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How President Obama Uses Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
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How President Obama Uses SEO

by on 08/26/09 at 10:25 am

President Obama is no rookie to getting the most visibility from news, media and from the Internet, as proved through hundreds of syndicated videos, social networking and online advertisements. Possibly preempted by the legendary “miserable failure” Googlebombing that happened to former President George Bush or possibly because he simply has the right people in technology working for him, President Obama is omnipresent in search results. His website ranks above the White House website, above news and blog posts and even above the search engine ranking killer Wikipedia with an obvious intent to spread a possible message and showcase a motif of hope rather than be wiped out by black hat search experts looking for attention or to use his name for their own personal agenda.

Obama Uses Search Engine Optimization for His Name

The President may in fact have one of the country’s best SEO Experts on his team. Universal Search is the term given to the integrated search engine results that include video, blog and news posts, and images. A search for just the last name “Obama” returns two very well-crafted top results that include “sitelinks”, a relatively new feature that previously only appeared on select 1st ranked results. President Obama’s website holds both top positions with sitelinks including in both. Scroll down on the page to see positive videos and imagery. With the “Obama” search, you’ll find the President’s MySpace page and of course the Wikipedia page. The ONLY thing the President hasn’t been able to control is the new postings, such as the 8/25 Washington Post RSS feed entitled “Obama Dances Awkwardly with Bush Policies by Dan Balz”. The President is also paying Google in the Sponsored Ads (Google AdWords pay-per-click program) to own the top spot for his last name.

A Google query for the President’s full name returns all sort of biography-type information below the strongly optimized first two listings, with more pictures and blog content available.

Interestingly enough, here are top monthly searched “obama” queries according to Google’s Keyword Tool combined with 37% accounting for the smaller engines:

1 – “obama” 9.7 million searches per month
2 – barack obama 6.5 million searches
3 – michelle obama 1 million searches
4 – obama song 714 thousand searches
5 – barak obama 584 thousand searches
6 – obama speech 584 thousand searches

Negative Queries

1 – {censored} obama 35 thousand searches
2 – kill obama 15 thousand searches

“Obama health care” has approximately 15.7k searches per month, which may be why his internal SEO person decided to target “health care” as a core term rather than a more specific (or long tail) search term.

Google Insights for Search

Related searches listed in Google Insights for Search included: barack obama, michelle obama, president obama, obama care, health care, and obama health care

Obama Search Terms from Google Insights for Search

Rising searches specifically related to Obama and our health care plan show “health care plan” up 850% from the previous 90 days and Obama health plan searches up 750% from the previous 90 days.

Rising Search Terms for Obama from Google Insights for Search

A quick dive into health care search queries shows “health care reform” as the top search query followed by “Obama care”. Rising searches show a 3,050% rise in queries for “health reform bill” and 1.5k% increase for “health care bill” over the previous 90 days.

Health Care Search Terms from Google Insights for Search

And again looking at the rising search term queries for “health care” related terms:

Rising Health Care Search Terms from Google Insights for Search

How President Obama Should Be Using SEO

In looking at US-based “health reform bill” queries, President Obama-sourced content seems to disappear, with no videos, images, or Obama websites appearing in the search results. What does appear is news media, opencongress.org, healthreform.gov and dozens of news syndications.

No sponsored ads pointing to barackobama.com can be found.

However, a quick search for just the term “health care” has BarackObama.com in the 2nd spot behind Wikipedia, only one position up from whitehouse.gov and bls.gov (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

The possible whoops in this case is that Obama optimized very well for “health care” dedicating an entire section of his website to “healthcare” using what appears to be the start Bruce Clay’s Siloing methodology but using a very generic, commercial term, where it might have been more prudent to optimize for trending terms such as “health reform bill” and “health care bill”. See how many pages appear in the “healthcare” silo here.

Barack Obama ExperimentAnd what about “health care reform”? Again, no Obama results. Even worse, there’s news and articles featuring Senator McCain and the rest of the results…..news websites. One website actually appeared in the sponsored results pointing to “BarackObamaExperiment.com”, a Republican sponsored campaign aimed at slandering President Obama’s health care initiative. Even Bloggers like Christopher Grell are buying ads in the sponsored results to fool people into donating or clicking affiliate links by bidding on “health care reform” search terms in the Google Sponsored Ads program.

McCain Health Care Reform

Owning Health Care Bill Keywords in the SERPS

The search results are a mess when we really get into keywords outside of the broad “health care” phrase, but there’s hope if the President truly wants to succeed by saturating search results with a positive theme.

First of all, there are hundreds of supportive SEO’s that he can enlist from SEMPO (the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization) and SEO forums, with very little out of pocket incentives. If there’s a budget for his campaign, he could even offer a trip to the White House to the top 10 Search Engine Marketers who appear the most often for the most critical search terms. This SEO militia would be his first line of defense.

Second plan of action would be to enlist a small team of ORM Specialists to manage the Online Reputation Management segment of the campaign, using tools like Google Alerts, Tweetbeep (a Twitter alert tool) and RSS feeds from Republican and anti-Obama health care activists to counteract web content before it becomes popular.

Here are two specific examples:

1 – Washington Post does an article obviously targeting health care reform. The ORM Specialist immediately gets the RSS feed on their mobile device and creates a blog post on another very popular political or news blog using similar language, but more compelling titles, imagery and video and then creating more immediate backlinks from other blog posts (using tools like PayPerPost.com or ReviewMe.com for example). The posts both appear in Google within the same hour, the ORM’s post starts to receive a higher click-through rate bumping the Washington Post’s feed off the first page of Google. The ORM can also respond to blogs on many of the very sites that produce the negative feedback to reduce the impact of page and the keyword density of the term being optimized.

2 – Sponsored search and trademark names. This morning, someone from the President’s staff should walk over to the Trademark office and escalate trademarking the President’s name. From the office, they should immediately login to the President’s Google Adwords account and submit the trademark information so that NOBODY can use the President’s name in an ad without his permission. Once submitted, the staff personnel should visit WIPO.int and file an immediate action to recover all domains containing the President’s name (such as barackobamaexperiment.com); proper escalation could produce an immediate removal of such content.

Third plan of action would include enlisting patrons of the most-used social networks and mashups to be in charge of creating health care reform & health care bill pages within those networks, starting with a Squidoo page, a Twitter.com/obamahealthcarebill page, a Facebook Health Care Bill fan page, a committee company at LinkedIn with members all having titles containing “Health Care Bill Action Member” or something similar.

Fourth plan of action would be to take advantage of Local Search, which has never been done before in politics to my knowledge. Enlisting Democrats and supporters willing to use their mailing address as a thumbnail for health care bill in their geography, using their my.barackobama.com page as the reference URL in their local business listings. At Local Splash, a local SEO services company, they setup hundreds of local business listings for customers every day. Using a 3rd party service like Local Splash for approximately $100, a supporter can get their local listing syndicated into dozens of business directories almost over night (such as Yelp, Yahoo! Local, Bing Local, Merchant Circle, Superpages, and so forth), which helps the search engines “trust” the business listing, thus ranking them higher in the SERPS.

The fifth plan of action would be to come up with a White House-based news/blog site to combat the media. Call it the Presidential Post, include all the RSS bells and whistles, get all of the sites that pick up the Washington Post, CNN, and Reuters feeds to also pickup the Presidential Post. Get the blog listed in blog rankings, Technorati, and every blog aggregator on the web. Add what we SEO’s call a “blog and ping” list so that each post created automatically syndicates the content with websites that were created to host aggregated content. The Editor of the program will capture the RSS of the media sites and will immediately be able to combat them in the Universal Search results.

The sixth and final plan of action would be a passive Googlebomb. It sounds like an oxymoron but it’s really the only way to achieve the top results the fastest and to stay there. Currently, according to SEOMoz.org’s Linkscape keyword tool, the words “health care” only appear in .4% of the link text from the nearly 1 million websites linking to barackobama.com. A “link war” of sorts should be initiated to get as many bloggers, Democrats with social profile pages, and link building specialists to get that .4% up to at least 5-10%, all linking in to the /healthcare/ section on the website with “health care bill” and “health care reform” related search terms.

One 30 second TV spot reaching out to Internet Marketers with a “Win a Trip to the White House, visit blogforhealthcare.com” would help Obama pretty much dominate the search results. I can easily imagine the first 5 pages of Google filled with Squidoo pages, Twitters, Facebook, BlogSpot and WordPress blogs, optimized imagery and video and maybe even the Presidential Post. But as patriotic as people can be, these are hard times and people need some motivation; why not make it contest or competition?


President Obama is doing a great job optimizing for his name in the organic and Universal Search results, with the exception of allowing for unapproved Sponsored Ads to be seen. To combat negative “health care bill”, “health care reform”, and “health reform bill”, the President will need have a team of SEO’s working behind the scenes to insure his message is the motif of the search engine results.

Additionally, having alerts and RSS feeds from known sources combated instantly by an ORM Specialist could make a huge impact, as would having a staff member make two daily visits to Google Insights for Search to insure that his team is optimizing for the most frequently searched keywords.

The campaign isn’t rocket science and wouldn’t cost more than few thousand dollars, as compared to the millions I’m sure we are spending on radio, TV, and other media sources. I say “launch the contest”, I’d participate. Would you?

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