3 things politics teaches you about good SEO

As the political campaign season rolls around and we all get bombarded with “news” about the candidates, I’m reminded: like SEO, you can either buy your way to the top or you can earn it. Surprise hint about the ending of this post – one choice is much better than the other.

Here are 3 ways to effectively grow your business online, taught to us by our politicians.

1 – Grassroots efforts win

Have you ever seen a grassroots candidate before? They generally start off very small, get almost no advertising time and sometimes are not even invited to the debates. They have little money but they generally have a good message. They usually haven’t been seeking out power their whole lives, but are encouraged to run by others because they are seen as the best person for the job.

These people have a small, but passionate fan base. These candidates hold small town-hall type meetings and actually listen to people and answer their questions. Their supporters will even go door-to-door to pass out information and tell people about how great their candidate is.

When you have a real message that serves the greater good, you can create a campaign and people will get behind it. When you just want to be elected for your own personal ego, you flip-flop your views on every issue (depending on your audience) and no one fully trusts you. You have to buy your way to the top.

2 – You’ll go broke buying your way to the top

Politicians, like businesses, have two ways to spread their message – permission marketing and interruption marketing. Seth Godin talks a lot about these forms of communication and is considered the ultimate Guru of marketing by most in the field.

Let’s take two easy examples…

Scenario #1: Interruption marketing

You live in a state where there will soon be a vote for a primary election. You sit down to watch your favorite 30-minute program and before it starts you see an ad (#1 of many) for candidate A talking about how many horrible things candidate B has done last year. Then the show starts.

10 minutes into the program you get the second commercial, this time from candidate B about how he has fought for many years to help people just like you get a better life, you should vote for him. Now back to the show.

A little more time passes and now, right before the kicker at the end of the show (that you’ve been waiting 27 minutes for) commercial number 3 from candidate C comes on, who luckily informs you that both A and B are liars and flip-floppers, by playing meshed-together audio clips from speeches 2 years ago from both of them.

And roll the show’s credits.

As you get up in disgust that your 30-minute show was only actually 18 minutes long, you hear candidate A in the background playing his same ad.. again.

Did you say to yourself, “I’d love to learn about some of the candidates’ opinions on foreign policy, I better turn on How I Met Your Mother so I can get educated” No.

Do you care about what’s going on in the political race and who is bashing who? Maybe.

Did you want to hear all about it right now? No.

Did you just want to watch How I Met Your Mother? Yes.

Voilà the pleasures of interruption marketing.

Scenario #2: let’s take a look at permission marketing.

Taken directly from Seth Godin’s article on PM – “Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”

Permission marketing is delivering a message that your audience WANTS to hear. You create an expectation, (one message per week via email) and then they accept or deny your offer (they give you their email address or they don’t). If they accept, you stick to your deal, one newsletter per week. You don’t sell your list, you don’t send them affiliate offers, you send them one email per week. It might seem like it’s not working — you don’t hear anything back, you don’t know if they care, you just sit there and stick to your deal, because that was your promise.

You know you’re doing it right if you miss a newsletter and get emails saying “hey, are you still there? I didn’t get your newsletter”. That’s how you know you’re winning.

Interruption marketing doesn’t create ecstatic fans who spread your message to everyone you know. It creates annoyed people who are waiting to get back to what they were doing.

Ask for permission.

3 – if you don’t have a (grassroots) audience, people forget you when you stop paying for their attention

Many business don’t have killer content, or a great audience or anything “to say”. They just want to sell their product and make money. With the evolution of SEO and today’s customer, just selling a widget isn’t enough. You need an experience, a story. Widget X is sold at Wal-Mart — there’s nothing special about it.

So how do you get to the top if you aren’t the best? Pay a lot of money.

Now we aren’t against PPC, there’s a place and purpose for everything (testing new products, ideas, profitability) but it’s not the way to win in the long run.

Mediocre people pay for eyeballs. When the money’s gone, the audience is gone — and so are you. You disappear into the noise that we’re all bombarded with everyday.

The winners grow organically by producing amazing stuff. Amazing products, amazing content, amazing tools, amazing freebies. That is how you win fans, 1 by 1. Those fans don’t jump ship tomorrow. They are your currency that earns interests as they post your message on Facebook, or forward your email to their friends, or show off their new purchase to their family.

They can’t wait for more of your stuff.

Organic SEO is the same way. Day after day it brings in thousands of customers who want your product or your information, now. They’ve come to your site and if you reward them with showing them what they want, they will reward you by buying. You stand out because of your excellence. And how much did that acquisition cost? You could say $0, or count the cost of that piece of content. Either way, a minimal amount of money brings in customers for free for life.

Interruption marketers will never have that. They’ll pay out left and right trying to buy a tiny bit of the new world currency — your attention.

Just earn it instead.

Photo by Seansie

About Jordan Godbey

runs ZoomSpring SEO and has been doing SEO since 2008. He focuses on getting links that the competition can't and providing actionable analytics for his clients. You can follow him on twitter at @jordangodbey


  1. Great post. How does “consumer interaction” fit in with all of this?

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3 things politics teaches you about good SEO