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New US Presidential “Candidate Cards” Are A Disaster For Google’s Search Quality
An experiment to allow US presidential candidates to have an unprecedented guaranteed spot at the top of Google's search results turned into a megaphone for one.
Google’s new experiment in giving US presidential candidates “cards” where they have a guaranteed position are, so far, a disaster in their debut as part of today’s Republican debate. They added little value in return for Google giving up its valuable search results space.
Earlier this week, Google said that it would be allowing US presidential candidates to post content directly to Google that, in turn, would appear in a “card” format in a guaranteed place atop its search results. We’ve called these Google Posts.
Undercard Debate Lets Fiorina Dominate All
The first test of this experiment happened during today’s “undercard” debate featuring Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Carly Fiorina. It was quickly dominated by Fiorina.
No matter what searches related to the debate that I tried, Fiorina’s posts always came up. Cards from her campaign appeared at the top of Google’s results for “gop debate,” as shown below:
No other candidates had cards. In fact, searching for Huckabee or Santorum by name produced Google search results where the entire top of the results were dominated by Fiorina’s cards:
Her cards ranked tops for a generic search like “debate,” and even for “who won the debate,” as shown below:
The problem is almost certainly that none of the candidates other than Fiorina were making use of the new Google card system, which allows candidates to post content directly on Google in some mysterious way. Here’s an example of one of the standalone posts:
Fiorina’s campaign seemed to be making use of this new publishing method. The other campaigns were likely not. I certainly couldn’t locate any content from them. As a result, Fiorina was winning the SEO game because she was the only one playing in this new space.
Postscript: Google has confirmed to me what I suspected. All of the undercard candidates (as do the main ones) had an opportunity to make use of the new posting feature. Only Fiorina did — so during the undercard debate, she dominated.
You Can’t See All They’ve Said
Finally, also frustrating, there’s no way to see all the posts that a candidate has made. With Twitter or Facebook, candidates — like anyone — have profile pages that list everything they’ve published. But with Google, the “More from” link that it provides under any particular post simply generates a new Google search, where you’re back to seeing only a subset of what’s been published. Here’s an example for Fiorina:
The “More from” link shows you some of Fiorina’s posts, but not all of them. It’s a handy way for Google to generate more search traffic from these cards, but it’s not useful for people who wish to track down all the things she or any candidate has posted to Google.
Free Ads For Main Candidates
After the undercard debate ended, cards from candidates in the main debate began showing — or those who could have been in it. Even though Donald Trump declined to participate, cards from his campaign began to appear.
These cards added little value to Google’s search results. Consider those that appeared in a search for “debate,” as shown below:
Donate $5 to support Marco Rubio? Order your Ted Cruz jersey? These are ads. These are the things that Google typically charges money for, lots of money, for people to be at the top of its results. But with these new candidate cards, some campaigns that have been given this valuable real estate have chose not to inform, but rather to beg.
Yes, not all the campaigns do this, and the posts might get more substantial as the campaign progresses. I’ll be watching. But so far, this experiment has proved underwhelming.
Meanwhile, if you were wondering how tall Jeb Bush is — and that is a trending search — the Bush campaign took advantage of the space to illustrate that for you:
Good thing that Google devote space for this. By the way, if you actually search for “how tall is Jeb Bush?,” Google gives you the direct answer — 6′ 3″ — without needing a candidate to use this special posting space instead.
Postscript: This post has been updated to reflect cards posted by the main candidates, in addition to when the undercard debate was happening.