How Are Politicians Using (or Failing to Use) Domain Names?

Between the experiences of the last election and the impending one, there has been a lot of news about how politicians are correctly or incorrectly using the internet to spread their platform and message. It has to be said, some politicians seem more internet savvy than others. At the same time, the media’s attention on certain failures might be a bit overblown, too. So what exactly is going on this year?

Discussing potential domain usage

Get Your Domain before Your Campaign

We’ve already shared an example on this blog about Carly Fiorina’s experience missing the .org version of her name. Someone saw that as an opportunity and scooped up the domain and created a simple website that was critical of her time as the CEO of Hewlett-Packard.

But she’s not the only one to experience this kind of thing. Ted Cruz, for example, has made news for some of his domain misses.

Senator Ted Cruz, many websites are quick to point out, failed to secure “tedcruz.com” before throwing his hat into the election ring. They are also quick to point out that he failed to get tedcruzforamerica.com, which someone then used to redirect to the website of the federal health insurance exchange (which was meant to be a poignant bit of commentary since it happened right after his filibuster attempt to undercut the rollout of the Affordable Care Act).

While it is certainly a big deal that a Senator who wants to run for president failed to get the domain for his own name, it is important to remember that being a senator didn’t entitle him to that name. In this case, a lawyer who also is also named Ted Cruz already possessed the domain and was legitimately using it, which meant there wasn’t much he could do about it.

But what about not getting tedcruzforamerica.com? Well, this is one of those things that the media enjoys pointing out but people who have anything to do with the online industry know it’s just an inevitability. He also probably didn’t get tedcruzisamerican.com, americafortedcruz.com, tedcruzwantstobepresident.com or a hundred other variants. A quick perusal of our political domain name section will show you just how many potentially relevant domains the current president doesn’t own.

Political Domain Real Estate

Whether there are reasons for it or not, missing out on your own name as a domain name is a huge misstep right at the beginning of a campaign, and more politicians are really starting to understand that.

Is it possible to get every single domain name related to you or your campaign?

Obviously not, but that hasn’t stopped some people from trying.

A good domain is prime real estate, and while most candidates don’t use their name alone for their branding and campaigning efforts, it is very likely the name that people will search for, making it a critically important part of the process. And, just like any real estate, if you don’t secure it first, someone might quickly move in and put up a huge (and embarrassing) building that blocks the view.

Should Politicians Worry?

If it’s so impossible to guess every possible domain name that could relate to their campaign, should politicians worry that others might buy these semi-relevant domains and use them in an undesirable way?

Only to a certain point. For one thing, just having the politician’s name in the domain won’t guarantee that it shows up in search engines. It will take a lot of marketing and media attention for most people to ever realize that a domain like tedcruzforamerica.com is even a thing at all.

So while it can certainly be an embarrassment if some names are missed, it may not be as detrimental as a lot of people think.

The Google Reality

It’s also important to note that even though the media likes to make a big deal of these misses, even pointing out how many names they had to go through to find a campaign’s official site, the reality of the situation is that very few people ever type “[senator’sname].com” into the address bar to see what they get.

The vast majority of people are going to type the candidate’s name into Google and then click on the one that looks like it has what they want to see. And, as of the writing of this article, a search for “Ted Cruz” does not bring up tedcruz.com or tedcruzforamerica.com. Instead, it has the official websites, Facebook pages, the Twitter feed, and a lot of news articles about the candidate.

Effective Political Domain Usage

Politicians have learned that microsites are an effective way to spread their messages and address specific issues. Last year, the Romney campaign purchased a wide range of domains, some were used to good effect through these microsites, others were just held in case they could be used.

These are domains that will likely be purchased throughout the campaign, as themes and focuses change. The last campaign saw Romney’s people start websites like momswithromney.com to defend against comments about Ann Romney, while the Obama campaign also built some defensive sites like attackwatch.com. They also had names like Mittbot.com, though, so they could have been planning more aggressive things, too.

Since these campaigns do have the money and people to put behind promoting these sites, it’s very likely we will see a lot more of them this year as we close in on the election. A good budget means they’ll be able to make these smaller sites more effective in a short time frame.

What Do Politicians Need to Know About Online Marketing with Domain Names?

There are some laws in place (like the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act) that may provide some options for candidates who feel they have a right to a specific domain name. However, that can be a long process that often isn’t worth the effort. A cease and desist may also be possible in some circumstances, but might also not be worth bringing in the lawyers.

What politicians need to do is be proactive about the situation. They can’t dwell on the possible results of someone else owning a specific domain name when there is so much they can do with a wide range of other names.

Yes, they need to get their highest-priority domains as soon as possible, and look into the potential with different microsites. They can’t looked like they’re forcing things, though. Too many attempts “to be cool” online can end up backfiring, so it’s important that these attempts all address something specific and have a reason for being, and it will result with a campaign that looks far more tech-savvy that it otherwise would.

1 Comment

  1. Dan on January 30, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    There can be political domain names that do not contain the name of the candidates, but reflect a political view, whether favorable or else. For instance in any election year (although not only) a hot domain name like libeRATs.com can attract a ton of GOP visitors. I also own repulsivecans.com since I try to be impartial (Hey, and both are for sale!)

Leave a Comment