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Clinton v Trump: Who has won the battle for search visibility?

The race for search visibility in the 2016 presidential election is close, too. / DonkeyHotey/Flickr.com: https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/24101702220

As the world anxiously awaits the results of the 2016 presidential election, data from SEO firm Searchmetrics indicates the race for search visibility is perhaps too close for comfort, too.

In fact, according to analysis of the official campaign websites, while Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has the lead in terms of SEO visibility, Searchmetrics’ measure of how often and how prominently a site appears in search results, Republican rival Donald Trump is ahead on what Searchmetrics called “certain key issues” and his website does “a very good job” of appealing to users with specific intentions.

Indeed, each candidate's site has advantages: Clinton’s content is more focused on the candidate and her policies and has triple the backlinks, while Trump’s pages are less cluttered and provide a better user experience, which helps boost search visibility, Searchmetrics said.

That’s because Trump’s response to the user’s request is clearer and content is structured in a way that makes finding information faster and simpler, Searchmetrics said. What’s more, Trump’s policy pages have a nearly identical structure, while Clinton’s pages are less consistent.

“Trump’s user-friendly advantages help his policy page keep up its Visibility, even though it cannot compete with Clinton in terms of content range and depth,” Searchmetrics said.

And even though Clinton has far more backlinks, there is less of a gulf in the candidates’ SEO visibility scores with Clinton just 1.4% higher, Searchmetrics said.

“It could be that Trump’s links are from [higher authority] sites than [Clinton’s], meaning Google rates them more highly,” Searchmetrics added. “And donaldjtrump.com has other factors contributing to its SEO visibility, perhaps the fact that his content is clear and more focused with a better user experience – in fact, as the importance of backlinks in determining a page’s Google rank has declined, this is the more likely scenario.”

Interestingly, when describing their opponent’s positions or statements, Searchmetrics data shows neither has a single link on their entire domain to their rival’s campaign site – although Clinton does link to Trump’s Twitter page.

Further, according to Searchmetrics analysis of each candidate’s top organic competitors, hillaryclinton.com is only Trump’s 10th strongest competitor, while donaldjtrump.com is 229th on Clinton’s list.

“In spite of the competition, both candidates’ domains have significantly increased their SEO Visibility in tandem over the past few weeks, with both now at their highest level of the whole campaign,” Searchmetrics said. “This suggests that both candidates are appealing to user intention better than ever as the big day draws ever nearer.”

And while Searchmetrics said Clinton’s website was more visible as of November 7, it also noted the lead has changed hands several times over the past 12 months.

Policy

Not surprisingly, both candidates have sections on their sites for policy, but Clinton has 109 distinct pages versus 27 from Trump. However, Searchmetrics said it’s closer when you compare the search visibility of the two sections, which means Trump’s pages are “doing a good job competing.”

Furthermore, among the top ten shared keywords of these policy sections – which include 'immigration', 'tax' and 'health care plans' – Trump ranks higher for 65%.

“Clinton’s policy section performs better when people are searching for content that’s about her or her own policies, while Trump’s is more likely to show up in more general searches around political policy and issues,” Searchmetrics said in a blog post. “For example, of the 75 keywords in the policy section for which Clinton ranks in first position, all of them but two (ie 97.4%) contain the term ‘Hillary’ or ‘Clinton’ or both. Trump’s [policy] pages rank in first position 17 times, but only three (17.6%) contain the words ‘Donald’ or ‘Trump.’”

This, in turn, means Clinton’s pages will be found primarily by users specifically looking for information about Clinton and her policies while Trump’s page will be found by people searching for general information.

Paid search

Unlike consumer-facing brands, however, neither candidate “is too bothered” when it comes to paid search advertising, Searchmetrics said. In fact, its paid Visibility scores, which demonstrate how active a site is in paid search, show Clinton and Trump are not investing much in search ads, with current levels at or close to zero.

Further, while Clinton has been investing in search engine advertising for over a year, Trump only began using it the week of 17 July, which was the week before the Republican National Convention, Searchmetrics said.

And both mostly speak to their own supporters rather than covering and challenging opposing views… such as on issues like gun control. Case in point: The dedicated page on Trump’s site is 'Constitution and Second Amendment,' while Clinton’s is 'Gun Violence Prevention.'

Further, Searchmetrics said content analysis revealed Trump’s page ranks for almost three times as many keywords as Clinton’s and of the 150 keywords Trump’s page ranks for, 128 (85.3%) relate directly to the Second Amendment. At the same time, while of the 56 keywords Clinton ranks for, only two relate to Second Amendment rights and 44 relate to gun control. Only 12 (8.0%) of Trump’s keywords relate to control.

And, per Searchmetrics, because both Trump and Clinton have pages that focus heavily on their chosen policy directions, both are “primarily preaching to their respective choirs.”

In addition, Searchmetrics said content performance analysis of Clinton’s page shows “a whole slew of keywords either absent or insufficiently included.”

That means “there is therefore enormous scope for adapting her content to include the other side of the issue and potentially encroach on her opponent’s territory,” Searchmetrics added.

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