Obama’s Link Strategy Fuels Election Victory

Without a doubt, Barack Obama creamed John McCain when it came to links. Yahoo Site Explorer shows nearly 2 million links to www.barackobama.com, but just over 900,000 links to www.johnmccain.com.

Let’s look closer at these numbers so you can learn from them and possibly apply them to your own situation.

Look at the Landscape

According to data released by Rubicon Consulting, “Democrats are more active online than Republicans. Democrats are more likely to participate in online communities, and say they’re more heavily influenced in their voting decisions by information they find online.”

It’s easy to see that the Internet is more friendly to liberals and Democrats just by perusing the leading headlines at Digg. As of the writing of this column, these were some of the top headlines in the world and business section:

For reasons I don’t want to speculate on, liberal-leaning people favor the Internet, so McCain had an uphill battle to begin with. Obama’s base was more saturated in the overall landscape.

Consider the Liberal Audience

If you have a product or service that caters to issues that Democrats care about, you’ll probably have an easier time gathering interest and links than a business that serves a Republican audience.

To take this understanding a step further, apply it to other audiences. For example, more people search online for cars and houses than excavator parts. So, you would probably have an easier time garnering links to a site that offered interesting information or entertainment about cars and houses compared to excavators.

That’s not to say you can’t get links for an excavator parts Web site or a conservative issues Web site. They just might be harder to come by.

Also, remember that Obama’s Web site was built for interaction and community since the beginning. I reported back in August 2007 how Obama was leading the social media revolution by having a larger Internet presence and a more energized base.

One of the most visionary, forward-thinking actions of Obama’s campaign was hiring Chris Hughes, the co-founder of Facebook, to act as coordinator of online organizing within the Obama presidential campaign on My.BarackObama.com, the campaign’s online social networking Web site.

Ultimately, they built a link strategy right into the core of their online strategy. Granted, they wouldn’t have classified it as a link building campaign — it was a social networking campaign. However, links are a direct product of a successful Web site.

They didn’t say, “Now that we have a Web site, why don’t we give people a place to participate?” Instead, they said, “How can we make a Web site that continually energizes our supporters and becomes a major resource online?”

What This Means to You

Does your business or organization revolve around an issue people feel strongly about? GM’s Fastlane blog has 140,112 links pointing to it. GM and the entire American auto industry is extremely interesting right now.

If your business is remarkably unremarkable, consider featuring an important aspect of your life — a charity, a social group, or a hobby.

Don’t start a link campaign after your Web site is completed. It should be built into the very design and fabric of the Web site.

The next time you redesign your Web site, ask your designer at one of the first meetings about a strategy for attracting people to link to your site. You’ll have a significantly easier time building links this way rather than asking how you’ll get links to your site after it’s completed.

As a marketer, I love to watch presidential campaigns because they burn extremely hot for a very short period of time. There can be very few mistakes all the while making major risks and innovations.

And in the end it’s life or death. One campaign wins and one campaign loses. We can all learn a great deal by studying presidential politics.

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