Is Donald Trump’s online marketing as good as Barack Obama’s?

 |  Alex Cleanthous - Get more articles like this sent to your email here

I reviewed Barack Obama’s game-changing presidential online marketing campaign back in 2008 when he raised over $500m online… and then again in 2012 when he won his re-election as the President of the United States.

Barack Obama did everything right, from the design of his website, to the messaging in his email marketing, and the depth of his social media campaigns.

Well, it’s that time again… the Republican Party presidential primaries… and the star of the hour is Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is currently the most-searched presidential candidate online. And whether you agree with what he says or not, he is getting a lot of free publicity, viral sharing, and exposure for his campaign… and that means traffic to his website.

So in this review I am going to review Donald Trump’s online marketing campaign and find out whether he is taking advantage of the massive exposure he is receiving, and whether it is as much of a game-changer as Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012.

So, let’s get into it…

The mobile website

The United States has come a long way since the last presidential election (especially when it comes to mobile) with mobile usage surpassing desktop usage for the first time in 2014.

So in my review of Donald Trump’s website, I’m starting with mobile first, as that’s how most people will likely visit Trump’s website, especially when you take into consideration people using Facebook and Twitter access websites from their smartphones at higher rates than the national average.

Home page

The main focus of a presidential candidate’s website (in my opinion) should be firstly to get donations and secondly to build an email database. Let’s see how Trump’s website performs in achieving these goals…

As you can see, the main focus of the home page is to get people to ‘Join Us’ (which subscribes them to an email database) and ‘Donate’ (where they can donate funds to Trump’s campaign), which is good.

Saying that, there are a couple of immediate improvements that stand out:

  1. The calls-to-action should be a different colour to the theme of the website. I understand why he chose those colours (ie they are the American colours) but the calls-to-action need more contrast to clearly stand out from the rest of the elements on the page.
  2. The primary call-to-action (which is likely ‘Donate’ even though it’s below ‘Join Us’) should be a different colour to the secondary call-to-action (‘Join Us’) so it’s really clear what a user should do. I would definitely be testing the colour, the positioning, and the wording of the call-to-action.
  3. The headline asks people to ‘Show Their Support For Donald Trump’, which doesn’t really connect on an emotional level. I would definitely test a headline that talks to the emotions that Trump obviously elicits from his supporters.

Let’s take a look at a predictive eye-tracking analysis of Trump’s mobile home page…

The visitor’s focus is drawn to the logo (which is standard), Trump’s face, and the headline above the calls-to-action.

It’s pretty good, however it would be beneficial to restructure the layout of the page so that the focus is on the primary call-to-action rather than just on the headline.

The main issue that the predictive eye-tracking analysis brought up is that Trump’s face is a hot spot but when you click on it, nothing happens! This will definitely frustrate users. I would add a link to the ‘Donate’ or ‘Join Us’ pages so that when people click on his face, they are taken to a page where they can take action on one of the two goals of the website.

Donate page

When you click on ‘Donate’ on the home page or in the top navigation, you’re taken to this page…

The page is clear and easy to understand. I especially like that they have removed the navigation from the top of the page – this is a best practice for conversion pages (ie to remove all distractions and make the only action to ‘Donate’).

Let’s run a predictive eye-tracking analysis to see how this page looks…

The focus is on the headline, which is good. And it’s easy enough to navigate through the form. Good work.

Let’s take a look at the full page to see if there’s anything we can learn or improve…

The form is designed well, with the focus on the right areas. The main call-to-action is contrasted to the rest of the page, which is great.

The only thing I would test is to put the terms on a white background instead of black background as the black draws the eye down the page, which could be a distraction.

Join Us form

When you click on ‘Join Us’ on the home page or ‘Get Involved’ in the top navigation, an overlay form pops up on whatever page you’re on…

The form is simple enough to use however there are a lot of fields and I’m not being told why I need to give so much information.

It would be better (in my opinion), and definitely something to test, to ask for just an email address in the first step and then ask them to complete their profile on the ‘thank you’ page (with an explanation of how they will use that information). Doing this should increase the conversion rate of people entering their email address, which will grow Trump’s database faster and accelerate the rest of his online marketing campaign results.

Let’s take a look at a predictive eye-tracking analysis of the Join Us form…

Again, the focus is in the right place (ie on the headline) and the rest of the form is easy enough to use.

About page

The About page sells Donald Trump’s experience, as well as telling a story about what kind of difference he has made in the past. The wording could certainly be improved but I won’t focus on that in this review.

There are a couple of areas of improvement that immediately jump out when reviewing this page:

  1. There needs to be more sub-headlines throughout the copy to make it easier to scan. Currently it’s a big block of text that doesn’t make it easy for visitors to find the section they’re interested in and dig further into that content.
  2. There needs to be calls-to-action throughout the page (and especially at the end of the page) asking people to either ‘Join Us’ or ‘Donate’. Big mistake. Trump would likely generate a lot more conversions if he added calls-to-action on this page.
  3. There are links to his social media profiles at the bottom of each page but there aren’t any social sharing icons on the site. I would highly recommend installing the SumoMe Share App across the entire site – doing so will drive a lot more traffic from social media.

News & Video sections

The News and Video section is a standard blog format, which is great because it’s easy to use and most people are accustomed to this type of layout.

The main issue with the blog is that there are no calls-to-action on any of the pages. Again, big mistake. I would add the ‘Join Us’ and ‘Donate’ buttons at the end of each article, and even keep them floating in the top navigation regardless of where you are on the site.

I mentioned before (and it’s especially important now) that there need to be social sharing icons on every page of the blog, especially on the article and video pages. Again, I would highly recommend the SumoMe Sharing App because of how it adjusts for mobile and how it automatically ranks the sharing icons according to popularity.

Here’s an article page…

And here’s a video page…

As you can see, you can’t easily share the content and you can’t get back to the other sections of the site.

The online store

Now let’s look at Trump’s online store.

Here’s the home page…

The store front has a banner that is NOT clickable (what??) and then a list of featured products, with the first featured product being a woman’s shirt – what about the male supporters?

Let’s run a predictive eye-tracking analysis and see what it shows…

As I thought (which is totally obvious), the main banner gets most of the attention and yet it isn’t clickable. Come on people! You’re running for president… surely you can get these simple things right 🙂

I would also test adding categories as the store front so shoppers can go directly to the category they’re interested in rather than having to look around for the tiny drop down menu at the top of the page.

Now let’s take a look at a product page…

The layout is okay and the call-to-action is easy enough to see but there are a few things I would update immediately (or at least test):

  1. Remove the social sharing icons from underneath the image – we want shoppers to buy, not to share, and I’m yet to see a convincing case study that shows the benefits of adding social sharing icons to product pages. In fact there are case studies that show removing social sharing icons from product pages actually increase conversions.
  2. Remove the wording ‘alternative views’ – just put the other images below the main image. People know how to shop online, you don’t need to tell them what the photos are – you just need to make it obvious with design.
  3. Move the call-to-action higher up and put the American flag below it. Currently the American flag takes up a lot of focus and can distract the user from their shopping experience.
  4. Condense the page – if the page is more condensed it will be easier to see the product, the product options, and the call-to-action on the same screen.

When you click ‘Add to Cart’ it pops up a confirmation with a link to the cart. Good work.

Now let’s take a look at the checkout experience, starting with the Cart…

The first thing that jumps out is that the main focus of the page is the ‘Continue Shopping’ button.

If shoppers were automatically redirected to the Cart when they clicked ‘Add to Cart’ I would understand why this button is so prominent but shoppers have clicked ‘View Cart’ to get to this page. With that in mind I would change the ‘Continue Shopping’ button to a text link and move it below the ‘Proceed to Checkout’ button.

I would also completely remove the ‘Empty My Entire Cart’ button (or at least move it way down the page) because one of the most frustrating things for shoppers to do is accidentally click this button and have to start their shopping experience again.

Let’s run a predictive eye-tracking analysis on this page to see what it shows…

As I thought, the main focus of this page is the ‘Continue Shopping’ button – I would definitely change it (or at least test it).

Now let’s take a look at the Checkout page…

Everything is on one page, which is good, but there are a few areas of improvement I would make (or at least test):

  1. Using the red background on the section headings confuses the experience. Up to this point, the calls-to-action have been red, and now there are sections of the page that are look like calls-to-action but are not. I would change this to the same type of design as the ‘Donate’ page.
  2. There is only one payment option – credit cards – so why does a shopper need to select this from the drop down menu? Save a click in the process by removing this field altogether and just including the credit card field.
  3. PayPal should be an option for mobile users. Having to enter billing details on a smartphone is slow and frustrating (unless you have password software installed). I’m not sure what the legalities are around using PayPal for a presidential campaign but if it’s at all possible to use it, I’m sure it will increase the number of donations received from mobile shoppers. The same goes for the ‘Donate’ page.
  4. Move the shipping charge acknowledgement to the Shipping Information section so shoppers can see the amount without having to scroll back up the page to confirm it.

That’s it for the mobile experience… now let’s look at the desktop experience.

The desktop website

I’ve already covered the flow of the website in the section above. In this section I’ll limit my commentary to the points that relate only to desktop, not the overall website experience.

Home page

Here’s Trump’s desktop home page…

It’s worth mentioning again that there isn’t enough contrast on the ‘Donate’ button, which is the primary call-to-action on the page.

Here’s a screenshot taken on my 13″ Macbook Air…

Can you see the glaringly big mistake here?

You can’t see the calls-to-action without scrolling!

With the wide range of screen sizes in use today, Trump’s team should have ensured that no matter what screen size you view the home page on, you always see the calls-to-action. I’m surprised they missed this.

Let’s look at a predictive eye-tracking analysis of the page…

What we can see here is that the main focus (aside from the logo) is the ‘Make American Great Again’ slogan… problem is, that section nor the entire banner is clickable! That must be costing them some donations and email subscriptions.

Let’s run another predictive eye-tracking analysis of the page with larger dimensions so we can see the calls-t0-action without scrolling…

As you can see, the calls-to-action are not getting enough focus for how important they are (plus the non-clickable banner is still getting most of the attention).

The first thing I would change here is to put the calls-t0-action directly in the banner so they’re clearly visible, with a bigger focus on ‘Donate’ than ‘Join Us’.

Donate page

The Donate page on the desktop version is a multi-step form…


The form itself looks good but there are a lot of elements on the page that will distract the supporter from making the donation.

Here’s a predictive eye-tracking analysis of the page…

As you can see, the main focus is on the terms, rather than on the form.

It would be far better (and at least worth testing) to put the form on one page – with the form taking up the entire page without any distractions (like on the mobile version) and the terms at the bottom of the page.

This is by far the most important page on the site and should be tested heavily.

Join Us form

Here’s the desktop version of the Join Us form…

And here’s a predictive eye-tracking analysis of the form…

Everything looks good here in terms of layout and design… but I would still break it up into two steps, with the first step capturing their email and the second step getting their profile information.

I would also add more information on what kind of ‘updates’ people will receive when they join.

The News and Video sections

Here’s how the News and Video sections look on desktop…

The biggest thing I would test on this page is adding calls-t0-action in the sidebar.

Trump should be promoting the ‘Donate’ and ‘Join Us’ pages, as well as products from his online store.

The online store

Here’s the desktop version of the online store home page…

And here’s a predictive eye-tracking analysis of the page…

The issue of the main banner not being clickable is even worse on desktop because it takes up most of the page above-the-fold.

Let’s take a look at the product page…

And here’s a predictive eye-tracking analysis of the page…

As I mentioned earlier, the American flag is taking up a lot of focus. It would likely be better to move the ‘Add to Cart’ button higher up and move the American flag either next to it or below it.

Now let’s take a look at the Category page…

The layout of the page is good. It gives shoppers different sorting options and the ability to show more or fewer options on the page. A good job.

Here’s how the Cart looks on Desktop…

Aside from the ‘Continue Shopping’ button being out of place on this page, the layout and design are good.

Here’s a predictive eye-tracking analysis of the Cart…

As you can see, the ‘Continue Shopping’ button gets a lot of attention and should be moved.

I would also remove the ‘Empty My Entire Cart’ link from the page (or at least from this position) as it gets way too much attention for such a dangerous yet unhelpful link.

And finally we’ll take a look at the Checkout…

There are a few issues with this page:

  1. There’s too much red on the page. The only use of red should be the ‘Place Order’ button. Alternatively, make the ‘Place Order’ button a contrasting colour to the rest of the page so it clearly stands out. Importantly, that colour should be the same for the primary call-to-action across every page of the site so visitors know what the action colour is.
  2. The ‘Place Order’ button is higher up the page than the Payment Information section. The page should be rearranged so that the call-to-action is the last step on the page, without making the user scroll up and down to make their payment. Or at least make it a floating sidebar, so the shopper can always see a summary of their order along with the call-to-action button.

My opinion of Donald Trump’s online marketing strategy

Trump’s website is a good basic website. It has all the features a website should have but there isn’t anything advanced or sophisticated about the design, layout, approach and testing of the site.

As we saw from Obama’s campaigns, we know how powerful a website can be in driving record donations. But Trump’s team doesn’t seem to really know what they’re doing when it comes to maximising the performance of a website.

There are a lot of gaping holes in their strategy – they aren’t testing, their design is lacking some core conversion fundamentals, their conversion process does nothing to persuade the user, and there are core areas of the website that aren’t even clickable (ie home page banner).

While I don’t have the traffic data, I’m sure that Trump’s website is receiving A LOT of traffic that (if used correctly) could really give him an advantage over his competitors. But they’re not. They’re wasting a lot of opportunity on that website. And whether or not I support Trump and his views, I hate seeing traffic go to waste like this.

The worse thing was that I subscribed to his newsletter and only received a single ‘welcome’ email the day I joined, and then nothing for 6 days. Email marketing is one of the most powerful mediums for building relationships, communicating messages, and establishing trust, and Trump should be leveraging this channel a lot more.

Donald Trump has a good social media presence, which is great. But if he isn’t fully leveraging email marketing, conversion optimisation and advanced segmentation, Trump is wasting a lot of the momentum he currently has.

Donald Trump’s online marketing strategy is nowhere near the level that Barack Obama achieved in 2008 and 2012. With so much progress in online marketing in the last 7 years, I’m surprised that Trump’s team is missing so many core elements from their online marketing strategy. Maybe this review will kick them into gear 😉

Would you like us to review your business as well?

If you’d like us to review your online marketing strategy, please send an email to [email protected]. Or if you simply want to discuss your online marketing with us, then click here to get in touch.

Alex Cleanthous

Alex Cleanthous

Director of Strategy + Innovation at Webprofits
Alex Cleanthous is an entrepreneur, writer, technologist, and marketing leader. He is Co-Founder of Webprofits, Australia’s largest private digital consultancy. With more than 20 years experience in the digital space, Alex stays at the forefront of digital innovation, strategy, and execution identifying new markets, platforms, and tools to keep pace with the exponential expansion of technology.

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