Many local candidates only start thinking about how they are portrayed online after they begin their political campaign. What many fail to realize is that you (or others that share your name) already exist online. When voters type in your name into Google, what do they see today? What will they see in the run-up to your election? And what do you think people will see about you after a major scandal has rocked your political campaign?
At the time of this writing, a controversy involving Anthony Weiner, a U.S. Representative for New York’s 9th congressional district, has entered it’s second week. We won’t rehash the issue here, but we are using his situation as an example of what can happen to someone’s search results following a political scandal.
As we take a look at search results for the name ‘Anthony Weiner’, keep in mind he has a long political career behind him and during that time has been featured in the media quite often. Also, keep in mind that adding any other terms to this search would have provided very different results. For this example, we’re just sticking with his name.
The pink areas represent areas in the first page Google results that would be considered ‘negative’.
Okay, let’s break this down.
The News results appear on top of the general search results. There isn’t much anyone can do to control that. That section is comprised of larger news sources. If you are in a smaller campaign with less coverage, it’s possible that there would not even a News block.
Next is Wikipedia. This article is already updated with the latest on the scandal. Wikipedia is edited by others. There isn’t much a candidate can do about their listing. If a candidate or a staffer tries to repeatedly edit an article, that can lead to more trouble.
The next few listings are neutral/positive or are controlled by Weiner. There are two videos, two websites and a Twitter account listing controlled by Weiner. If he updates the two sites or the Twitter account, it’s possible they may move up a notch. The only reason those listings are still in the top ten are because the items have been around for a while and probably have a large number of links to them.
Rounding out the top ten is a TMZ post, a Buzzfeed page and a Politico article. TMZ and Politico are authoritative websites whose articles tend to rank well, so no surprise there. I suspect the Buzzfeed page might have helped break the scandal and built up a large number of backlinks early on. Otherwise, I don’t know why it’s in there over another similar page.
Finally, there are the related searches. Most of them are actually related to his legislative record. If he did not have that record, there’s a good chance the related search topics would be quite different.
All in all, it could have been much worse for Weiner. His online history helped prevent a complete meltdown of his search results. Even an image search on his name was not as bad as it could have been.
And that was with SafeSeach OFF!
It does not look like Rep. Weiner has done much to combat this negative material. Press releases or even acknowledgement of the scandal on his websites would probably have ranked well. Additional material, controlled by Weiner, could have presented a more flattering view of the situation or at least help present his side of the controversy.
Your online political campaign begins today. Building your online reputation takes time and some effort. This can mean creating LinkedIn and Naymes profiles, building a network of future supporters on Facebook and even starting a campaign website as early as possible to tie them all together.
You can be sure that unflattering things will appear about you online. It can come from your opponent’s campaign website, a newspaper article, a local blogger or even a negative comment on a discussion board. Your goal as a candidate to keep that material from appearing or pushing it down as best you can when voters search for you. To do that requires monitoring and proactively putting out your own content.
Considering Rep. Weiner’s problems, he’s pretty lucky to still have the search results he has for his own name. Without addressing the problem, it’s hard to say what his search results will be a few months from now.
Running For Office as an Online Candidate explores strategies in developing and promoting your campaign online. It covers everything from establishing an online reputation and social networking to campaign websites, online advertising and fundraising. Fully updated for 2011. Download a sample or get the full version today!