As the election approaches, the buzz in Democratic activist circles is the need for GOTV. If we can turn out the vote, and get the composition of the electorate back to what it was in 2008, then Democrats will win.
GOTV is an extremely important form of activism, and you should take part in it if you can. There are any number of great organizations working on it, such as Organizing for America, so please hook up with them to get involved.
Here at Daily Kos, we are going to engage in very different, but still very important, form of election activism. It’s a type of activism no one else is working on, and it is well-suited to our medium as a blog. It’s a grassroots-based search engine optimization campaign, which I call Grassroots SEO for short.
Full explanation below the fold.
Campaign Goal and Theory
The goal of Grassroots SEO is to get as many undecided voters as possible to read the most damaging news article about the Republican candidate for Congress in their district. It is based on two simple premises:
- One of the most common political activities people take online is to use search engines, mainly Google, to find information on candidates. (For more information, see the Pew Internet and American Life Project’s report on 2008 online political engagement.)
- These results of these searches are always in flux based upon hyperlinks anyone posts anywhere on the Internet, including message board comments and social networking sites (but not email).
As a result of this, not only is it possible for us to use our hyperlinks to impact what people find when they search for information on candidates, but we would be foolish not to do so in a way that benefited our preferred candidates. We are already impacting search engine rankings whenever we post any hyperlink anywhere, so we need to make sure the way we use hyperlinks helps result in our preferred political outcomes.
When we did a Grassroots SEO campaign in 2006, we reached over 700,000 voters in 50 key congressional campaigns in the final two weeks of that midterm election. With the rise of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, not only can we can have even more of an impact in 2010, but it is easier than ever for you to get involved.
Steps to take action
Before we start engaging in the actual search engine optimization, there are two things we need to do.
First, you need to sign up with Daily Kos campaigns to receive action alerts on how, when, and where you can maximize the way you are using hyperlinks online. Please do so right here.
Second, as a group, we need to find and choose the damaging articles on Republican candidates that we want undecided voters to read. It is only after finding the articles that we can push them up search engine rankings. As such, finding those articles is the main purpose of this diary.
If you click here, you can find a list of the 98 most competitive House campaigns, along with the name of the Republican candidate in those campaigns. All 98 of these campaigns are rated as "lean" or closer by at least one of the following five House election forecasts: Swing State Project, FiveThirtyEight, Cook Political Report, Rothenberg Political Report, and Sabato’s Crystal Ball. The consensus of experts says that these are the 98 most competitive campaigns, and we are going to target them all.
(We are targeting House campaigns since Senate campaigns are so much more difficult to influence, due to their extensive media coverage. Also, Alabama’s 2nd congressional district was rated as "lean" or closer by more than one of these forecasters, but since Democratic Congressman Bobby Bright has said he won’t vote for Pelosi to be Speaker, who really cares if he wins or not.)
So, go over the candidate target list, get your Google on, let’s start looking for the best 98 articles to use. Search for articles on any campaign you wish, and on as many campaigns as you wish. Here are some tips on what makes a good article:
- Title damaging in and of itself. Not many people who see the article will actually click through and read it. So, it is critically important that the title itself is damaging to the Republican candidate in some way.
- Name of candidate in title. In addition to a catchy title, it is key that the name of the candidate appear in the title itself. This will both help the SEO effort, and lead to more people clicking through to the article.
- From a well-known, non-partisan news source. Time and time again, people have sent me links to progressive blog articles to use in these SEO campaigns. Don’t do that. Just don’t. Find negative articles from as high profile a news organization as possible. When high profile can’t be found, then local news outlets will do just fine. Whatever you find, make sure said new organization at least ostensibly claims to be non-partisan.
- Already has a high Google ranking. Increasing the visibility of the article will be a lot easier if the article already has a decent Google ranking. For our purposes, top 100 is OK, and top 50 is good. Something already in the top 20, or even the top 10, would be awesome. (Note: make sure you sign out of Google before conducting keyword searches on the candidate’s full name to test the Google ranking of the article).
- Name of candidate in URL. The SEO effort will be greatly enhanced if the name of the candidate appears in the URL of the article.
- Keep it short. Try to find shorter articles with the negative hit on the candidate near the top. We don’t want to make people struggle to find the info.
- Keep it recent. This is the least important criteria, and may actually damage SEO efforts on search engines like Bing. But, Google seems to favor more recent articles, and people looking for candidate information probably do, too. So, try to find as recent an article as possible, given the other criteria.
When you find an article, post its headline and URL either in the comments or send it over email to SEO@dailykos.com. Make sure the name of both the district and the GOP candidate is in the headline or the comment, or the subject line of the email. For example, if you found an article about the Republican candidate in Florida’s 25th congressional district, the comment title or subject line would be "FL-25, David Rivera."
That’s it. Once we get the articles we can start working to push them up search engine rankings. We need to launch the campaign early next week, so let’s gather these articles as quickly as we can.
Sign up, and start Googling. Let's do this!
Quick tip: Articles about Palin endorsing GOP candidates work just fine.
Update 2: There is a lot of email coming in. If I don't respond quickly, please don't take offense. Gonna be a while before I sift through it all.