Political Domains: Missed Opportunities and Misunderstandings

A few months ago, we saw some news about jebbush.com redirecting to Donald Trump’s campaign website. That news wasn’t the first time political domains received a lot of attention, and we’ve talked about some big and surprising misses before, but, because of some recent changes in the political landscape, it has been brought up again.

The original story was about how another candidate had failed to register his own name as a domain name. So, of course, someone took the time and effort to do something with the name. Trump spokespeople say that the Trump campaign was not involved with redirecting the website, and the actual owner of JebBush.com is not known because that person is using a privacy domain service to stay unlisted.

This was first noticed last December, but after the recent debates, the entire thing was brought up again. And then, Jeb Bush dropped out of the race last Saturday, and suddenly things changed for jebbush.com. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Are These Domain Games Worthwhile?

The media really likes to talk about these types of things as if it shows that these politicians just don’t understand the modern world. And while that may or may not be the case, it does create some serious questions about the candidate. When this story first broke back in December, many of the comments were along the lines of:

“Jeb! can’t protect his own name. How can he protect America from those who wish us harm?”

Or:

“This was, as the saying goes ” Elementary my dear Jeb” . Who is running his campaign? What is he paying them for???”

But – and this is a big but – would anyone have known about it if it hadn’t been reported? Would someone have just stumbled into jebbush.com and somehow been astounded by what they found there?

As of today (February 22), this is what the front page of Google looks like after searching for the name “Jeb Bush”:

google jeb bush

So was this an oversight or was it a choice?

According to the Bush campaign, it was a choice. They didn’t forget to register the domain. Instead, they focused their efforts on their official campaign website: Jeb2016.com (which now has a simple thank you message).

So it wasn’t forgotten, and it wasn’t a rival hacking the site… but one still has to wonder why the actual name of the candidate wasn’t a type priority purchase.

There may have been a couple reasons for that.

One: We’re Not Direct Website Visitors

In most circumstances, the average internet user is far more likely to navigate to a specific site through Google than just going straight to the web page, even when they know what site the want to visit (we’re not including bookmarked pages or pages that are visited on a regular basis). So as long as the correct information was showing up on the first page of Google, there probably didn’t seem to be a big need to pay large sums of money for another domain name. Which brings us to point number two:

Two: It’s Not Cheap

The names of political campaigners are prized internet real estate, and purchasing names (and even relevant names) during election season isn’t going to be cheap. According to CNNMoney, some candidate related names were going for quite a pretty penny. For example:

  • ElectHillary – $295,000 (still available)
  • USAHillary.com – $99,999 (still available, though the .org version is a mere $7.99)

According to the article, the price for jebbush.com, at the time, was $250,000. Given the millions of dollars already spent on the campaign, maybe that just didn’t seem like a useful expenditure.

Then again, how much is an online reputation worth?

What’s It Worth Now?

It may have been worth a quarter of a million dollars before, but now that he is out of the race, jebbush.com is probably readily affordable. Whoever owned the domain does not even redirect it anymore, and it looks like this:

jebbushcom

The speed at which it came and went obviously leads one to believe that this was not so much a Pro-Trump effort as it was an Anti-Bush effort. But did it really do any good?

It Happens, but Does It Hurt?

Here’s the thing: there’s more to the internet than Google, and it’s easy for some candidates to forget that. It may seem like a small thing for media outlets to pick up on these stories, but if it keeps happening, it can have a effect on their reputation.

And yet, this is something that has been happening for years and will continue to happen. Most recently, after Donald Trump came in second in the Iowa caucuses, the domain Loser.com started pointing to Trump’s Wikipedia page (though since then it changed to point at Kanye West’s Wikipedia page). Would you have known that if you hadn’t read it here?

And that’s the point that is important to remember. The media likes to talk about these missed opportunities, but if they didn’t talk about it, most people would never know.

If you want someone to accidentally stumble across your interesting web redirect so they can appreciate the irony or the edginess of it, you’re going to have to put a lot more effort into it. You’re going to have to do the online marketing and promotion to get anyone to notice.

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