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Luke Harsel

2016 Election: Search and Social Media Analysis

Luke Harsel
2016 Election: Search and Social Media Analysis

With the election season in full swing, it's safe to say that most people hear Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump's name mentioned on a regular basis. 

We were curious about how the two presidential candidates position themselves online with SEO, PPC and Social Media so we decided to take a closer look using data from SEMrush and Google Trends.

We gathered a lot of different data from SEMrush Domain Analytics and the SEMrush Project tools, so feel free to use the table of contents to jump around different sections of this post. 

Please note: This is not an endorsement of indictment of either presidential candidate. The research was conducted with the intention of highlighting the SEMrush database and features.

Table of Contents:

Organic Positions (SEO)
Domain vs Domain Tool
Health Care Keywords
Immigration Keywords
Adwords Spending (PPC)
Site Audit
Backlink Audit
Google Trends
Social Media
Top Posts 10/4 - 10/11
Top Posts 9/28 - 10/4
Top Posts 9/20 - 9/28

Organic Positions (SEO)

When “hillary clinton” or “donald trump” is searched on Google, the Knowledge Graph provides additional information to the right about each candidate. One of these features is a list of issues with quotes from each candidate’s stance. 


Included in the list are the following topics:

  • Immigration

  • Guns

  • Abortion

  • Foreign policy

  • Taxes

  • Gay marriage

  • Health care

  • Economy and jobs

  • Civil Liberties

  • Crime and safety

  • Environment

  • Education

  • Budget and spending

  • National security

  • Medicare and Social Security

  • Veterans

  • Energy

Considering these 16 topics are promoted by Google as a part of their Knowledge Graph, one can assume that these are considered by Google to be the most relevant issues facing searchers interested in the two presidential candidates.

To see just how well each candidate’s website is optimized to target the issues above, we ran Organic Positions reports on the two websites and applied keyword filters for each topic. This way, we could find the number of times the websites ranked for (in Google’s top 100 results) a keyword that included the name of the issue in the search phrase. After running a filtered report on each topic for both websites, we found the candidates ranking for the following amount of positions per topic:


Immigration was the most popular topic, with Trump’s site ranking for 1,240 keywords that include the word “immigration,” and Clinton’s site ranking for 842 keywords that include "immigration." The second most popular topic was Health Care, with Trump’s site ranking for 560 "health care" keywords and Clinton’s site rankings for 792.

Some notable topics where the candidates differed in their number of positions were:

Foreign Policy - Trump ranking for 134 keywords, Clinton ranking for 61

Gay marriage - Trump ranking for 6 keywords, Clinton ranking for 212

Education - Trump ranking for 14 keywords, Clinton ranking for 349

Medicare and Social Security - Trump ranking for 9 keywords, Clinton ranking for 422

Veterans - Trump ranking for 245 keywords, Clinton ranking for 83

In total, Donald Trump’s website ranked for 2,769 keywords that included these topical phrases while Hillary Clinton’s website ranked for 3,777 keywords including the topical phrases. This data was collected from SEMrush on September 20th, 2016.

Domain vs Domain Tool

To look at some of the specific search terms that the two sites compete for, we ran a Domain vs. Domain report. The Domain vs. Domain tool allows you to compare the rankings between two domains that share common keywords. We entered donaldjtrump.com and hillaryclinton.com, applying filters for keywords that contain “health care” and “immigration.”

This tool can gather keywords where the sites rank anywhere in Google's top 100 results, but we applied an additional filter to only look at the keywords where both were ranking in the top 20 results. Each website’s position is listed in the column below their domain name.

Health Care Keywords

“Health care plan” and “health care proposals” were the most competitive keywords in this batch, with both sites currently ranking on the first page. For “health care proposals,” Donald Trump’s website holds the first position and Hillary Clinton’s site holds the second position.

Immigration Keywords


In this set of keywords, we can see more search volume and closer competition .Searches for “immigration reform,” “immigration website,” “immigration bill,” “immigration policies,” “immigration reforms,” and “reform immigration” all have donaldjtrump.com and hillaryclinton.com ranking on the first page.

Hillary Clinton’s website ranks in the first position for “immigration reform” and “reform immigration.” For the complete list of common keywords between the two domains, view this unfiltered domain vs. domain report

Adwords Spending (PPC)

Using SEMrush Advertising Research reports, you can find out what keywordsa domain is bidding on to place PPC ads through Google AdWords.These reports cover the top 11 AdWords placements for every keyword in the SEMrush database. We ran these reports on both candidates' websites to look closer at their PPC campaign strategy.

Hillaryclinton.com's PPC Keywords

As of October 2016, Hillary Clinton's website was found bidding on 806 desktop keywords and 992 mobile keywords. Some of the notable keywords that we saw Hillaryclinton.com bidding on were:

  • "queen hillary" 
  • "saint hillary" 
  • "was bill clinton adopted" 
  • "is hillary clinton married" 
  • "i feel you pain bill clinton"
  • "village of clinton" 
  • "bill clinton religion" 
  • "cgi clinton" 
  • "bill clinton for president"
  • "hillary t shirts" 
  • "i love hillary" 
  • "hilery" 
  • "chelsea clinton for president" 
  • "i love hillary clinton" 
  • "hillary clinton tumblr" 
  • "hillary clinton beautiful" 

And the top 3 most expensive keywords we saw the domain bidding on were:

  • "clinton administration" ($33.80 cost-per-click)
  • "birthdate of hillary clinton" ($25.95 cost-per-click)
  • "hillary clinton satanist" ($15.18 cost-per-click)

Donaldjtrump.com's PPC Keywords

As of October 2016, Donald Trump's website was found bidding on 99 desktop keywords and 370 mobile keywords. Some of the notable search terms we found Donaldjtrump.com's PPC campaign bidding on were:

  • "donald trump hairstyle" 
  • "clinton foundation twitter" 
  • "donald trump ex wives"
  • "donald trump wigs" 
  • "donald trump bobblehead" 
  • "is donald trump a jew" 
  • "hillary t shirts"
  • "donald trump french cuff dress shirts"
  • "who is ivanka trump" 
  • "is donald trump a democrat" 
  • "trump university website" 
  • "who won the debate tonight" 

And Donald Trump's three most expensive keywords bid on were:

  • "donald trump golfing" ($8.35 cost-per-click)
  • "hillary clinton comments" ($5.25 cost-per-click)
  • "ivanka trump website" ($4.11 cost-per-click)

Site Audit

To see the overall health of the two candidates' websites, we ran a Site Audit on both domains. The Site Audit is part of an SEMrush Project that runs a crawl of a website and provides you with a Total Score of the website's health. With every audit, you receive a list of potential issues that could harm the domain’s overall SEO health.

This tool simulates the way Google crawls a website to index content, and it can crawl up to 20,000 pages on a single domain

After running a Site Audit on Hillaryclinton.com and Donaldjtrump.com, we found their websites' total number of pages and the number of pages with SEO-related issues.



The Site Audit crawled Hillaryclinton.com and found 2,690 out of 3,067 pages on the site had issues, giving the website a Total Score of 50%. According to the audit, Hillaryclinton.com’s top health issue was having 2,802 broken internal links. 



Site Audit crawled Donaldjtrump.com and found 6,106 out of 6,637 pages on the site had issues, with a Total Score of 55%.According to the audit, Donaldjtrump.com’s top issue was having 6,267 images without alt attributes.

Backlink Audit

Backlink Audit, another tool in SEMrush' Projects section, checks a domain’s backlink profile for any potentially toxic signals that could result in a Google penalty. Toxic signals the Backlink Audit checks for include spam links, link networks, weak domains, and manipulative links, among others.

We ran a Backlink Audit on each candidate’s website to compare the health of their respective backlinks.



The Backlink Audit of Donald Trump’s website discovered 370 toxic links and 3,559 potentially toxic links out of a total of 25,711 backlinks. Due to the level of toxicity among the dangerous links discovered here, the site received a “Medium” overall toxic score.



The Backlink Audit of Hillary Clinton’s website discovered 747 toxic links and 4,919 potentially toxic links out of a total of 35,842 total backlinks. Due to the level of toxicity among the dangerous links discovered here, the site received a “Low” overall toxic score.

Webmasters will want to remove or disavow any dangerous backlinks to avoid potential penalties and keep a clean backlink profile.

Google Trends

Using data from Google Trends, we found the dates that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were mentioned the most over the past two months (Donald Trump in red and Hillary Clinton in blue).


For Hillary Clinton, July 29th (accepting the presidential nomination), September 11th (leaving a 9/11 memorial early due to health issues), and September 27th (first presidential debate) were the most popular days for Google searches of her name.

For Donald Trump, July 22nd (accepting the presidential nomination) and September 27th (first presidential debate) were the most popular days that he was searched on Google.

One thing is for sure, whenever something notable happens during the campaign, the public’s reaction will be reflected in search trends and the candidates will respond to the public through social media.

Social Media

To follow the two candidates’ activity on social media, we ran the SEMrush Social Media Tool (another part of an SEMrush Project) on the two presidential candidates’ websites. The Social Media Tool allows you to monitor the audience, activity, and engagement of a company’s profiles on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Plus Instagram, and LinkedIn. 

Audience Size 

Comparing the social media audiences of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's Facebook and Twitter pages, we can see the difference between the two candidates' audience size. Trump has a total of over 24 million combined followers between the two platforms, and Clinton has a total of almost 17 million.

However, over the past month, we can see that Clinton has outperformed Trump in both Change (2.1 million new followers) and Growth (14.3% increase).

Facebook Engagement Trend


Looking at the Engagement trends in the Social Media Tool, we can see where each candidate's social media saw spikes in engagement with their audiences (Donald Trump’s social media is the dark blue line, and Hillary Clinton’s social media is the light blue line).

So far, the most clear spikes in engagement occurred around the timing of the three debates (the first Presidential Debate was on 9/26, the Vice Presidential Debate was on 10/4, and the second Presidential Debate on 10/9).

The two candidates' engagement levels on Facebook appeared relatively neck and neck for the debates on 9/26 and 10/4, but Donald Trump's Facebook engagement saw a huge spike following the second presidential debate on 10/9. 

Twitter Engagement Trend


Not surprisingly, the same dates saw spikes on Twitter. Notice the light blue line (Clinton) spiked higher after the first Presidential debate, and the dark blue (Trump) spiked higher after the Vice Presidential debate and second Presidential debate. 

To look even closer, we found the Facebook posts and tweets that brought the pages the most engagement week to week. 

Top Posts 10/4 - 10/11

Facebook posts:

Hillary Clinton's most engaging post on Facebook during this week was posted on October 9th (following the debate) and earned over 319,000 reactions, 30,000 comments, and 112,000 shares.


Trump's top Facebook post was posted on the same day and received over 424,000 reactions, 56,000 comments, and 651,000 shares. That's almost six times as many shares than his running mate's top Facebook post.



On Twitter, Hillary Clinton's top tweet went out on October 7th and received over 92,000 likes and 52,000 retweets. 


Meanwhile, Donald Trump's top tweet during this week received over 121,000 likes and 53,000 retweets posted on October 8th. About 30,000 more likes, but a similar number of retweets.

Top Posts 9/28 - 10/4 

Facebook posts:

Hillary Clinton’s most engaging Facebook post the previous week was posted on September 30th and received over 188,000 reactions, 5,000 comments, and 13,000 shares.

Donald Trump’s most engaging Facebook post between 9/28 and 10/4 was on October 4th, receiving over 198,000 reactions, 10,000 comments, and 81,000 shares.

During this week, Donald Trump's top Facebook post received twice as many comments and over five times as many shares as Hillary Clinton's top Facebook post.


Donald Trump’s most engaging tweet between 9/28 and 10/4 was posted on October 4th following the VP debate and received over 120,000 likes and 36,000 retweets.

Hillary Clinton’s most engaging tweet in the same time frame was on September 28th, receiving over 31,000 likes and 21,000 retweets.

Top Posts 9/20 - 9/28

Facebook posts:

Hillary Clinton’s most engaging Facebook post between 9/20 and 9/28 was posted on September 26th, the day after the first debate. The post received over 409,000 reactions, 14,000 comments, and 147,000 shares.

Donald Trump’s most engaging Facebook post between 9/20 and 9/28 was also posted on September 26th. This post received over 189,000 reactions, 12,000 comments, and 56,000 shares.

During this week, we saw a similar number of comments on each candidate's top post, yet Hillary Clinton’s post received nearly three times the number of shares and reactions.


Donald Trump’s most engaging tweet between 9/20 and 9/28 was posted on September 20th and received over 76,000 likes and 31,000 retweets.


Hillary Clinton’s most engaging tweet between 9/20 and 9/28 went out on September 26th, and received over 155,000 likes and 100,000 retweets.

This is certainly a unique election, for many reasons. As citizens, being able to watch the two candidates go back and forth on social media in addition the actual debate stage gives us an entire additional perspective on how the presidential hopefuls communicate to their country. 

Seeing hundred of thousands of shares and reactions on Facebook and Twitter proves people are listening and participating in the conversation on the Internet. Just how much will tweets and Facebook posts influence the election? We'll see in a couple of weeks. 

All of the data (except for the Google Trends chart) in this post can be found using SEMrush’s Domain Analytics and Projects tools. With a single SEMrush Project, you can set up a Site Audit, Backlink Audit, Social Media Tool, Position Tracking, Brand Monitoring, and more. Just go here to start a project and read the user manual if you need help.

We're going to update this blog post with more data as the race continues, so if there's anything you think we should add, let us know in the comments! 

Remember, if you ever need assistance on learning how to use any of the features of our software, you can always contact our Customer Success Team at mail@semrush.com or by phone at 1-855-814-4510.

Thank you to SEMrush data scientist Qi Zhao for helping with this post!

Luke Harsel is a content writer at SEMrush.

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