“Sarah Palin”: A Sudden Opportunity for Paid Search

Performics’ Research in the New York Times
August 25, 2008
Search Engines Deliver Sarah Palin Speech Video
September 4, 2008

“Sarah Palin”: A Sudden Opportunity for Paid Search

Posted by Michael Kahn, VP of Account Management & Marketing

Obama has been the leader digitally-wise to this point in the Presidential campaign.  According to Nielson Online, Obama’s Web site had 3.3 million unique visitors in July, more than twice that of McCain’s site.  Obama also has a huge following on Facebook (only Michael Phelps can compete with him in number of friends) and sent out a massive bulk text message to supporters announcing his pick for VP.

However, you may have noticed the McCain campaign’s recent presence in paid search.  McCain has been running paid search ads for the keyword “Joe Biden.”  His campaign is using the huge spike in search for Joe Biden as an opportunity to distribute a video of Biden criticizing Obama in the Democratic primaries.


This could be an extremely effective way for the McCain campaign to influence undecided voters.  With this in mind, I thought I’d closely track how both the Obama and McCain campaign use search around the announcement of McCain choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate:

11:30 AM EST
– Campaign officials let the word out that McCain will choose Palin as his running mate
– I have no idea who she is so I turn to Google for help (I’m not the only one, "Sarah Palin" is currently the hottest keyword in Google Trends)
– Wealth-Freedom-Abundance.biz is bidding on “Sarah Palin” trying to sell me “massive home income” or something like that.  I’m not really interested.
– I see a ZAGG.com paid listing.  They are bidding on the keyword “Sarah Palin” telling me the iPhone 3G would be a better running mate.  McCain and iPhone 2008?  I would vote for that ticket.


– I click on the #1 natural listing for “Sarah Palin”, which is Wikipedia.  Her Wikipedia page is changing rapidly.  There seems to be a conflict right now among Wikipedia editors over whether she is the “VP candidate” or “presumptive VP candidate.”
– Wikipedia tells me she is married to an Eskimo and eats moose hamburgers.  Not sure if I should believe this.
– I abandon Wikipedia and click back to the Google SERP.  A top 5 embedded YouTube listing catches my eye.  I click-through and it’s Sarah Palin on Glenn Beck
talking about polar bears. I like polar bears.

12:16 Noon EST
Apparently McCain is making the announcement, but since I’m at work, I’m not watching TV
– I turn back to Google to see if I can learn more about Palin
-Sweet!  The McCain campaign is now running a paid search ad for the keyword “Sarah Palin”


– I click-through to the McCain site and quickly learn that as governor of Alaska, Palin has brought together Democrats and Republicans, challenged big oil, worked to develop new energy resources, and cut budgetary spending.  She is head of the Alaska National Guard and has a son who is a soldier.  Thanks for the info, McCain campaign!

As you can see, the McCain campaign acted with incredible quickness to get a top-spot paid search ad as soon as the news was announced.  This helped me eliminate the clutter and learn from McCain exactly who Sarah Palin is.  That leaves it to the Obama campaign to perhaps run a paid search ad to distribute their point of view.

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