Washington (CNN) – After the health care bill passed last month, political organizations have flooded Google with advertisements attempting to capitalize on the surge of searches related to the legislation. From Sunday, March 21 to Wednesday March 24 Google saw higher search interest on the subject than at any other point since the health care debate started a year ago.
"If searches on Google were a guide, the key moment to frame the bill in public perception was in fact after the bill passed," Google spokesman Galen Panger told CNN in an e-mail. "Search traffic around the bill was ten times higher the day after the bill passed the House than at any other point in the year-long debate. Advertisers anticipated this, of course, and responded with messages ranging from 'Thank You Congress' to 'Fire Nancy Pelosi.' And Obama asked searchers to 'Co-Sign Historic Reform.'"
In the three days after the historic vote, someone on Google searching any phrase or key word associated with health care would see an advertisement sponsored by national parties (BarackObama.com and GOP.com) to think tanks (AskHeritage.org) to local candidates (HarryReid.com and JohnDennis2010.com). During that time period the amount of searches on health care beat out those related to March Madness by a margin two to one.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was one of the many organizations that bought Google ads. Matt Browner-Hamlin, the Deputy Director for SEIU's New Media Department, bought targeted ads that focused on specific congressional districts. "Our goal was to thank a number of members who voted in favor of health care legislation in the House," he said. SEIU wanted to ensure that when people in specific districts were searching how their representative voted they saw the thank you advertisement.
The National Republican Congressional Committee also placed ads locating certain districts where they felt Democrats might be vulnerable. "The power of Google to really be able to target down in to that district and excite those people to make a difference," NRCC spokesman John Randall explained.
Harry Reid's campaign Web site features prominently on its home page a series of tabs attempting to educate what the health care bill means to people. Reid's campaign bought Google ads targeted directly at Nevada, his home state.
John Dennis is the Republican running against Nancy Pelosi in her California district. His Online Marketing Director Anthony Astolfi placed the majority of their Google ads nationwide, instead of in the San Francisco region. Some of the search terms included "Fire Nancy Pelosi," "Nancy Pelosi jet," "socialized health care," and "nationalized health care." Astolfi's goal was to purchase negative terms in hopes of driving people towards his candidate's Web site. "When they click on those terms we show them John's stance on the issue and then ask for donations," he said.
"Another key lesson is that the Internet and online advertising have helped democratize the debate," Google's Galen believes. "Since the effort began over a year ago, we've seen over a hundred groups use search advertising on Google to shape the discussion and influence voters, including the big committees as well as many smaller advocacy groups."