With the 2016 presidential race heating up, there is a lot of drama and negativity being thrown back and forth between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush on the republican side. This is obviously because the majority of the establishment expected Jeb Bush to easily take the nomination, only to be trounced by Trump (at least at this point) with the majority of the base. Trump seems to speak the mind of many of Americans, and it is his unbridled ability to make everyone he is arguing with look foolish that is fueling his popularity. It is not necessarily that Trump is smart, it is that Trump has the uncanny ability to make everyone he is engaged with in debate look LESS SMART than himself. His lead over Bush is rooted squarely in this fact, that Bush seems unarmed when fencing with Trump both on the debate stage and off it in social media spaces. Trump has consistently made Jeb Bush look unqualified to be president simply because he appears as though he is not smart enough to effectively run his campaign, his message and his presentation. No matter how you lean politically, it has to be admitted that Trump is winning the war of social media.
This brings us to the latest snafu of the Bush campaign, and the latest wave of attacks by Trump. A recent tweet by Trump states that Jeb Bush forgot to renew the rights to his domain name, followed with the statement “guess who bought it?” The tweet has gone viral and there is a significant amount of online chatter surrounding it, as it does a very effective job of making Mr. Bush appear completely clueless with regards to running his campaign (and obviously the country.) While the tweet from Mr. Trump is not EXACTLY false, it is still far from true and is nothing more than a very savvy example of marketing spin. Jeb Bush didn’t forget to renew the rights to his domain name, because Jeb Bush never owned the domain jebbush.com. Donald Trump did not buy the website, as he alludes to in his tweet. The url is still owned by the same person who has always owned it, however it now redirects to Mr. Trump’s website. Although an arrangement has obviously been made between the owner of the url (probably an seo company) and Mr. Trump in order to arrange the redirect, Mr. Trump does not, in fact, own jebbush.com. For clarity sake, Mr. Trump never claims to own it, however he alludes to ownership in his tweet.
As for a little history of jebbush.com and what might have gone wrong here, it has been owned since Nov. 19, 1997 by the same person, and is managed by Fabulous.com. It is unclear if Fabulous is the actual owner of the site, however the management and ownership status has never changed over this period. In 1997, jebbush.com redirected to jeb-bush.blogspot.com/, which was a blog hosted in the Blogger platform. The blog never seemed to be developed in any way, which hints of a domaineering strategy in place. For those of you who are unaware of “domaineering” it is the business of securing popular search phrases as urls, then monetizing them with advertisements. The idea is to find a url that seems like something that someone would assume is the website of a popular person or entity, and capturing the traffic that goes to it when someone types this address into a browser. It is popular to capture variations of company names in this way, then make a few cents on clickthroughs form ads that are placed on the site. If you can make more than about ten dollars per year, it is worth it to own the domain. Jebbush.com was either secured as a domaineering strategy or simply to squat on it until Mr. Bush would want to purchase it for a premium price. The price that is generally asked is lower than the amount of money that it would take in legal fees to wrestle the domain away from the company who owns it. Squatting on a company name or a famous person’s name for this purpose is not technically legal (it is actually a form of extortion) but it is a difficult process to secure the rights through the court system and generally is less expensive to simply pay the person what they want. Our company president actually went through this process years ago with Floyd Mayweather, who was working on a project at the time. Mr. Mayweather was not the owner of floydmayweather.com, and instead had to utilize a ,net version of the website for his purposes. It was a complicated process, but we managed to secure Mr. Mayweather’s name for him without too much difficulty.
Mr. Bush never saw much reason previously to fight for his name. Being a minor politician he probably felt that simply utilizing a different version of the name and directing people to it through advertising would be enough. However, in late 2015 the url began to redirect to donaldjtrump.com, which was obviously a smart move on some staff member of the Trump campaign’s part, as the fight for the nomination between Bush and Trump became more real. In April of 2015, the domain was for sale on the open market for $250,000. In late 2015, Mr. Bush should have begun the process of securing the domain, as it suddenly became far more important than in the past with his presidential run. Mr. Bush should have done whatever was necessary to gain control of the url, not because it was suddenly so popular but in order to prevent this exact situation from happening. If you go to what you assume is Jeb Bush’s website and end up on his direct competitor’s website, it is a disaster. Jeb dropped the ball and Trump picked it up and scored the touchdown.
Domain redirect strategies have been in play for many years in politics, but have never played such an important role as they do today. The Obama campaign was the first to prove that the internet was a viable way to get a political message out, especially since younger voters prefer it as a medium of communication. While the old methodologies of television ads, mailers and robo-calls are not exactly dead, the candidates who employ a smart internet strategy are clearly taking the edge in politics. Mr. Bush has attempted to jump on the bandwagon with a small amount of redirecting of his own, as an example the misspell of Trump’s name as donaldttrump.com redirected to Jeb’s campaign website jebbush2016.com earlier in the year, however that redirect has now been removed. It simply appears that Mr. Bush (or at least the people behind Mr. Bush’s campaign) do not have AS GOOD or a grasp on the importance of the internet for communication with younger voters as Mr. Trump’s people do. Maybe that makes the point that Mr. Trump was trying to convey, that his rival is not fit to be president because he does not understand America in 2016.
Rick Santorum was subject to this same problem during his last run for president, when gay-activist Dan Savage schooled Santorum on “Google bombing” with the “Spreading Santorum” website. Because Savage had an extreme dislike for Santorum’s message, he used the internet to make him look foolish. He instructed his large audience to link to spreadingsantorum.com and utilize keyphrases involving Santorum’s name in the link. This caused Google to position Savage’s website higher in rankings than Santorum’s own website when someone searched for “Rick Santorum” on Google. Spreading Santorum was a single page with a vulgar reference to the definition of “Santorum” involving sex. Other examples in the same vain involve loser.com’s redirection to Trump’s website after he lost the Iowa caucus, and tedcruz.com landing on a website that simply states “support President Obama, immigration reform now.” The biggest example of internet control was the Google manipulation technique in 2005 that positioned George Bush as the number one result returned when someone Googled “miserable failure.”
Like it or not, the internet is here to stay and is under the control of people who do not like to be silenced. Social media has become a place to voice your opinion and to spread your personal take on messages, even if these messages are seemingly exposing the lies that were once easily covered up by politicians and power brokers. Without a smart internet strategy in the modern age, a politician will have a very difficult time controlling his or her message and getting elected. Many have seen the power of the internet when it comes to fund raising, maybe now they will see the power of actually controlling the message. Thinking of running for a political office? Maybe you should call a company like ours first….this is getting embarrassing.