Sunday, May 25, 2008

Key Words: PA Republican Challengers

What doesn't work? Campaign buttons . . . because most people wear them once.

What does work? Yard signs . . . particularly in much-travelled areas . . . they're better than billboards.

What doesn't work? Expensive multi-color mailings . . . because they usually get treated as junk mail.

What does work? Talk show appearances . . . where you pay nothing and get to mention your web site several times.

What does work? Candidate web sites that give people a reason to keep returning . . . and to use word-of-mouth to get others to vist -- See Column Below


Recently, I've been talking a lot with my friend and associate Rajan Vaish, a computer genius who lives in India and advises American political campaigns. One of our subjects has been "key words." They're words -- or, more often, short phrases -- that will attract the notice of the software used by Google, Yahoo, and other search engines. Rajan is a human geyser of key words. He has, as we say in America, broken the code.

(When Rajan becomes very rich and famous, remember who first told you about him.)

Basically, it boils down to this: if you use the right words and phrases, you're more likely to be one of the first 10-20 links listed when someone is "googling" (or "yahooing"?). It's somewhat analogous to what advertisers do when they use certain words or phrases to get consumers' rapt attention.

For example, phrases like "pain relief . . . youthful skin . . . new technology . . . youthful appearance . . . freedom from depression . . . free trial . . . lowest prices" and the like appeal to consumers in America and the West. Words that indicate youthfulness, freshness, inexpensiveness, and the like work, so advertisers use them.

With Google and similar search engines, it's a little harder to generalize, because whether words or phrases work depends on the category. If you're pitching a political candidate, you will have different key words than someone peddling "silent" lawnmowers or migraine remedies. What works in youth-loving America wouldn't work as well as in old-age-respecting China. In fact, in China or Japan, someone like John McCain would qualify as a whippersnapper.

What did I think were good key words for this column? Look at the title (excluding the word "for"). I have a hunch -- I didn't do a study -- that the phrase "key words" might wake them up at Google or Yahoo. I avoided my instinct to use the phrase "Republican candidates" and instead took a shot at "Republican Challengers." It sounded "sexier" than the mere candidates.

Oh, and I just took out the bland "for" and put in PA. I thought a lot more people would be searching "PA" than "for." My goal -- like the Republican challengers' -- is to get as many people as possible to come here. Up to this point, I haven't worried too much about that.

The title has five words. I read that Google doesn't like titles of more than five words. If you look at my archives, you'll see dozens of articles, all of them with titles of about five words.

Okay, what does this mean to my Republican candidates -- err, challengers? It means to choose your words carefully. Choose words that are going to attract visitors to your web site -- and, hopefully, to your cause.

As most of the candidates I'm supporting know, I advocate the use of the web site as a major fund-raising device. Everything there, including the words used, should say: "To get my message across, I need your financial help. I'll deeply appreciate any amount you give, small or large."

I advocate that candidates have a short video on the main page of their web site. Videos have great appeal -- much more than, say, an essay. In the world, last year there were seven billion videos online, more than one for every person in the world. Alas, video talks and mere prose walks.

If you can attract 100,000 visitors (sounds like a lot, but isn't if you use the right key words), you probably can get roughly 1,000 of them to donate money. You can of course request their e-mail addresses, which means you can ask them again. "Those who give tend to give more." To my wife's dismay, I fit firmly in that category.

Mr friend Diana Irey, unheard of until she challenged John Murtha in 2006, got 7,000 contributions, with at least two from every state. She had a great web page and still does (http://www.irey.com/).

Diana, although she's physically teenie, is a fierce competitor and a fiery orator. In her video, she didn't ask for money. I think that was a mistake, but next time for Diana -- and there will be one -- I'm sure she will. I will badger her until she does!

What words should you -- as a blogger or a candidate -- avoid? Don't use terms like the following (beloved of an earlier generation of Republicans): "fiscal responsibility . . . fiduciary . . . national security . . . or current-accounts deficit" or acronyms like "FISA" or "CENTCOM" or "NSA." Nobody knows what they mean -- except for people enamored of "DC-Speak."

Instead of fiscal responsibility, talk about "not spending money we don't have." We ordinary Americans know about that. Rather than fiduciary, talk about basic honesty and respect for people who own shares in a company. In the case of national security, it's better to say "protect you and your family."

When I worked in the oil industry, I was researching prices once, and I encountered an economist who talked "the price elasticity of demand." I used it in several speeches in this way: "Price elasticity of demand is a fancy way of saying 'When something costs more, people buy less.""

Any time a candidate -- or anyone in politics -- feels inclined to use a big word or jargon of any kind, they should resist the inclination.

So, if you're a candidate what should you do with your web-site, now to be turned into a money tree? You should give a short audio-video presentation -- two-minutes or less. That's about 200 words.

You should appeal directly to visitors for their support. You should tell them right where the contribute button is and ask them to click on it. You should establish close links between you and the visitors.

On Tuesday, I'm going to talk more about key words and web sites. I'm not going to give out everything I know or suggest. In a sense, it's proprietary, which in my unusual definition means I don't want Democrats to get it. I have some regular visitors from the House of Representatives and, welcome as they are, they're probably my candidates' opponents. To them, I say, in the words of John Belushi, "No Pepsi for you!"

Hint: I don't think candidates can go wrong using these words: "your money . . . your family . . . your personal freedom . . . your retirement savings . . . your home . . . your rights as an American . . . your protection from harm . . . your piece of the American Dream" And, oh yes, "our country . . . our flag . . . our way of life."

For new visitors, these are the Pennsylvania congressional candidates I'm supporting in every way I can:

Michael Livingston (2d district) at http://livingstonforcongress.com/
Melissa Hart (4th district) at http://peoplewithhart.com/
Toni Gilhooley (17th district) at http://gilhooleyforcongress.com/
Marina Kats (13th district) at http://katsforcongress.com/
Tom Manion (8th district) at http://votemanion.com/
Craig Williams (7th district) at http://craigwilliamsforcongress.com/

If you go to those sites, you won't get a free tank of gas (but I bet "free gas" is a Google favorite)

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parnika said...
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