7 SEO 2 Techniques Obama Used to Score on the Web

Iconic “Progress” Obama campaign poster by Shepard Fairey

What is SEO 2? It’s not just about getting found via search engines!

It is a term that encompasses modern techniques of making a message heard online.

It’s also using any feasible way of reaching an audience by use of the Web.

Barack Obama was among the first politicians who uses the Web to popularize ideas!

Read how he actually did it and see the examples for yourself.

SEO 2 Techniques the Obama Campaign Employed

The whole blog here covers SEO 2 techniques. There are about 400 posts on it!

Thus let us just focus on the few techniques that were successfully used here.

Some of the typical SEO 2 techniques the Obama campaign employed were:

  • business blogging
  • social Media participation
  • online reputation building (not solely management)
  • video, especially viral video
  • user experience (UX) focused website (instead of looking fancy)
  • local SEO (optimization for Google Local/Maps etc.)

Indeed back in 2008 the Obama campaign exhibited inspiring ways of popularizing his message.

He was been far better at employing modern web technologies than the McCain campaign

McCain lagged behind on the Web and preferred more traditional ways of disseminating his message.

I already outlined this in my Obama vs McCain post.

The Web alone does not make you a President though.

We’ve seen the Republican candidate Ron Paul fail spectacularly despite dominating social sites like Reddit.

In spite or maybe even due to his overwhelming Web presence – especially on social news sites – Ron Paul was just a negligible candidate in the end.

Nonetheless Barack Obama is also hugely popular in real life.

We can see it based on the campaign funding from citizens and the large crowds that followed him everywhere.

Whereas the McCain campaign had to order school kids to fill in the ranks like they did in the former Soviet Union.

From a SEO and SEO 2 perspective you can’t help to admire Obama for his Internet campaign.

Thus I will outline the 7 SEO 2 techniques of the Obama campaign

Using them allowed Barack Obama to score with on the Web.

Ultimately he would become president of the US twice – in 2008 and again in 2012.


Pull vs Push
SEO 2 relies entirely on pull tactics that is attracting people’s attention to make them followers.

It’s similar to permission marketing as explained by Seth Godin or inbound marketing as introduced by Hubspot.

Conventional SEO 1.0 in contrast depends on push tactics to force people to see a message even if they don’t like it.

The Ron Paul campaign used especially obvious push tactics flooding social news sites like Reddit.

The Obama campaign relied on people subscribing themselves voluntarily on

  • MySpace
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Yet he also let people subscribe by mail on his own website.

The subscription form was in the center of the site and the calls to action were strong.

The McCain campaign did use social media as well but far less prominently and successfully.

They focused mostly on their own site.

Obama’s blog has been far more lively than McCain’s.

As I already have written it has offered both better quality content and the number of blog posts is much higher.

On the other hand the blog has created some serious information overflow no single person can digest.

There were more than 20 posts on one day after the last debate!

This surge of activity will drive more search traffic though.

Viral video
One of the first things many people noticed on the Web in connection with Obama’s campaign was a viral video made but musicians and actors.

The video has a very positive empowering message and it has a quality on its own.

You can watch without being interested in politics.

It’s not just a “cool video” in case you like Obama already but it makes sense to watch it just for the music or the recognition of super stars.

Also it has much “beautiful people” value with appearances by famous actress Scarlett Johansson for instance.

The McCain campaign focused on their conventional video ads displaying them right away on their website.

This is probably the better solution for more conservative voters they aim at.


Social Networking
I mentioned MySpace, Facebook and Twitter above.

Yet the Obama campaign used far more social networks, especially “niche” social networking communities.

Obama appeared on sites where religious people, sexual or ethnic minorities or other groups convene online.

This can also backfire in some cases as examples show.

On Glee the first thing we saw on Obama’s profile was an anti-Obama ad.

A 3 days old post titled “Will you join Barack on Election Night?” got ignored.

It had also an embarrassing zero comments after all that time.

Also the number of “friends” on hispanic Batanga seems to be pretty low (177).

UX focused website
Business oriented web design is not artsy, fancy, flashy or decorative!

UX focused website design is based on your objectives.

The most important element of web design for ROI (Return on Investment) is not the homepage (which must look cool in conventional web design) it’s the forms.

Obama’s website greeted you with a form. A form that encouraged participation.

When you skipped the first form you encountered more forms like that on the main page and throughout the website.


Local SEO
While subscribing on Obama’s site they ask you where you live “Enter Your Zip Code” and then you get localized alerts.

This ensures that your online subscription does not make you an armchair activist but also has community relevance locally.

Mobile Marketing
Obama not only provided a text messaging subscription and a mobile phones website version (which seemed to be made in an outdated format though, WAP) he also offered an iPhone app.

The iPhone has been the single most popular smartphone to access the Web during the election.

Whether you supported Senator Obama or not you have to admit that his usage of web tools for his campaign has been outstanding

and far more advanced than of any campaign before. Many people won’t agree with the label SEO or SEO 2 to describe this phenomenon but that’s exactly what SEO 2 is about.

As Obama prevailed nobody will be ever able to ignore SEO 2 techniques to spread the word on the Web again.

More insights on the successful Obama campaign and SEO 2 elsewhere on the Web:

Updated: April 10th, 2018: added line breaks and white space for mobile users. Removed broken link. Simplified the sentence structure.

Updated: June 30th, 2015: Removed/fixed broken links, added white space.