November 6, 2018 | Sarah Danks

Going To the Polls with SEM

You wouldn’t think election day would remind one of search engine marketing (SEM), but maybe that’s just the way my mind works. During my favorite Twitter chat today (shout out to #ContentWritingChat!) I got the “cutesie” idea to include voting terms in all of my chat answers…

…which of course spawned the idea for this post. Why not? It IS election day, after all.

Without further ado, here’s my take on how SEM relates to politics.


Voting is when you choose amongst candidates to fulfill some kind of goal. What’s this have to do with online marketing? Let me tell you.

Incoming links — also known as third-party links or backlinks — give a vote of credibility to the site to which they’re linking. Since time immemorial (or, since the inception of Google relying on them, which is way back in 2003…so basically beyond the memory of most of the people using the Internet these days anyway), incoming links have been an important factor in the ranking algorithm.


An election is an organized process in which people choose a representative of their ideals (hopefully) to represent them to higher powers. Banking off the voting analogy, you can actually elect content you find to be most important on your own website. How?

With internal links, of course. Internally linking related content on your site elects that content as important/relevant to readers. It also tells Google that you think it’s important, so that helps them understand you think readers should see it. Lead your readers to the polls, if you will.


A ballot is a list of the political candidates voters have to choose from during an election; they mark the ballot to make their choices.

Since there are so many online marketing tactics these days, it’s good to see a list of all the possible things you could be budgeting for in order to get your website, blog, or landing pages in front of potential clients…

…even though in an ideal world they’d all win, sometimes you have to elect which techniques to use in order to best serve your budget, timeframe, and capabilities. When you’re hiring an Internet marketing agency, for example, they should educate you on all the possibilities available so you can make an informed choice.


A caucus is a meeting that members of a political party hold when they have to decide something. This sounds somewhat akin to a client kick-off meeting to determine business goals, strategies, timeframes, etc.

You can’t start building an online marketing strategy until you know what the issues are that you’re trying to solve, after all. And, since every single one of our clients is different, we know it’s important to take the time to listen to their business objectives and what they’re hoping to accomplish online.

Polling Place.

The polls are locations where voters cast their votes. In online terms, this reminds me of landing pages. You draw visitors to your landing page because you’re selling something; they have the option of making a choice.

Hopefully that choice is to choose you as their next provider of widgets, or professional service, or whatever you’ve led them there to do. It also brings to mind local SEO, since it’s all about geography.


Constituents are people living in the area a politician has been elected to represent. Whenever you’re starting out, you want to “own your own back yard first” in regards to search marketing. I.e., if you’re a small business, you’re not going to try for nation-wide fame (right away, anyway).

You’ll want to focus on the immediate area surrounding your geographic location. It’s much the same as getting people to the right polls — you want to ensure you’re not attracting an audience out of your area.


Each district is a geographical area in which an elected official serves the interests of the people residing there. Your target online audience lives in the “district” you’ve chosen to market to — whether that’s an actual geographical location (in the case of brick-and-mortar businesses) or the Internet at large (think Amazon).

The size of your particular district will depend on your target audience, where they are, how they act online, and many other factors too numerous to list here.

Term Limit.

A term limit is the amount of time a politician can serve in their position. There can be term limits on online content, too. If you write a blog post about a current event that’s happening right now, that blog content could be irrelevant in a couple of weeks (or less).

In contrast, evergreen content has no term limit — hence the term “evergreen.” As long as it’s kept up (all content needs some refreshing from time to time), this type of content will always be relevant.

The point of search engine optimization (SEO) is getting people to your site (and then converting them), and Google loves sites that cater to users. Since helpful, relevant content is good for users, it stands to reason that keeping your website and blog content refreshed and dusted off helps SEO.


An incumbent is the person that’s currently holding a particular political office. Think of people who already know where your website is (returning visitors). You want to cater to these people, since they’re returning for a reason — hopefully to convert over and over again.

That said, you also want to draw in new visitors! Know your target audience: new or incumbent, knowing what they’re searching for, what they want, etc. is only ever a good thing.

Registered Voter.

Voters have to be registered in order to vote. Kind of like businesses have to actively work on local search engine marketing tactics to show up for relevant geographical searches. They should write up a good Google My Business profile, make sure to have consistent NAP (name, address, phone) everywhere the business name occurs online, etc.

If you’re not registered, you can’t show up locally.


At the polls, voters receive the ticket: the list of candidates that a political party is running in an election. Ultimately, they’re all important, somewhat reminiscent of the list of key performance indicators (KPI) in a website’s analytics platform.

In order to analyze how your website or blog is performing, you’ve got to keep an eye on that list of KPI you’ve elected to measure the success (or failure) of your online marketing efforts.


In political terms, a delegate is a person chosen to represent their area at a national political convention. They’re required to support the candidate chosen by the voters that they represent, just like promoted or shared content online.

When you pay for a landing page to show up in the SERP (search engine results page), or you share a blog post on Twitter, that content is acting as a delegate for the rest of your content — ipso facto, your business. Individual web pages or blog posts can also “stand alone” in the organic search results, thus they too can be representative of what you have to offer your audience.

Not only that, they can lead visitors back to your website, so you should write each piece as if it were the first one someone would see of your business.

Political campaign.

A campaign is an organized effort to influence the decisions of voters. There’s no wondering why a paid search initiative is called a “campaign” — is it not the same thing? You throw money at an idea, hoping to get people to support you.

In the case of an online endeavor, you’re pulling people towards your landing pages to get conversions — whether that’s a sale, a form fill-out, a video download, etc. Some paid search campaigns run longer than others, but they all have an end goal.

Election Fraud.

Fraud during an election can take many forms, but basically includes any illegal activity meant to impact the outcome of the election. In terms of online marketing?

This one can be tricky to spot and it’s had the same name throughout the life of search engine optimization: black hat SEO. Way (WAY) back in the day, tactics like doorway landing pages, cloaking, white-on-white text, keyword stuffing (especially in the keywords meta tag — remember that one?!), link farming, and many other techniques were utilized and actually WORKED to help content rank in the search engines.

Black hats still engage in this type of fraud, but now Google (and yes, the other search engines) is much smarter about finding — and punishing — those who still try to get away with gaming the system.


Impeaching is the process of removing a government official from office. As it pertains to SEM, Google ultimately holds this “power” online.

As aforementioned, if Google finds out you’ve been fraudulent in your efforts to rank your content, said content will be impeached from the SERPs. Many noob SEO marketers worry about getting impeached from the search engines for doing something wrong…

…but whether you’re a marketer or a politician, there’s really only one way to stave off impeachment: don’t do bad sh*t. If it feels wrong, it most likely 100% is, so don’t do it. Stick to the good side and wear your white hat with pride.

Red vs Blue Politics.

We can’t list voting terms without mentioning ye olde red and blue, right? For those who’ve been living under a rock and don’t know, the color red refers to the Republican party; blue to that of the Democrats.

So, what gives with red-as-Republican and blue-as-Democrat, anyway? (For those that might not know, it used to be the exact opposite of what it is now.) Well, it all really just boils down to CONTRAST.

“We could just as easily use orange and green, but for the fact that red and blue offer much more contrast (and therefore are good for television)…it’s an informational design that makes it easier for enthusiasts to follow along.”

As any good search engine marketer worth their salt knows, when getting web visitors to convert on a landing page it’s not the color of the call-to-action button that matters, but the contrast. Whether the color of your CTA is red, blue, green, orange…

…it doesn’t matter, as long as it contrasts with the rest of your color scheme. Draws the eye. Stands out from the crowd. Gets people to take action.

The moral of the story? Red or blue, don’t focus on the color — instead, think about the bottom line and how it affects your goals.

Vote for Search Marketing

So there you have it — all the ways that voting is like search engine marketing. Whether you think you do or not, if you’re a business owner you should be doing SOMETHING online to market your services or products.

And, of course, it goes without saying — but I’ll say it anyway — if you’re able to, you need to get yourself to the polls whenever there’s an election to cast your vote.

Whether we’re talking about voting for political offices or choosing an online marketing strategy, probably the biggest take-away I can offer here is simply this: don’t lose sight of the big picture.



Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Our newsletter includes industry news, tips, and upcoming events!