Commentary

Are U.S. Presidential Candidates Buying Backlinks To Boost Search Rankings?

It may seem a little crazy to think that the marketing committees of U.S. presidential candidates would try to manipulate Web traffic, but an SEO audit of the Republican presidential candidate frontrunners conducted by Walker Sands Digital found that Donald Trump's Web site has 1.35 million backlinks. The count is 934,000 more than the candidate with the second-highest, Hillary Clinton, with 416,000 backlinks.

No one from Walker Sands has reached out to the candidate's marketing teams because it's not possible to tell whether Trump's camp bought the backlinks, with a spokesperson saying it's just one of the possibilities for the increase in links. It's also possible that one of the sites' owners bought the backlinks, which could have been to help boost or hurt his SEO, since Google penalizes pages that break its rules, according to the spokesperson.

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The findings point out that buying backlinks to boost search traffic is against Google's rules. Strong search engine optimization is important for presidential candidates, especially when it comes to targeting voters searching on specific issues. If someone searches "Trump" and "immigration," the frontrunner would want his site to come up first, rather than five spaces down the page.

Strong search results don’t always correlate with high Web traffic on the site. An ElectionPulse report released Wednesday found that Trump’s site traffic was the lowest last night -- and all other candidates’ sites fell in traffic during the debate except Ted Cruz’s, which rose in traffic, according to the data.

DataPulse designed ElectionPulse to measure voter interest in particular candidates and platforms for the 2016 presidential election. This method differs from existing measurements of Web traffic. Rather than statistically extrapolating based on an instrumented sample, ElectionPulse analyzes trends by directly observing the infrastructure of the Internet.

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