ClickZ cases the candidates: the journey from search to site

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There’s a lot of crossover when its comes to search and website, so the final “ClickZ cases the candidates” tackles the two at once.

We took a chronological approach to this one. When you look something up, what’s the first thing you see? The search ads, followed by the organic results. Meanwhile, Google, Yahoo and Bing are behind the scenes, seeing who’s searching for what.

Let’s assume you’re using your phone because you most likely are. The first thing you’ll notice after clicking one of these links is the load time and overall mobile-friendliness. Only if a page passes those tests will you even see its content.

Search ads

On the heels of the primaries in Nevada and South Carolina, as well as Super Tuesday, the past two weeks have been monumentally important for the candidates. Still, almost none of them are doing search ads at the moment.

Of the five frontest-runners, Hillary Clinton is the only one using this tactic. And she’s doing it thoroughly. Clinton has search ads on Google, Yahoo and Bing for “Hillary,” “Clinton,” and “Hillary Clinton.” She was even savvy enough to buy a keyword that takes the other common spelling of her name into consideration.

hilary-yahoo

If you Google (or Yahoo or Bing) “Hilary,” the image carousel is full of former Disney Channel star Hilary Duff. But those pictures are underneath a “Hillary for President” link.

By doing paid search, Clinton ensures that she’s got control of the top of the results. The others are at the mercy of the news item of the moment. For instance, the first hit for “Marco Rubio” on Google is a headline that we’re assuming he doesn’t love.

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Organic search

Where do the candidates’ websites rank organically? On Google, four of the five appear immediately under “In the News.” Donald Trump is the exception – sort of.

The top organic search result is for Trump’s biography, but on his business website. His campaign site is a few spots lower – and looks even lower on mobile – underneath his Wikipedia entry, his Twitter feed and his Google carousel. True, those are still him. But given the circumstances, isn’t the campaign website what he’d want searchers to see first?

trump-websites

However, Trump’s campaign website organically at the top of the page on Bing. The same is true for Bernie Sanders, Rubio and Clinton, who is the only candidate to organically rank as high as possible on Yahoo, underneath the news and Yahoo mentions.

At first glance, Ted Cruz appears to have the top spot on both sites. But it’s actually his senate website, not the one for his presidential campaign. That’s likely the one he’d want people to see first and it doesn’t appear on the first page of either search engine’s results.

Search traffic

Google data shows that since Trump announced his candidacy in June, he was consistently 2015’s most-searched candidate by a wide margin, with the exception of a Sanders spike in October.

Trump was also the most-searched candidate in 49 of the 50 states; Sanders garnered the most Google searches in his home state of Vermont.

presidential-search-2015

So far this year, Google data has mostly been siloed by party. Trump continues to dominate on the Republican side. Sanders is the most-searched between the two Democrats, though it’s much closer.

Mobile friendliness

The presidential campaign websites loaded so quickly on mobile that it’s impossible to say whether one loaded faster than another. Perhaps that’s why all five passed Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

Cruz’s website is the friendliest, utilizing only two resources that are blocked by robots.txt. The others aren’t too far behind; Clinton and Rubio both use three and Sanders, four. Trump’s campaign has seven flags from the webcrawler; however, trump.com only has one.

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Website

All presidential candidates want your support and your money, but Clinton is the most aggressive about it. A homepage takeover and a pop-up ask you for your email address or your money before you get to the real homepage.

Other than that, hers is arguably the strongest site. It’s clean and easy to navigate, and has a good mix of content that’s easy to read, with good visuals and headlines – including a few listicles that people (and search engines) love. One – “112 reasons (and counting) Hillary Clinton should be our next president” – is entirely crowd-sourced, increasing engagement.

Sanders and Cruz both have strong sites, too, though they each lack something of Clinton’s and require a ton of scrolling. Sanders has engaging content, but his layout is a bit blah. Cruz’s content lacks the conversational tone of his Democratic adversaries, but his visual presentation is great, particularly where video is concerned.

cruz-homepage

Cruz is the only candidate to use the carousel format, something Facebook found gets stronger click-through rates for ads. It also makes the page look less busy, an area where Rubio struggles. There is a lot going on and it’s not all about him. Trump is a focal point and while it makes sense for him to speak out against the man who nicknamed him “Lightweight choker,” his homepage isn’t really the place for that.

When we deemed Trump the best at branding, we weren’t considering his website, which is the weakest of the five. It’s generic and full of bland press releases, with none of the personality or bluster that’s become his campaign signature.

Another point in Clinton’s, Cruz’s and Sanders’ favors: their sites all have Spanish-language options. That’s a pretty big oversight on Rubio’s part, considering he’s angling to be the first Hispanic president.

Who gets this round?

Clinton is the clear winner of the website category and the less-clear winner in search. She may not have the most buzz, but she’s certainly doing the most.

Her campaign is basically an Under Armour ad; we just said, “Does Dogpile still exist? If it does, Hillary probably has ads on it.” And she does!

hillary-dogpile

It seems we were wrong about which presidential candidate is the best digital marketer. We gave it to Trump, but looking back on all five of these categories, he’s been pretty inconsistent. Clinton’s emails aren’t the best – they’re not bad, just not as good as some of the others – and her logo still looks like a hospital sign.

However, her strong performances in the social, search and site categories show us that overall, she’s the most well-rounded, and therefore the strongest, digital marketer in the race.

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