidential campaign has had the largest online ad spend of all other U.S. presidential elections combined. With that said, we still have a long way to go to catch up with traditional media when it comes to total dollars spent.
As of September 2008, TNS Media Intelligence estimated that the candidates have spent an estimated $7 million in online advertising and estimated $300 million on TV since February of 2007. To put it in perspective, the 2008 Presidential election online ad spend was just over 2 percent of the traditional media spend for the same period of time, compared to an estimated 7 percent of total ad spending in the US. So on pure percentages, these presidential campaigns spent less per dollar than the average US spend.
More interesting than the unprecedented amount of dollars which are being spent, both on and offline, is how they are spending it and the wildly different strategies they are employing. With election day closing in and Obama dominating TV and Radio with his massive amounts of money, it seems the McCain campaign has doubled up on their online efforts , McCain’s display ad impressions jumped by over 250 percent, and his text-based search ads increased by over 40 percent in August and September.
In the last weeks before Nov 4th (election day), Obama is generating twice as many Search queries as McCain in the swing states, according to a recently released Yahoo report
Although Obama has the bulk of the search queries, its not all good for him. Many of the searches indicate that people still have a lot of questions about Barack Obama. For instance, according to the the recent Yahoo report and the Hitwise reports, for the four weeks ending on October 25, 2008 “barack obama birth certificate” was the fourth-most common search term driving traffic to BarackObama.com. “Barack Obama Antichrist” comes in at 26. Other top keywords driving traffic were “Obama Biography”, “Obama Grandmother”, “Obamas GunControl Platform”, “facts about Barack Obama”, “Where was Obama born”, “Barack Obama religion” and “Obama Barack Muslim”
Percentage of Paid Search Traffic for Barack Obama
Percentage of Paid Search Traffic for John McCain
Graph by Spyfu Kombat
In contrast Obama’s keywords consisted mostly of variations of candidates’ names; they bid on very little issue related keywords. And even on the keywords Obama was bidding on, McCain was out performing him. In fact the McCain campaign was faster than the Obama when he announced Biden for VP. They had landing pages and campaigns ready to go instantly. When the Sarah Palin “Branchflower Report” was released, the McCain campaign immediately bought up all the related keywords like “Branchflower Report”, “troopergate”, “Palin report” and others. They were testing various creative and created custom landing pages w/ tons of information to refute the report, successfully diverting some of the traffic to the original stories which would have been more damaging. Not only that, but they turned it into a fund raising opportunity with a donation form right above the fold.
In fact, on Oct 31 while finishing this post, when I searched for Barack Obama on Google, position 1 and 2 were a John McCain site and GOP Party site with custom landing pages. Where was Obama’s PPC ad? In Position 5!
In non paid search organic traffic or SEO, Obama has a huge lead with an estimated 4.5 million unique visitors, more than double the estimated 2.5 million visitors to McCain’s site from search engines according to Nielsen Online and Compete.com. Obama also has the Social Media space on lock. He dominates McCain in views, followers and interaction.
One thing that’s very obvious when looking at these numbers. The McCain campaign dominated Paid Search, and the Obama campaign out spent and strategized them everywhere else. According to WSJ/Neilson, in July the McCain campaign had 15 Million Search text ad impressions, as opposed to 1.2 Million for the Obama campaign. In contrast Obama campaign had 416.7 million image ad impressions, compared with McCain’s 16.5 million.
That means that McCain was out buying Obama in Paid Search by 22 to 1 search ads according to Nielson. (PDF Download). Obama’s image ad impressions fell sharply by nearly 50 percent, and his sponsored text-based ads were down nearly 20 percent as well.
John McCain’s campaign stepped up its online advertising in August, particularly in image-based impressions, which increased 254% month-over-month. Sponsored search links were also up for the McCain camp – by 43%.
With the campaigns finally coming to a close and with the clear differences in marketing strategies and availability of funds between the McCain and Obama campaigns, I wanted to dig a little deeper and take a look at how both the candidates had used Search Marketing and Social Media and if they had been effective.
As mentioned earlier, in paid search McCain has consistently outbid and out spend Obama. In addition, McCain’s strategy has had a much larger scope than Obama’s with McCain having close to 9 keywords for every 1 of Obama’s. The McCain campaign has executed a multiple pronged approach with their search campaign. First they were bidding on issue or peripheral type terms, like “gas prices”, “abortion”, “Iraq war”, “U.S. economy” and “housing crisis,” which take visitors to Web sites outlining Sen. McCain’s plan on those issues.
According to Nielsen Buzz Metrics and Technorati on straight blog mentions, Obama also has McCain beat but not by much. And in Mobile/SMS, Obama campaign has a full mobile website containing news, videos and ring tone and wallpaper downloads, where the McCain has neither and a non existent program compared to Obama’s.
Barackobama.com Search and Social Campaigns by the Numbers
Pages Indexed in Google for www.barackobama.com 3210
Pages Indexed in Google for barackobama.com 3,930,000
Links to barackobama.com on Google : 10,400
Sub Domains: 59
Percentage of #1 Rankings: 35 #1 out of 214 Pages Ranked
Keywords Driving Traffic: 5794 Keywords
Percentage of Keywords Paid Traffic: 20%
34 Keywords in 1st Position in Google
Highest CPC: $.78
Estimated Daily PPC Budget: $145.68 – $1.02k
Keywords Driving Paid Search Traffic : 50 – 173 Keywords
PPC Landing Pages: 17 Variations
Facebook Supporters: 2,169,943
Facebook Pages: 12
Myspace Friends: 726,042
Twitter followers: 100,922
252 updates since April 2007, mostly focusing on live events and interaction
Videos on official Obama YouTube channel: 1589 Videos
YouTube Channel Views: 17,248,219
YouTube Subscribers: 102,522
Linkedin: 500+ Connections
Meetup: Members 14,504 Meetups 2,624
Ustream views: 809,261
Stumbleupon: 35 Stumbles and 201 Reviews of barackobama.com home page
Digg: Both my.barackobama.com and barackobama.com are listed in the top 1000 sites submitted to Digg.
Obama was the 17th most popular word in submission titles with 1157
my.barackobama.com Total Posts 27 Total Diggs 38683 Total Comments 6777
barackobama.com Total Posts 49 Total Diggs 716 Total Comments 2455
Flickr: 116,291 Images with “Barack Obama “ in text and 45,945 images tagged with “Barack Obama”
Analytics Software: Google Analytics, Crazy Egg, Double click
SMS: 2.9 Million Numbers
JohnMccain.com Search and Social Campaigns by the Numbers
Pages Indexed in Google for www.johnmccain.com: 29,200
Pages Indexed in Google for johnmccain.com: 31,700
Links to johnmccain.com on Google: 8,820
Keywords Driving Total Search Traffic: 2767 Keywords
Percentage of Keywords Paid Traffic: 15%
49 Keywords in 1st Position in Google
Sub domains: 59
Highest CPC $1.46
50 – 924 Keywords
Est Daily Ad Budget: $552.48 to $5.24k
PPC Landing Pages: 50 Variations
Facebook Supporters: 581,438
Myspace: 177,839 Friends
Youtube channel videos:
Youtube Subscribers: 25,698
Youtube Channel Views: 1,813,460
Twitter followers: 3,363
Updates 25 since Sept 2008 (Mostly attacks, negative or in defense)
Linkedin: 500+ Connections
Ustream Views: 196,966
Meetup: Members 1772 Meetups 246
Stumbleupon: 35 Stumbles of Home Page with reviews 81
Digg : JohnmcCain site was not in the top 300 sites submitted this year, but “McCain” was the 18th most popular word in title submissions with 1025.
Flickr: 3,254 images tagged with “John McCain” and 18,951 images with “John McCain” in text.
Analytics: Web side story
All of the data for this post was compiled from various sources and tools. Below is a list of tools and sources for the data in my post. Many of the data might have changed from initial research. I know it is not exact, but it is indicative of the general trends. If you have any additional data to share , I would love to hear from you.Compete
Below are additional sites I used for quotes, data and graphs. Thank you to all the authors.
pic thx to Anthony Cain