SEO And The Local Races

Filed in Delaware, National by on September 10, 2012

SEO is Search Engine Optimization. It is a geeky dark science that strives to improve the ranking of web pages through a variety of techniques. It can also show you who is working on improving their online persona. I like to think of it as a way of controlling the first impression of someone looking for more information. Let’s look at how the candidates have done.

NCC Executive Race

This is the one that caught my attention.  Both Gordon and Clark have huge issues with their public personas.  Shahan and Husband have been cash starved and have yet to really make their cases. For each, let’s Google [candidate name] New Castle County Executive

Paul Clark – The first 3 hits are for the New Castle County government website. Sadly, that site is god-awful (NCC, can you work on that?). It isn’t until the 4th result that we see Clark’s campaign website. However, the 5th result is one of the “anyone but Paul Clark” websites. In fact, the first page of results have two of those websites as well as a blog post over at Resolute Determination about ties to developers. Finally, at the bottom of the page is an ad for Tom Gordon.

Tom Gordon – The first hit is Gordon’s campaign website. Oddly, the second is his Wikipedia page that has been well scrubbed.  A peek at the history of the wiki page shows that someone is adding the sentence “He was indicted in 2004 by the United States Attorney following an investigation by the FBI for the misuse of public funds. He pled guilty to slightly lesser charges and then proceeded to have his criminal file sealed.” only to have it removed within a few days. A couple of positive news bits announcing his run and his Facebook page also appear.  On the first page of hits, the only two negative words that I see is a the title of a video “Tom Gordon & Paul Clark Heated Exchange on Ethics” and the phrase “a battle between the ethically challenged” on a link to a DE GOP. And at the bottom, the Tom Gordon Google ad.

William “Bill” Shahan – Google corrected me when I put Bill Shahan in the search terms, so I used William and got the same results. Bill’s website is first, followed by his Facebook page and a News Journal article. Then two videos make the list, an interview and his candidacy announcement. Another hit is a link to basically reprinting a presser.  At the top of the post? A Tom Gordon banner ad. Also, at the bottom of the results, Gordon has another Google ad.

Jon[athon] Husband – He leads off with two News Journal pieces and then his campaign site. A DelawareLiberal post comes in 4th and his LinkedIn profile makes the list twice. In 4 of the first 10, he is included in a list, rather than on his own. And guess what’s at the bottom of the page? Yep, Gordon’s Google ad.

Insurance Commissioner

This is competing with the NCC Exec race as the ugliest. Also, it features a damaged incumbent, a serious challenger and a pair of also-rans. We’ll search for [candidate name] Delaware Insurance Commissioner.

Karen Weldin Stewart – As with Clark, Stewart’s governmental page comes up first (and second and third). The fourth hit is Karen’s Wikipedia page.  The wiki page is pretty clean, although the history lists some pretty funny stuff (Alma mater: Hamburger University, Profession: Lobbyist for the Insurance Industry, Party: Republican). Good work on keeping that cleaned up. Next up is her NAIC membership and then a presser. The 7th hit is the DelawareLiberal page for posts tagged with Karen Weldin Stewart.  That can’t be helpful. Her own campaign webpage makes the list at number 8. No Google ad at the bottom.

Mitch Crane – Like Gordon, the first (and second) hit was the Crane campaign website. Three of the first 10 mention Crane’s sexuality.  Three also mention endorsements that Mitch has won. Oddly, the Google ad at the bottom is an page.

Paul Gallagher – Some day, Paul Gallagher will be the answer to a difficult Delaware Political trivia question, but for today, he is the answer to the question, “Who has the longest URL in Delaware politics?” His site is easily the most awkward URL I’ve seen in politics. Good thing I used “the google” to find it.  It is his top hit. The rest of the hits are actually pretty reasonable. There are a few articles including one from Crane’s list above. He also seems to have been picked up by a few sites that grap PR headlines. However, I think the cleanliness of Gallagher’s list is an indication of how absent he has been in the campaign. When your 3rd hit is a press release aggregator, it’s gonna be a cold day in hell when you win the race.

Dennis Spivack – The first 3 hits are Dennis’ website.  There are two videos featured in his first page from a televised debate on Community Crossfire. Also, links from The News Journal, WDEL and DelawareLiberal.

New Castle County Council President

Renee Taschner – Three of the top ten hits for Taschner are News Journal links. Her website doesn’t appear until the fourth result.  Another press release aggregator, (I kid), gets three hits and the Middletown Transcript and Grapevine round out the list.

Christopher Bullock – Rev. Bullock’s site is the number one hit for his search and his Twitter page is number three. The News Journal makes the list twice, as well as a link each on Delaware Way, DelawareLiberal and The Delaware Way link is actually Nancy’s post about Dunn endorsing Bullock.

What does all of this tell us? Well, there is a long way to go for local campaigns to go to improve their online presence. Tom Gordon is showing the way. I hope he loses tomorrow, but local politicos should take heed even if he does. If you don’t control the medium, someone else will.

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  1. WWB says:

    Google has been breaking bad on people who “over optimize” their sites, and hitting them in organic search results. What do you think are the chances that some of these candidates have done that and are getting hit by Google?

  2. liberalgeek says:

    I don’t see that as having an impact here. Most of this seems organic, but there is a reasonable chance that Gordon has been using some SEO to improve his performance. The cleanliness of the wikipedia pages indicate some awareness of the impact of this sort of thing.