2020 Presidential Digital Marketing Strategies Compared
TL;DR - Key Takeaways:
- Know your audience – SEO research should indicate which demographics would best respond to your message.
- There is no one part of digital marketing that is more important than the other, they should all work together.
- Most ad platforms have made it quite difficult to publish political ads, but that has not stopped everyone.
- Testing everything is crucial, from CTAs, ad copy and everything else in between.
Table of contents:
Not only is the upcoming presidential election a pivotal moment in the history of our country, it will also be the first presidential election in American history where the candidates’ respective digital marketing spends will each cross the billion-dollar mark.
Due to the pandemic, the playing field has been leveled for candidates in non-presidential races to come in and have a fighting chance as well. Although these new circumstances did not exist in time for certain candidates to take advantage of it due to the respective primary rules of their states, this much remains true: one needs to have a strong digital marketing presence to take advantage of this unprecedented occasion.
Because of COVID-19, we are also seeing three times the amount spent on digital ads compared to previous elections. Typically, most digital presidential campaigning was done through TV, which made it difficult (although not impossible) to ignore. But now, digital marketing affects every single one of us, from social media ads to email marketing, impossible to escape while we’re all stuck at home.
Never before in history has social media and digital marketing techniques been used at such an intense level. Every facet of American life feels like it’s constantly on the line.
Each candidate and their teams have a unique approach for how they go about campaigning, especially when it comes to digital marketing. We’ve broken down the tactics that each of them respectively uses when it comes to web design, SEO, paid ads, and more.
First impressions are everything, and one of the best ways to utilize this is through a campaign website. If they have a poorly designed website, no one will want to visit it. No one will buy their merchandise, no one will sign up for their email listserv, no one will donate, no one will look up campaign events and nobody will do the various other miscellaneous things that need doing for a campaign to successfully cross the finish line.
Biden’s Campaign Site
When you first reach Biden’s website, instead of a small popup like the one on Trump’s website, you are greeted with a full-screen popup asking you for a donation. From what I have seen this is the only popup that he has on his website. It has an important CTA and they make it easy for you to donate.
Biden's Website Popup
Once you reach his website, one notices that it has a similar layout to Trump’s website. This makes pragmatic sense from a marketing standpoint. Here, Biden is trying to build a sense of community and is keeping it quite simple with single-sentence copy. Biden has the most comprehensive homepage consisting of quotes, videos, CTAs, and a litany other engagement factors.
Jorgensen’s Campaign Site
Jorgensen’s campaign website does not have a popup. From a marketing standpoint, this would appear to be a significant missed opportunity because pop-ups tend to have a high conversion rate (CVR) and are extremely easy to set up. Other than that there isn’t anything particularly remarkable about her website. The depth of her content isn’t particularly detailed, but considering how new her website is, this is entirely understandable. On the home page, she has virtually the same CTAs as Biden does, albeit with slightly different formatting.
Trump’s Campaign Site
Trump’s team has done a really good job with web design - no matter the time of day that you go to his website, there is always a popup. If an important meeting or rally is going on, you will either get the live feed or a way to watch it. If there isn’t something going on at that given moment, you’ll get a call-to-action (CTA) letting you know of an offer, future rally, sign up, donation opportunity, and so on.
One of Trump's Website Popups
Once you either click out or fill out the popup, you are greeted by more CTAs. Similar to Biden’s site, the copy on Trump’s website aims to build a sense of community among his supporters while engaging them to attend events and donate through single-sentence copy. There are about five CTAs on this area of the homepage alone. The goal of these CTAs is to persuade the user to action instead of idle browsing.
Below are the statistics from the two main websites. It should be noted that because Jorgensen’s site was so new at press time, no statistics could be gleaned from there accordingly.
Trump's Website Statistics
Biden's Website Statistics
Given that Trump’s pages per visit and average visit duration are higher purely because of the amount of CTAs he has on his website, these higher numbers make sense here. In addition, their bounce rates (the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page) are on the lower end of things with an average bounce rate being roughly 41-55% under similar circumstances.
SEO is something that the average person sees multiple times per day, even if they don’t actively think about the SEO process. Regardless of what the general public might think, it is a very important factor, especially for a presidential election. Here’s how all three candidates are respectively doing on this front:
All Candidates’ Organic Traffic (as of April 2019)
Right off the bat, Trump has a major advantage since first launched his original campaign website for his previous run for president in April of 2015, which chalks up to well before Biden or Jorgensen had or possibly even thought about starting a campaign website (let alone before declaring their respective candidacies for the 2020 election). Because of this long-running advantage, Trump was able to consistently get monthly traffic in the millions month after month.
On the other hand, Biden launched his campaign website in May of 2019, but as evidenced by the above chart, his organic traffic is still nowhere near where Trump’s.
Jorgensen’s Organic Traffic
Both major party candidates have a substantial lead when compared to Jorgensen, who did not launch her campaign website until June of 2020 – only five months before Election Day. Although she has had a striking peak of traffic—which, unsurprisingly, is expected when one is running for the highest office in the land—that is only the picture when you are looking at her website numbers alone. If you take a step back and compare it to the giants that are Biden and Trump’s websites, you can barely see the growth on Jorgensen’s side of things.
All Candidates’ Organic Traffic (as of July 2020)
Furthermore, when it comes to domain rating (DR) and backlink juice, both essential to SEO, Trump has double the referring domains when compared to Biden.
Trump’s Domain Overview
However, as of press time Biden has almost caught up when it comes to the number to backlinks. Despite the high amount of backlinks, Trump’s organic traffic is still more than triple what Biden’s organic traffic is.
Biden’s Domain Overview
On a surprising note, even though Jorgensen’s website is brand spanking new by comparison, both the URL rating (UR) and the DR are both quite impressive. It can sometimes take people years to get to either a decent DR or UR, let alone both.
Jorgensen’s Domain Overview
Organic Position Distribution (OPDs)
Because of the sheer number of backlinks and numerical domains, Trump’s website unsurprisingly earns more of the higher page ranks in the first through tenth positions—better known collectively as the first page of the search engine results page (SERP). This may not seem like much but on average the first page of the SERP gets 94% of clicks.
Therefore, the difference between being in tenth and eleventh position is the difference between getting clicked on and being outright ignored.
Biden has significantly more ranking for the fifty-first through one hundredth positions when compared to Trump, but they are running a pretty close race when it comes to ranking for the twenty-first through fiftieth positions.
Jorgensen has almost all of her pages ranking for the fifty-first through one hundredth positions; furthermore, she and Biden have more pages ranking in the first through third positions than through the fourth through tenth positions.
Among ad spend for major social media platforms, Facebook outperforms its peers by far.
Research has consistently shown that Facebook holds such a strong lead compared to Twitter, Google, Bing, and other platforms because in spite the generally strict rules on their ads in general, they have yet to impose any specific restrictions or bans on political ads at this time.
On the contrary, they are welcoming them with open arms.
Biden’s Facebook Ads spend at $25 million to date would have been quite impressive within the last election campaign, where Hillary Clinton spent $28 million on digital marketing in total, but when you compare it to Trump’s it looks moderately inadequate. Of course, Facebook Ads are not the only ad platform out there, but they are the most widely used one amongst presidential candidates.
If you think the chunk of change that Biden has spent is conservative compared to his competition, then buckle up. Jorgensen has spent less than $50,000 in total on her Facebook ads. By comparison, President Trump spends 80 times her total Facebook ad spend in a single week.
If you look through Trump’s Facebook ad spend and ads, the records and statistics show that he has spent over fifty million dollars on Facebook ads alone since May 2018 and over four million dollars in the past week alone. The steep expense is only expected to rise as Election Day approaches.
Paid Search Ads
A major plus for campaigns looking to maximize their returns on the paid search front is that most likely there is very little competition for the keywords they are going after. Even between candidates of opposing parties, the overlap between keywords is close to nonexistent. This is mainly due to the fact that from Trump’s slogan—“make America great again”—and Biden’s slogan on down—“Build back better”—the campaigns have almost zero keyword overlap between one another; therefore, the market to utilize them respectively is fully for the taking.
A surprising thing to note here is that Biden’s paid search traffic rose above Trump’s in June. It makes sense since Trump’s campaign is more heavily focused on Facebook Ads, but it’s still interesting to note due to the restrictions on Paid Search Ads as opposed to their Facebook counterpart.
Testing ads and copy is absolutely essential in a campaign cycle.
This is something that Trump’s team did extremely well in 2016 which is another thing that made Trump so successful. Hillary Clinton tested 66,000 different ads over the course of the entire campaign while Trump tested that many ads en masse daily.
If anything this is more important than it was in the 2016 election due to the ongoing pandemic. Going off of the numbers, the sheer volume of ads that Trump has is about 80 times the number of ads that Biden has. In addition, they are also published through over 50 times the amount of publishing outlets.
Something that is crucial to note here is that if a candidate wants to win the election the best thing they can do on the advertising front--especially regarding Facebook ads--is testing ads and copy like there’s no tomorrow. This is something that Trump’s team did extremely well in 2016. Hillary Clinton’s team tested 66,000 different ads throughout the campaign while Trump tested that many daily.
If anything this is more important than it was in the 2016 election due to the ongoing global pandemic. As you can see from the charts below the sheer volume of ads that Trump has is about 80 times the number of ads that Biden has not only that but they are also published on over 50 times the amount of publishers.
Trump’s team is acutely aware that controversy can easily strengthen the flames that are already within those scrolling on the platforms. They use bold text, arrows, bright colors, and more to try and grab the attention of someone on an app, website, SERP or some combination therein.. This tactic worked well for them in 2016 and they are hoping that their success will repeat itself the second time around.
When it comes to paid search ads the team takes a slightly different approach, they are not focusing as much on getting an emotion out of someone as they are getting them to take action. Whether it be buying Trump merchandise, signing up for something to get something for free, etc. This is most likely due to the harsher restrictions that search engine marketing (SEM) platforms have enforced.
As a contrast to Trump’s strategy, Biden’s ads focus is not on the flashy and in-your face-ads. Instead, they tend to switch up the copy while using the same or similar videos/images and aim for a calming or feel-good ad. This is pretty much the polar opposite of what Trump’s team is going for and depending on the platform you are using they are either neutral or do not reward these types of ads as much.
Unlike how Trump’s strategy changes up from platform to platform it looks like Biden has taken a similar approach to SEM as he has Facebook Ads.
Despite the lack of comparative budget and minimal ad spend, Jorgensen and her team did a good job of creating a steady brand. Her ads lean on the side of Biden’s but instead of keeping the same ad and trying out different versions of the copy, they are constantly switching everything up – all while maintaining a common brand tone and a consistent brand voice.
There are three facets to every marketing journey:
- The hook
- The story
- The offer
When looking at the candidates’ ads, it seems like Trump’s images have the most consistent hook as well as the most consistent copy hook. Having a consistent hook is critical because without a good hook, people will stop paying attention before your story and offer come around.
Biden’s approach with this triptych is interesting. His hook, story and offer take a completely different approach from Trump that would appeal well to his supporters.
Jorgensen does a reasonable job with the hook and story, although there’s only so much one can do with a minimal ad spend.
Here’s a brief overview of where the different platforms are at as of now regarding political ads:
- Spotify took a firm and early stand and blocked all political ads in early 2020.
- Twitter has banned most with a few exceptions.
- Google allows political campaigns to target people by age, gender, and postal code but nothing more.
- Bing has disallowed advertising for all election-related content, political parties, candidates, and ballot measures globally.
- TikTok has banned all political ads.
- LinkedIn has always banned political ads.
When you first glance at the charts, the small differences are what make all the difference here They are targeting a similar percentage when it comes to ages 45-54 which makes sense since that tends to be a pretty split age group.
Trump’s demographic tends to lean towards older people, with 37% of his targeting going toward people aged 55 and up. This group is about 29% of the current American population and consists of around 95 million people.
On the other hand, Biden is focusing his targeting on a younger crowd, with over 30% of his targeting focused on those ages 25-44. This demographic is about 27% of the population and consists of approximately 88 million people.
Although different sources vary this is the average of the information I found.
When it comes to targeting based on gender, Biden has a slightly more female leaning targeting but it is still male-dominated when you look at it as a whole. This is interesting because the overall population of the USA is split pretty evenly between males and females but they’re targeting males.
Jorgensen is not included here because there is not enough information due to the small number of ads she has produced.
In the 2016 election, only about 56% of eligible voters voted. This year, we are expecting a surge of voters and possibly the highest level of voting in decades if not the past century. This election year has consisted of a lot of learning, revamping, and creating for everyone but especially those in charge of (and working for) campaigns at all levels, including the presidency.
Due to circumstances that are outside of anyone’s control, we are seeing a new type of campaigning, and it will be interesting to see not just if, but indeed how, it continues onwards once the last vote is counted.
Whether representing a brand or a candidate, creating and running a fully-fledged digital marketing campaign is no easy task. In order to succeed, each section of it needs to work in harmony with the others. With so much on the line this November, it’s imperative that a campaign fire on all of its marketing cylinders.
So which campaign will voters respond to more?
We’ll find out on November 3rd.
If you need help with any of your digital marketing, feel free to book a free consultation. It would be our pleasure to support you in any way that we can!