First there was the “Spreading Santorum” website. And there was a big fuss over that. Many believed it was crude and uncalled-for, and as Rick Santorum gained in the polls and in the public eye, there were calls for its banning, or even its removal. Still Google keeps ranking it fairly high, if not at #1. Then in January, “Spreading Romney” came along. Now, we’ll not give them any brownie points for an original site name, but as a way to get their anti-Mitt campaign rolling, they are having some success with both Bing and Google. Bing gives you a “suggestion” for them, while Google typically places them on the front or second page. Now, here we are in February and we’ve got a “Spreading Newt” contender in the ring. It’s too soon to tell what, if any, effect it will have on the campaign or on the rankings, but to be sure, the anti-political campaigns are ranking high. So, as SEO providers, we have to ask ourselves why?
Since Bing and Google use slightly different ways of figuring rankings, it can’t be because of hits alone. The algorithms are too different for that. It can’t be because of social content, because Bing doesn’t factor that in the way Google does with Google+ data. And it simply can’t be because of the freshness of the sites, as the Santorum site has been around for so long, it can’t be considered anywhere close to “new content.” Nope. The answer lies in the fact that the sites have cashed in on the perfect trio of components – relevancy, freshness and links.
The relevancy of the candidates is adding a lot of oomph to these pages. They’re getting hits because of the interest in the people they discuss. It shows up in the searches – folks are wanting to know how the candidates did in the most recent caucus or straw poll, they want to verify a story they heard about on the talk radio or at the water cooler. In short, the men’s popularity with surfers is driving these sites higher in the searches.
The freshness of these sites, especially Mitt’s and Newt’s, is having an impact. The fact that the Santorum site is getting fresh hits and comments, mentions, linkbacks, etc. is helping it to appear more fresh than it really is. Spreading Santorum gained in rankings as the candidate gained in the polls, so its age has little to do with its high marks right now. And the more the media and Santorum supporters mention this site, the more attention it gets. So, it is scoring higher and ranking higher because of the fresh, new attention it is getting.
And then there’s the links. Every time a media outlet mentions these sites, every time a fan or a detractor mentions these sites, every time somebody posts on Facebook or Google+ or Twitter about these sites, somebody somewhere will pass the link on. Whether it’s an official link to verify information or a quote, or whether it’s just the guy in the cubical next to you passing on something from one of them that he found funny, that link is real. It can’t be denied. And the bots find those links and add them to the site’s relevancy factor.
In the end, it won’t matter to the bots who wins or loses in November. But if we SEO folks can take a lesson from these political sites, perhaps we can come out ahead in the polls ourselves.