Summary: Word clouds from each of the major parties’ 2020 presidential candidate websites, joebiden.com and donaldjtrump.com, reveal much about the candidates, their messaging and tactics, and what they feel will motivate the American voters. And as an added bonus, I do a brief SEO analysis of the candidates websites.
Word clouds can be a fun and informative way to quickly assess a large body of text, so I thought it would be cool to create a word cloud for each of the 2020 presidential candidates from the major parties, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, that would encapsulate the primary messages of their candidacies. Word cloud software, for those who don’t know, allow you to input large quantities of text and it will put the text into a cloud of words where the bigger the word, the more frequently the word was used in the text.
I thought it would be interesting to place the Biden and Trump word clouds side by side to compare and contrast them, and that is exactly what you’ll find in this completely non-partisan analysis. I wanted to grab all the text from the joebiden.com and donaldjtrump.com websites and plug them each into a word cloud generator. However, I couldn’t find any free and easy software to do that, so then my professional search engine optimization (SEO) brain kicked in and thought to use SEO software to scan their website. After completing the SEO scan of each site, I grabbed all the page titles and meta descriptions of each page, as well as all H1 and H2 headlines, and dumped them into the word cloud generator.
I started this project to see if I could get a word cloud to represent what each of the candidates stand for, what are the primary issues they care about, and what are the main messages they are trying to communicate. I think I definitely got that, but the exercise also taught me a lot of other things like common political campaign tactics used and what the American people likely care about when making their voting choices. This exercise also demonstrated how poorly the presidential candidates optimize their websites, which was an interesting tangent, but secondary to my purpose. If you are interested, click here to jump directly to the end to the SEO analysis of the presidential candidates’ websites for Joe Biden and Donald Trump. But now, let me take you step by step through my analysis and the insights I have drawn out of it. And please comment to share your insights as well after you look through the details.
Round 1: All Words from SEO Scrape of Biden’s and Trump’s Websites
Obviously, the most prominent words on each of their websites are their own names. (It’s no wonder so many of our politicians suffer from narcissism.) After generating these first word clouds, I didn’t think it was telling me much about what I was aiming for, like the substance of their campaign message and issues. Of course, later I realized it was telling me exactly what the presidential race is all about–Biden, the person vs Trump, the person.
Round 2: Word Clouds Excluding Their Names and Text like Official, Campaign, and Website
Still, I wanted to get to more substance, so I removed the candidate’s own names from the word clouds, along with heavily used filler words like Official, Campaign, and Website. And here’s what round two of the word clouds looked like–again, first is Biden in blue, then Trump in red.
Now we are starting to get somewhere. In the round-two clouds above, the primary message of each campaign shines through bright and clear. You can see the frequent repetition of Biden’s two main campaign slogan’s, “Together, we will beat Donald Trump” and “Battle for the Soul of the Nation”. And you can’t miss Trump’s slogan coming through either, “Help continue our promise to Keep America Great.”
Round 3: Word Clouds additional excluding of their Primary Campaign Slogans
As revealing as the campaign slogans are, still I wanted to get to more substantive information on issues facing our country and where the candidates stand. So I conducted another round of word clouds, this time removing the additional words from the prominent campaign slogans revealed in round two. From Biden’s word cloud, I removed the words Together, Beat, Donald Trump, Battle, Soul, and Nation. From Trump’s I removed the words Promise, Continue, Help, Keep, America, and Great. Below is the result, Biden in blue, Trump in red.
These round 3 word clouds offered insights into the candidate’s next priority–connecting with supporters for get-out-the-vote purposes and for fund raising, directly or through merchandise sales. Again, this should not have surprised me, but it still didn’t get to the heart of what I was looking for. On to round four.
Round 4: Word Clouds excluding additional Words about Connecting with Voters
In my final round of removing additional words to try to get to the heart of the candidates’ message to voters, I removed the words Join, Team, Store, and Plan from the Joe Biden website. From the Donald Trump website word cloud I removed these additional words: Joe Biden, Vice, Mike Pence, Get, Involved, Watch, New, Live, Stay, Informed, SMS, and Email. And here are the results, Biden in blue, Trump in red.
As you can see, on the fourth round, I am finally getting to the details of a wide variety of issues that the candidates are talking about. Many more filler words are obviously still in the word clouds, but some substantive messaging words start to stand out as well.
For Biden, I see these words stand out:
- COVID-19 and Crisis: those are usually coupled together on the website.
- Violence: a reference to his stand against gun violence and violence toward a variety of minority groups.
- Education: a reference to a plan written about much on the site for education beyond high school.
- Build, Community, and Women: These words are used in a variety of contexts and I think the message comes through regarding issues and constituency groups he is emphasizing.
- Animal and Crossing: These words seemed odd to me, so I looked into it and apparently, you can download Biden campaign yard signs and other digital merchandise to integrate into the popular video game, Animal Crossing. That’s an interesting tactic.
For Trump’s website word cloud, these words stand out:
- MAGAnomics: a reference to Trump’s economic plans but also seems to imply his energy plan.
- Defense, Religious, and Liberty, often together: This is a reference to articles and policy statements about freedom of religion.
- Hunter: This is a reference to Hunter Biden, Joe’s son, and the recent discovery of new information about his dealings in Russia, China, and Ukraine.
- Supreme and Court: Obviously, the filling of the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court is a big issue for all parties.
- Other words like Coronavirus, Seniors, and Condemns, which is used in conjunction with a wide variety of things about which he is condemning the other party and candidate.
Summary of Messages Revealed through Presidential Candidate Websites
Here’s a chart I put together to summarize the stand out messages from the four rounds of refinement I completed while developing the word clouds from the content of the presidential candidate websites.
Overall, I expected both Biden and Trump to have more substance and to make those substantive messages more prominent on their websites. But I guess I understand the approach taken, emphasizing first the candidate, then a major slogan, then connecting for communications and fund raising, and then, finally, the issues.
I suspect this order of messaging is also a reflection, for better or worse, on the American electorate and how they decide who to vote for. It is likely that people decide to vote based on, first, the personality of the candidate and if they like the person, second, on high-level yet largely meaningless slogans, third, on who has the most money and means of mass communications, and fourth, and unfortunately last, on where the candidate stands on important issues. I could comment more on the messages the two candidates selected to emphasize on their websites, but to keep this article non-partisan and since it is quite lengthy as it is, I think I’ll withhold further political analysis.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Analysis of Each Presidential Candidate Website
For those of you still with me (and I thank you for that), this exercise also revealed how poorly the presidential candidates’ websites employee search engine optimization (SEO) best practices. At first I was shocked at how miserable the SEO was on these sites, then I realized the staff operating these sites may operate from the perspective that they don’t need to optimize for search engines because their sites will rank well no matter what–search engines will direct users to these sites when it is clear they want information about the candidates.
But the thing is, SEO is NOT about optimizing the website for search engines, but rather optimizing it for search engine users. And so the fact that SEO best practices are not employed is a unfortunate sign of missed opportunities to connect with site visitors. Not optimizing implies a disregard for the user experience and means the site operators are more interested in pushing their message than helping the visitors find the information they seek.
Here’s some more details on the SEO analysis. For the SEO scan, I used Screaming Frog (the free version). This is not an endorsement of the product; I just wanted to be transparent. After completing the scan of each site, joebiden.com and donaldjtrump.com, I grabbed all the page titles, meta descriptions of each page, and all H1 and H2 headlines and placed them in the word cloud generator. Of course, in that process, I noticed much about the content of the sites and their lack of SEO-ness.
I first looked at the scan of joebiden.com and was surprised to find a third of all page titles starting “Joe Biden for President: Official Campaign Website”. That’s 50 characters, leaving little room for anything else in the title before the search engines truncate it on the results page. Then I looked at meta descriptions for the pages and found that most of Biden’s pages don’t have a meta description, and for those that do, there is a lot of repetition and some outright duplication. The H1 headlines had some duplication, but overall, they weren’t bad. H2 headlines, though, stated almost exclusively either “Together, we will beat Donald Trump” or “Battle for the Soul of the Nation” which leaves much to be desired from an SEO perspective.
Then I looked at donaldjtrump.com, thinking it couldn’t be worse than Biden’s, but I was wrong as I found it was just as bad. Trump had similar issues with lengthy and duplicate page titles. The scan returned a single phrased used as the meta description for almost every page that had one, “Help continue our promise to Keep America Great!” and a great many pages didn’t even have a description. Like Biden, Trump’s H1 headlines had some duplication, but overall, they weren’t bad. H2 headlines on Trump’s website were scarce.
Overall, it was clear in this brief analysis that these websites could do much better at communicating their messages in a search-engine-user-friendly fashion if they would just follow some of the most basic SEO best practices, like having:
- Unique and meaningful page titles
- Page descriptions that accurately and honestly convey the content of the page
- Headlines that provide valuable additional detail