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Searching for the Next President: Google's Innovative Election Sources and Data

As the 2008 presidential campaign comes to an end, it has become increasingly clearer that traditional methods of campaign advertising are falling second to search engine marketing (SEM). Over the course of this campaign, Internet users have relied on popular search engines to deliver the latest news, information, and web videos on YouTube to help them decide which candidate they will cast their vote for.

One search engine has gone above and beyond simply providing the most relevant and related search results. Google has created an information center for the latest election buzz, news, and voter information. Google’s Election tools have been helpful for voters who are looking for more information about the candidates, debate commentaries, election news, key election issues discussed on YouTube videos, and information on the nearest voting locations on Google maps. The Election tools even have a section for school teachers to use in the classroom to educate their students about the election process.

One of the more interesting Election tools that Google supplied searchers with was tracking the search habits of viewers during the televised presidential debates. By using Google Hot Trends, a feature that lists the most popular search terms or keywords that users have searched in any short amount of time, Google provided a chart displaying the increases of searched upon words at varied times during the debates.

Searchers were able to look up definitions and information on commonly used words by the candidates, including “clean coal” and “maverick”, while continuing to watch the debate. Other popular searched upon terms included the presidential and vice presidential candidate’s names and other characters like “Joe Six Pack” and “Joe the Plumber.”

As a result of search, obtaining information while watching the debates, or other live speeches or rallies, may greatly impact the outcome of this election - more so than any mudslinging TV ad campaign. Having valid information at voters’ fingertips is more reliable, and valuable, than any politician’s charisma and promises for change.

Besides search keywords, the candidates’ advertising budgets include impressive SEM efforts. Both candidates have highly optimized websites, complete with multimedia content, detailed political platforms, optimized press releases, links to other important sites, establishment on social networking sites, and other valuable information for voters.

This election has provided a glimpse into future campaign advertising. Perhaps candidates will focus their SEM efforts on more than just their websites. Online reputation management, or keeping negative opinions and web pages off the first page of search results, would be extremely beneficial to candidates since voters have relied heavily on search to make an informed decision about choosing the next president.

With steadily increasing numbers of Internet searchers, the candidates’ camps will continue to utilize both search technology and marketing to their advantage. Arguably, search and search marketing has had a large impact on the 2008 presidential race and will likely have great potential in affecting future presidential elections and their outcomes.

The innovative advances in search coupled with the rapid growth and popularity of the search industry could very well replace traditional campaign advertising.

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