Who Trumped Paid Search in the US Election?

Now that the result of the US election has sunk in and the BBC has returned to talking about England losing wickets at the cricket, we can reflect on the Trump and Hilary campaigns; especially with regards to each candidate’s paid search.

trump paid search ppc

I’m primarily focusing upon the month of October in the US to compare each Trump and Clinton’s Google Adwords PPC approach. And my first assumption is immediately quashed with regards to the election and their paid search campaigns.


brand awareness


It was my understanding that the principle of the run up to the election was essentially brand awareness; to get your brand out there and gain support through the electorate subscribing to your brand – brand loyalty surely would equal votes. To get your non-brand generic keyword campaigns optimised and your compelling engaging content and landing page in front of those inquisitive undecided voters… Apparently not.

I’ve used a few third-party tools to download both party’s adcopy and keywords that triggered those ads and the term “vote” did not appear in either campaign; it was almost as if they had put this as a negative keyword. However, a certain term did appear consistently: “donate”. Could these campaigns possibly have an ROI target?

I’ve carried out some due diligence and Google’s Political Content Policy does not seem to restrict usage of the keyword “vote”. Even during an experiment launching a dummy campaign in the US, the term “vote” went through an Adwords review just fine and likewise in my adcopy. After a few searches I did start to see some ads appear for searches including the term vote, however this did take longer than expected to see. So it appears that Google are happy to comply.


Sticking to SEO principles


The most common Hilary landing page and Trump landing page both adhere to basic SEO principles; a clear purpose and call to action etc., but this was not exactly what I expected. I’m not naive enough to dismiss that donors are likely going to vote for that party, but I can’t help but feel that both candidates are missing a trick with this approach e-commerce centred approach.

In fact, the most common paid keywords for Hilary’s account were:

These then all lead to the relevant product’s landing page and even had these keywords in the adcopy so well done on your quality score, Hilary! Google salutes your granular well-constructed approach; within your tag manager you also had all the tracking needed to optimise your ROI, so well done there.

On the other hand, Trump, the President Elect, had less time on his hands and in fact his top keywords were:

A telling keyword list, hey?

All keywords led to his donate page and despite mentioning “donate” once in most adcopy, the choice of keywords would mean a lower quality score and therefore probably paying a higher CPC than a well thought out campaign. Shame on you, Mr Trump.

Quality score was not at the forefront of the election and with the $1.3 billion dollars spent on marketing across all channels I doubt it was ever mentioned. Neither did Trump even see the need to remove multiple incorrectly added remarketing codes, but I’m sure they were busy watching real time conversions in Google Analytics:



The devil isn’t in the details


So, a successful presidential candidate does not necessarily mean a successfully thought-out and implemented paid search campaign, but then I’m sure both campaigns did produce a positive ROI for all involved so why bother with the details?

After this I need to go and re-think my understanding of democracy and possibly cryogenically freeze myself so I live out my days in a simpler time.

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