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Obama Campaign Saw "Ridiculously" High ROI from Google Ads

BY Colin Delany | Wednesday, February 11 2009

Cross-posted at e.politics

Another tip from the Obama campaign: take a solid look at search advertising. At two recent public discussions, members of the winning 2008 new media team have mentioned the effectiveness of Google ads in building the campaign's list of supporters, volunteers and donors. Email team head Stephen Geer alluded to it in passing in a RootsCamp presentation, describing search advertising as having a "ridiculously" high Return On Investment as a list-builder. Joe Rospars talked significantly more at a second NOI-sponsored event last month, divulging that search and contextual ads (Google Ads) were the backbone of the campaign's online advertising outreach, and that a relatively straightforward strategy had been steadily and consistently effective.

Here's the real kicker: when compared with the cost of acquiring supporters via other channels, search advertising absolutely shone, with an ROI Rospars described as approaching 15:1. With contextual ads targeted primarily to sign up new supporters, the core of the campaign's strategy was the obvious "Barack Obama" search, though they did use some issue- and news-cycle-targeted keywords. The new media team bought display advertising significantly less than they did search ads, and focused the display piece of the puzzle more on measurable goals such as list-building than on amorphous "influence-the-discussion" ad runs.

The Obamans weren't the first in the political space to benefit from Google Ad-driven list-building, and they're absolutely not going to be the last. Not all electoral and advocacy campaigners will be as lucky as Rospars, who was a selling a rock star with a transformative public presence, so not everyone's mileage will be as good. And, the rest of us may need to branch out a bit in our use of creative search terms. But, carefully targeted search ads should be a tool high on the list for just about any political communicator.

More from members of the Obama campaign staff on the structure of the new media team, the importance of good content (particularly video) and the use of grassroots data in allocating resources in real-time.

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