June 17th, 2020

*Article originally posted on Campaigns & Elections

The traditional campaign playbook has been turned upside down this year. Campaigns are now experimenting with a host of digital strategies to engage supporters online. But Facebook ads, virtual town halls, and Zoom fundraisers are not enough. Google search results will make or break all 2020 campaigns.

As we continue to practice social distancing, online search, not meet-and-greets or rallies, is how your candidate will be found. So now is the time to be asking yourself — how strong is your candidate’s digital profile? And do you know how they look from every corner of your district (search results can differ zip code to zip code)?

First, let’s catch up with the latest stats on the 5.6 billion Google searches that are done each day. Websites receive three times more traffic from Google search than from social media accounts. Also:

  • 93% of online experiences begin with search

  • 92% of people never click past page one of search results

  • 67% of all website visits begin with search

In other words, your digital campaign will not succeed without the ability to master Google search results. Understanding these results is key to controlling public perception, engaging supporters, and in fact where your race will be won or lost.

There are many factors that determine if a candidate has a strong profile, a weak one, or lacks one altogether. There are scores of data sources that can be used to manage online profiles, but they are complicated, costly and require digital expertise. Pity U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), who has to compete with the economist Adam Smith, now dead for 230 years. In spite of working on Capitol Hill since 1998, Rep. Smith still doesn’t exist to those who search his name on Google and don’t go past page one.

For Rep. Smith, a key tactic would be search engine marketing (SEM) and an investment in Google ad buys. However, stronger website optimization for himself and his campaign would go a long way. For the majority of down-ballot candidates, search result analysis and improving candidate digital profiles is a mandate.

It’s no secret that campaign staffers are scrambling for digital expertise and are looking to technology to assist them with challenges like those that face Rep. Smith. One new tech platform that is proving to be extremely helpful to campaigns is Lightbox. Lightbox reveals which websites, video content, and news releases work for a candidate — and which don’t.

The platform aggregates data from an array of advanced and complex sources in the context of real search results. The outcome: campaigns gain actionable intelligence, including opposition research, without the time and expense of managing information across multiple data sources.

The David Holden for Florida campaign in the state’s 19th Congressional district uses Lightbox to make strategic and tactical decisions. The platform helps staffers keep their war room digitally ahead of both their primary and general election opponents.

“Lightbox instantly tells us what websites, content and news releases work and don’t work, and it even ‘scores’ our page-one results,” said Allison Sardinas, campaign manager for David Holden for Florida. “The platform gives us an immediate snapshot of our progress or challenges, and we can track results over time. This technology came along at a critical time for us.”

So while Covid-19 may have changed campaigning as we knew it, those who adapt quickly can still prevail. Lightbox is a powerful tool that helps campaigns succeed in virtually connecting with constituents, while we all continue to keep our distance.

Laurence Moskowitz, a communications executive and entrepreneur, is internationally regarded as an expert in crisis communications, issues management and strategic communications. He was named one of the 10 most influential public relations executives of the 20th Century by PR Week magazine. Larry founded Lightbox Search in 2018 and sister company Lumentus in 2009.


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