Millions of Americans are seeking out information on Google to learn more about presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
And what voters find on the search engine results pages really does matter – a study last year showed conclusively that the search results for a political candidate can significantly sway favourability ratings.
I’ve taken some of the top metrics we use in the world of search engine optimization and analyzed which of the two candidates is doing better on Google overall and which one is likely gaining more support from what voters are seeing when they Google the candidates.
While it would be great if you read all the detailed analysis below, I can tell you that looking at the search engine data as it stands right now today Donald Trump is winning on Google at the moment.
And in all honesty, as someone who heavily leans to the progressive side of the political spectrum, I wish Trump wasn’t winning on Google, but the data doesn’t lie.
Read on to see why.
Looking at Google keyword search volumes we can see that the term “Donald Trump” is being searched in the U.S. 7.48 million times on average per month:
On the other hand, we are seeing that Hillary Clinton is only getting Googled about 3.35 million on average per month:
This data is backed up by what we are also seeing on Google Trends where, outside of a small blip up around September 11th for Hillary Clinton (likely related to her fainting spell in New York), we can see significantly more Google search interest in Donald Trump:
Overall, there are significantly more people Googling Donald Trump than there are people Googling Hillary Clinton.
However, more search volume in and of itself is not necessarily a good thing.
We have to look at the actual search results themselves and see whether those results are providing information that puts each candidate in a positive or negative frame.
We know from recent research on the impact of search engines on candidate favourability, that is not necessarily a good thing for a candidate to have a lot of people searching him or her out. In a nutshell, the study showed that negative information on the first page of Google search results for a candidate can negatively impact voter favourability ratings.
So let’s look at Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s top search results.
To remain as neutral as possible I used a Moz “non-personalized” U.S. Google search so the search query results are not swayed by personal factors like past browser activity and IP address location.
Here’s a screenshot of the search engine page results for a U.S. non-personalized Google search for “Donald Trump”:
(click to enlarge)
I have not factored in the Google News section in my analysis as this section is constantly changing from negative to positive as the elections twists and turns, so I am looking at the overall organic results that begin below the Google News section.
There we can see that the first four entries are generally more positive, linking to Trump’s bio on Trump.com, the candidate’s Twitter account, Wikipedia entry and his “Make America Great Again” official campaign page.
The fifth entry that appears is a 2015 Vanity Fair article that on the whole is negative of the Republican presidential candidate.
The 6th entry, a 2015 article in the The Atlantic is positive.
The 9th result is a 2016 article by The Atlantic which I have judged to be negative.
The 10th result is an aggregate of Trump coverage by Politico which I judge to be a neutral entry and the final result is an aggregate of Trump coverage by The Guardian, which given this outlets stated progressive leanings I judge to be a negative entry for Trump.
Overall, Trump’s first page of Google search results are: 7 positive search results, 3 negative results and 1 neutral result.
Here’s a screenshot of the search engine page results for a U.S. Google non-personalized search for “Hillary Clinton”:
(click to enlarge)
Again, ignoring the Google News section at the top of Hillary Clinton’s non-personalized U.S. Google search engine results page, we can see that the first 6 results are positive, with the Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign page, Twitter account, Wikipedia entry, Facebook page, Biography.com profile and an NPR story on her recent appearance on “Between Two Ferns.”
The 7th result on Hillary Clinton’s Google search engine result page is a profile piece of the candidate in NY Magazine that I judge as positive.
The 8th result from TIME magazine is also positive.
The 9th result is a Slate article I judge to be negative.
The 10th is Hillary Clinton’s Instagram page and the final one is an aggregate of coverage about Clinton on Politico, which I score, like with Trump, as neutral.
A final tally of Hillary Clinton’s first page of Google results finds: 9 positive results, 1 negative and 1 neutral.
It appears that while Hillary Clinton has significantly less Google search volume than Donald Trump, those that search Clinton are at least somewhat more likely to come away with a positive impression compared to those doing a Google search to find more information about Donald Trump.
Finally, we can also look at what other related searches people are Googling about Trump and Clinton to get an idea of the types of information people are looking for on the candidates and whether that information is positive or negative.
These related searches offer a window into how people are thinking about the candidates and what they are curious to learn more about as they make their voting decision.
According to Google’s Keyword Tool, here are the top 10 searches related to Donald Trump that people are searching for information on:
Overall we can see that a very large number of people are interested in learning more about the personal side of Trump — how much he is worth and more information about members of his family.
Here are the top 10 searches related to Hillary Clinton:
For Hillary, we see a lot of interest in the candidate’s age like we see in Trump’s related search results, however the one result that sticks out for me is the large volume of searches for “Hillary Clinton email.”
In Trump’s results we do not see people seeking out information on a contentious issue akin to Clinton’s email troubles.
So who is winning on Google so far in this election?
That’s a tough one to answer as there is both good and bad things going on for each of the presidential candidates when it comes to search engine success metrics.
On the one hand, we see much larger overall interest in Donald Trump based on search volumes, but those searchers are seeing more negative stories appearing on the search results page than in Clintons.
However, we also see in related searches that people are very interested in learning more about the personal side of Trump and his family.
On the other hand, there are relatively less people searching for information on Hillary Clinton, but those that do Google her name are seeing more positive information about the candidate, than those searching Trump, but not much more. It is troubling to see such large related search volumes around the Hillary Clinton email issue.
But it’s no fun to sit on the fence, so while I hate to say it (as a very progressive-leaning guy myself), that based on my analysis so far Donald Trump is beating out Hillary Clinton when it comes to search engines in this campaign.
About the author:
Kevin Grandia is a longtime digital strategist and the president of the digital marketing agency Spake Media House Inc. You can read Kevin’s full bio here.