A new study reports McCain has a stronger online presence than any other candidate.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. John McCain may trail in recent polls and fundraising totals, but when it comes to paid online visibility, the Arizona senator tops the list of all presidential hopefuls, according to a new report released Monday from the digital marketing firm ICrossing.
The report, titled "How America Searches: Election '08" found McCain's presidential Web site has the most paid visibility in search results for several common issue-based web queries as of the end of May. Among the terms the study looked at included "Iraq," "War in Iraq," "stem-cell research," "pro-life," "campaign finance," "electoral reform," "ethics reform," "government accountability," "government reform," "lobbyist," "special interests," and "tort reform."
The report also finds former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards' budget for issue-based paid search spending is considerably higher than McCain's, despite receiving less visibility. His sponsored link only appeared in searches for "Iraq" and "War in Iraq."
McCain "has clearly embraced paid search as a way to gain exposure for both his name and his stance on issues," the report states. Meanwhile "Edwards appears to be spending a lot of money to achieve some level of visibility, but not doing so with optimum effectiveness."
The only other candidates to engage in paid search campaigns as of the end of May are former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, according to the report.
“Our research shows that people are looking for election-related information online, but most presidential hopefuls are missing out on the opportunity," Jeffrey Herzog, CEO of ICrossing, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, virtually none of the candidates appear in any of the "natural" search results for the common issue terms tested, according to the report. The only exception is Obama, appearing on the third page of MSN for the search term 'Iraq,' and Sen. Hillary Clinton, appearing on the second page of MSN for the search term 'DNC.' In all, none of the candidates' Web sites are among the top 100 for natural visibility.
"The candidates and their campaign staff need to develop and implement digital strategies that increase a candidate’s visibility in the places where users are most often looking for information," Herzog added.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney