TLDR Key Takeaways
- Time is a luxury that should not be taken for granted and you should always get the most out of it.
- 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 more.
This election will make history, not only is it a pivotal time in our country’s history but it will also be the first election in history where the candidates’ digital marketing spends will cross a billion dollars. And with the election coming up at an exceedingly rapid pace it is no secret that everyone’s campaigns are in full swing.
Thanks to the coronavirus, the playing field has been leveled for other candidates to come in and have a fighting chance. One needs to have a strong digital marketing presence to take advantage of the occasion though. Sadly, this did not exist in time to take advantage of it for some candidates.
Because of COVID-19, we are also seeing three times the amount spent on digital ads compared to the previous elections. In recent elections, most of their digital campaigning was done through TV, which made it difficult to ignore. But now digital marketing affects every single one of us, from social media ads to email marketing, and more it is impossible to escape.
From all sides, we are being bombarded more than ever before with constant updates on the elections, candidates, polls, etc. You can both see and feel the presence of it all in your day to day life.
Never before in history has social media and digital marketing techniques been used at such an intense level With billions of American dollars being spent, and years of preparation all on the line.
All of the candidates and their teams had to revamp their strategies due to coronavirus restrictions and social distancing. They had to switch from booking arenas to booking ads and watch their ad budget skyrocket. Some candidates have more than doubled what they were spending on digital advertising in January 2020.
Each candidate and their teams have a unique approach for how they go about campaigning, especially when it comes to digital marketing. I have broken down the tactics that each of them are using when it comes to web design, SEO, paid ads, and more.
On July 15 of this year, Trump announced that Brad Parscale has been demoted. This was news because Parscale was almost famous for reverse-engineering ad audiences as Trump’s digital director and political advisor in 2016 to help him with his current seat at the White House. Most speculate that if it wasn’t for him, their powerful ad budget and testing Trump would have lost the election in 2016. Trump’s campaign manager is now Bill Stepien, and Paracale is still on his team but as a Senior Advisor.
Biden has only recently upped the digital campaigning for his presidency. He did this by hiring four new digital/online experts within the past few months, including Medha Raj, who is now the digital chief of staff. Clarke Humphrey was also hired who worked on Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, she will act as the Biden campaign's new Deputy Digital Director.
Jorgensen has Elaine Joan as her social media director, but it looks like there is no leader of digital marketing in general. This is most likely due to having a much smaller budget compared to Biden and Trump. The role of a social media director usually is in charge of monitoring, moderating, and responding to comments, as well as curating content, managing partnerships, basically all of the organic ways of generating traffic. They tend to not deal with paid search, email marketing, etc. as much.
One thing that will be a trend throughout this post is the impact of Trump having such a long head start compared to the competitors. His campaign for 2020 started the second he stepped foot into the oval office. There was never a moment when they took a seat and relaxed. Trump and his team continued their efforts to build the campaign and never took their eyes off the prize, which gave them momentum heading into the 2020 election. So he is far ahead of the rest when it comes to numbers the public can see.
The main issue that keeps coming up is time, there is never enough of it. Time is the one thing that you can never get back. Unfortunately, Biden, Jorgensen, and their teams did not spend enough time in the early years getting their digital marketing programs up to the level that Trump’s is at.
This may be an easily overlooked part of the candidates’ digital marketing strategies, but it is extremely important to their success. 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 thor email list, no one will donate, and no one will look up events or do anything that they need people to do to win.
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, and when I say always I mean always. 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 right then you’ll get a call-to-action (CTA) letting you know of an offer, future rally, sign up, donation, etc.
Once you click out or fill out, the popup you are greeted by more CTAs. The copy on Trump’s website does a good job of building a sense of community while still being to the point. As you can see there are about five CTAs on this area of the page alone. They want you to take action, not just visit the website.
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 that is asking you to donate. 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 but if someone is constantly visiting the website it could potentially get annoying.
Once you reach his website it has a similar layout to Trump’s website. This makes sense and is the “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it” kind of mindset. Similar to Trump’s website Biden is trying to build a sense of community and is keeping it quite simple with the single sentence line comparable to Trump’s. Biden has the most comprehensive homepage consisting of quotes, videos, CTAs, and more.
From what I’ve seen Jorgensen does not have a popup. This seems like a pretty big missed opportunity because popups tend to have a high conversion rate (CVR) and are extremely easy to set up.
Other than that there isn’t anything super special about her website, the depth of her content is not the best, but considering how new her website is. On the home page, she has virtually the same CTAs as Biden does with slightly different formatting.
Below are the statistics from the different websites, since Jorgensen’s is so new there is not enough data on for me to include her’s in this. It would make sense that Trump’s pages per visit and average visit duration are higher purely because of the amount of CTAs he has on his website.
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 bad end of average. With an average bounce rate being roughly 41-55%.
SEO is not something the average person instantly thinks about when it comes to digital marketing. Probably because they are not constantly being bombarded with it. Regardless of what the everyday public might think, it is a very important factor, even for something like an election.
Right off the bat, Trump has a major advantage since he had his website since April of 2015, meaning before Biden or Jorgensen had or possibly even thought about starting a website he was getting traffic in the millions monthly.
Biden launched his website in May of 2019, but as you can see his organic traffic is still nowhere near where Trump’s is at.
You may think that Biden was a little late to the game, which is true, considering he got his website in May of 2019. It is a substantial lead though when you compare it to Jorgensen who did not have her website until June of 2020, only a mere five months before the election. Although she has had a striking peak of traffic, which is expected when one is running for president. Unfortunately, that is only the picture when you are looking at her website 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.
When it comes to domain rating (DA) and backlink juice, both essential to SEO, Trump has double the referring domains when compared to Biden. Surprisingly somehow 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. Another surprise, even though Jorgensen’s website is as new as a newborn baby, the URL rating (UR) and domain rating (DR) is quite impressive. It can sometimes take people years to get to a decent DR and/or UR.
Because of the number of backlinks and referring domains aimed at Trump’s website more of the pages rank in positions 1-10, better known 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, so the difference between being in position 10 and position 11 is crucial.
Biden has significantly more pages ranking for 51-100 when compared to Trump, but they are running a pretty close race when it comes to ranking for 21-50. Jorgensen has almost all of her pages ranking in positions 51-100, and for some reason, she and Biden have more pages ranking in the 1-3 positions than positions 4-10.
Facebook by far is the leader when it comes to ad spend per platform.
It is believed that Facebook holds such a strong lead compared to Twitter, Google, Bing, etc. because despite the generally strict rules on their ads they have yet to impose any specific restrictions or bans on political ads. If anything they are welcoming them with open arms.
If you look through Trump’s Facebook ad spend and ads, I can see that since May of 2018 he has spent over fifty million dollars on Facebook ads alone and over four million dollars in the past week alone. The steep expense is only expected to rise as the election creeps closer and closer. Click here if you want to figure out how to find the ads and ad spend on any Facebook page.
Biden’s Facebook Ads spend at 25 million would have been quite impressive the last election, where Hillary spent 28 million on digital marketing in total, but when you compare it to Trump’s it looks a bit 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, although it might be a bit compared to Trump’s, get ready for your mind to be blown. Jorgensen has spent less than 50 grand in total on her Facebook ads, Trump spends 80 times her total ad spend in a single week.
Paid Search Ads
These can be a tricky thing because it has become increasingly difficult to have anything political in your ads, let alone be running a presidential campaign. Thankfully if there is a will there’s a way and their teams have found a way.
One thing that is a plus is that most likely there is very little competition for the keywords they are going after. The entire world is not trying to run for president while the entire world can probably find something to make a bracelet and try to sell it online. Even between candidates, the overlap between keywords is close to nonexistent.
One thing that is quite surprising is that Biden’s paid search traffic rose above Trump’s in June. It makes sense since Trump’s campaign is heavily focused on Facebook Ads, this is a valid but interesting move because despite the restrictions Paid Search Ads are rather important too. And it is necessary to have a well rounded digital campaign, especially including all different ad variations.
Another thing that is crucial if they want to win, especially for Facebook ads, is testing ads/copy. This is something that Trump’s team did extremely well in 2016 which is another thing that made Trump so successful. Hillary tested an almost pathetic 66,000 different ads while Trump tested that many daily.
If anything this is more important than it was in the 2016 election due to a world 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.
When looking at the ads that Trump’s team is serving their strategy becomes crystal clear. They are 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, or SERP. This tactic worked well for them in 2016 and they are hoping that it’ll work again in 2020.
My host dad saw a Trump ad the other day that made him cry, they want to provoke emotion and are succeeding at it.
When it comes to Paid Search Ads the team takes a slightly different, 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.
Now to Biden, as opposed 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 budget, minimal ad spend, and possible lack of strategy/prep she and her team have still done a good job of creating a steady brand for Jorgensen. 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 keeping the same calm and collected yet excited tone.
I do not believe Jorgensen and her team are doing any Google Ads. From what I found Jorgensen is staying consistent with the other candidates and using mostly Facebook ads.
One thing that all marketers know well is the hook, story, offer. When looking at the candidate’s ads it seems like Trump’s images have the best hook, and possibly the best copy hook as well. Having a good hook is critical because without a good hook your story and offer and pointless.
Biden’s approach with this is interesting, the ads themselves just seem a bit bland. The hook isn’t eye-catching, the story isn’t something someone could relate to and it doesn’t make me want to get up and take action since there is a bit of a lack of an offer.
Jorgensen does a pretty good job with the hook and story, nothing is mind-blowing but it isn’t necessarily lacking. The offer is a bit convoluted though
It is one thing to have and to test ads, but figuring out the perfect person to target is an entirely different undertaking. You need to target people that will take action and action that you want. So obviously they are not going to be targeting anyone under the age of 18 since they cannot vote.
I previously mentioned that Facebook was welcoming political ads while the other platforms are not. Here’s a brief overview of where the different platforms are at as of now:
- 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
- Similar to Spotify TikTok has banned all political ads
- LinkedIn has always banned political ads
When you first glance at the charts below they look pretty similar but the small differences are what stand out. 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 USA population and is around 95 million people.
On the other hand, Biden is focusing his targeting 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.
The running joke or possible joke of Kanye running for office in 2020 has been circulating for quite some time now. Although he has not taken any actual steps to follow through with it. He has still created quite the stir and debate around the subject. Particularly with his tweet on July 4 2020 which read “We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States #2020VISION”.
It brought up questions, concerns, and people questioning if he is genuinely serious or not.
On July 19, 2020, Kanye held his first and possibly last rally or at least something that slightly resembled a rally, in Charleston, South Carolina. Where he said some very controversial things and less than 24 hours later he was taken off of the South Carolina ballot. He is still on the ballot in Oklahoma though, but it seems quite obvious that he is not serious about becoming president; he simply wants a vessel to make his name and brand known to an even wider population.
One thing that Kanye does not have to worry about is digital marketing. He has spent his entire career marketing himself, building a brand, and gaining a following. Now, if he ever does commit to running for president all he has to do is turn those followers into voters.
In the previous 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 presidential campaigns.
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 if it continues into future elections.
It will also be intriguing to see which strategy ends up on top.
Creating a digital marketing campaign is no easy task and each section of it needs to work in harmony with the others. It is a massive undertaking and with so much on the line it is not the time to fool around.
I know we are all wondering who will be victorious. Will it be the loud, bold, and sometimes anger producing ads? The warm and fuzzy younger crowd? The underdog with a small budget but a big heart? Or the man, the myth, the legend, Kanye?
Only time will tell.
If you need help with any of your digital marketing, feel free to book a free consultation. We would love to support you in any way you need.