The election conversion funnel

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If you are a search engine marketer (or have one working for you), you probably live and die by a conversion funnel. Every action, from tweaking copy, readdressing keyword lists and managing bids, is geared to move Internet users one step closer to becoming customers.

If you are a metrics-driven search engine marketer (and who isn't?), you frequently divide the cost of generating these conversions by the number of actual conversions to assess the average cost per acquisition (CPA). For those marketing Jimmy Choos and Manolos, this is not too hard. Now if it is a politician you are selling, calculating the average CPA can be one complicated task.

At first glance, the presidential election of 2008 has but one conversion that matters: a vote. This conversion occurs during the two minutes you are behind a curtain, pulling a lever, punching a card or touching a screen. Other than perhaps a last-minute mobile query while waiting in line, there usually is no final search engine result likely to guide the voter to conversion.

Rather, the voter's action is likely to be the result of multiple search engine queries over time. A recent study by search engine marketing firm Performics supports this theory, indicating that 42 percent of Americans who search the Internet for additional political information visit search engines and that 38 percent of Americans who have visited a candidate's Web site are likely to visit it throughout the election process.

And as all search marketers know, where there are queries, there are campaigns. And where there are campaigns, there are conversions. So what do these conversions look like?

There is the conversion that first plants a candidate on your radar, the conversion to dedicate time to understand a candidate's stance, the conversion to donate to a campaign, the conversion to add a candidate as a MySpace friend, the conversion at the primary polls, and, well, you get the picture.

Unfortunate for the search engine marketer is the fact that while many of these conversions might have been scored along the way, there is very little to string together these actions to understand where the voter is in the larger conversion process.

Which brings us to the fact that the search engine marketer's election conversion funnel, like all conversion funnels, should ultimately do more than move web users one step closer to becoming customers. They should inspire loyalty.

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