Google Bombing is Dead

Google Bombing might be a non-issue for the 2008 election given recent changes by Google, but the MySpace wars and other Web battles are just now heating up.

Gone is the now infamous search result when you type in “miserable failure” in Google that provided a #1 listing to the White House’s bio for George W. Bush. Google has since updated its search engine algorithm minimizing the impact of Google Bombs (read Google blog post here).

In the election battles of 2004 and 2006 Google Bombing campaigns were launched to try to tarnish political opponents. My instinct is these campaigns were largely ineffective as they did little to satiate the hunger for knowledge about a candidate or their opponents, but served as a way to exercise passive aggressive energies on the Web.

In 2008, the internet story lines will likely be much different. With the dramatic rise of MySpace in the political landscape and the real power of marketing on Google (and other search engines) being realized through search engine marketing, candidates will have to start early and be aggressive to win the ’08 Web Election.

The Battle for Search Engine Rankings

One of the battles yet to be fought is the Search Engine Marketing wars. The amount of Web traffic available on the internet by people searching for terms like Iraq, Iran, Gay Marriage, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, etc. is staggering. These searches are powered by people actively searching for information – much different than your average American watching their favorite TV show and being bombarded by canned political ads that they may not necessarily care about or choose to learn about.

Although McCain may be losing in many areas online, his campaign is active in at least one aspect of the search engine marketing arena: pay per click advertising – whereby you pay each time a user clicks an ad. For example, when you type in “Rudy Giuliani” in Google you’ll see a John McCain ad just below Giuliani’s own ad. That however may be the last bit of good news for McCain in this article as he is being out-gunned and out-maneuvered by his Republican and Democrat opponents alike.

Below are some simple statistics that partly indicate how well-positioned the candidates’ sites are currently and how likely it is they can compete in the natural search results in Google:

Google PageRank Inbound Links (as of 3/11/07)

Barack Obama 6 1,430
Hillary Clinton 6 596
Rudi Giuliani 6 583
John Edwards 5 3,510
Mitt Romney 3 974
Jon McCain 2 0

Google PageRank is Google’s proprietary technology that ranks a website’s importance on the Web on a scale from 0 to 10 (10 being the best) based on the importance and value of a site. As you can see, Giuliani, Obama, and Clinton are all tied with a PageRank 6 and Edwards is not far behind at 5, but McCain lags behind drastically at a PageRank 2.

Google utilizes PageRank as part of its algorithm to determine which pages rank for keywords in the natural search results (as opposed to paid results). Google PageRank, in part, measures a site’s importance based upon the quantity and quality of inbound links pointed to a given site. As you can see, McCain is a distant last here as well while Edwards and Obama are leading the way. This part of their algorithm was the catalyst for the Google Bombing campaigns.

There are many additional factors that determine how well a site ranks for certain keywords. Many are simply are related to how the website is built and coded, along with the copy within the website itself, however in an effort to be brief we won’t go into all of these in this article.

MySpace Wars

MySpace’s rise in the election ’08 cycle should not be underestimated. The social networking aspect of being able to communicate easily and instantly with your base is truly powerful.

I have all of the major politicians as friends in my MySpace account, and like the results above, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards are the most active in disseminating their message. Clinton is a bit behind Obama in total friends, but it appears her campaign is extremely organized on MySpace and poised to reap the maximum benefit that she can from the networking site.
That said, Obama is a MySpace power already. He seems to resonate with the MySpace generation and brings a different approach to this election. He is the clear leader in the MySpace friends war and has more friends than Clinton, Edwards, McCain, and Giuliani combined.

MySpace Friends (as of 3/11/07)

Barack Obama 60,501
Hillary Clinton 27,672
John Edwards 12,266
Rudy Giuliani 1,042
John McCain 485

Alexa Rankings

Another important indicator of who’s gaining traction online is Alexa. Alexa is one of the most popular traffic ranking tools on the Web and is considered a good indicator of how popular your website is. The lower the score the better and as you can see once again Clinton and Obama are leading the race with McCain a distant last.

Alexa Rankings (as of 3/11/07)

Barack Obama 12,581
Hillary Clinton 18,727
John Edwards 33,485
Mitt Romney 129,490
Rudy Giuliani 133,862
John McCain 178,788

It’s still too early to declare anyone the winner of the Web War, but it is clear that Clinton and Obama are outpacing the other candidates.

All of the above indicators will be updated weekly, along with other resources, on my blog and on NeboWeb’s Election ’08 Online Resource Center.