Tuesday night should have been a triumph for Ted Cruz. He won Wisconsin convincingly, but his victory speech struck an off note, at least when it comes to his campaign’s digital effort. During his speech, Cruz kept directing people to tedcruz.org. To be clear, that’s dot o-r-g — a clunker of a line that spells poor website preparation.
This isn't meant to single out the Texas senator. In fact, Cruz is just the latest high-profile candidate to get caught in the domain trap. That said, he got stuck in with gusto. See TedCruz.com, TedCruzForAmerica.com or TedCruz.ca, if you need more evidence. TedCruz2016.com looks like it’s still available, though, for an enterprising squatter.
With this domain predicament, Cruz joins prestigious company. For a blast from the past, check out JebCanFixIt.com. During his short-lived White House run, Jeb Bush’s campaign rolled out a new campaign slogan without doing the most basic work of securing a URL first. JebBushForPresident.com is also a trolling site. Meanwhile, JebBush.com was redirecting to Donald Trump’s website for awhile there.
Now, CarlyFiorina.org was a trolling site, too, at least while her campaign mattered.
Interestingly enough, MakeAmericaGreatAgain.com only goes to a squatter’s landing page advertising the site for sale at a mere $2 million. Small change for a billionaire, I suppose, but it would have been vastly cheaper to acquire it before it became Trump’s slogan.
The trolling is mostly focused on the GOP side of the aisle, but HillaryForPresident.com redirects to a non-campaign site. ElectHillary.com is still for sale. BernieForPresident.com is back on the market, it appears. Meanwhile, BirdieSanders.com directs to a strange corner of the Internet.
It’s impossible to capture every single URL associated with a candidate's run for higher office, but you’d expect a legitimate presidential campaign to lock down the most obvious ones — before he or she starts running.
You’ll find that it’s a lot cheaper to buy URLs ahead of time and pay to stockpile them, rather than letting them fall into the hands of your opponents or squatters. Most digital consultants, myself included, recommend buying domains as one of the first things a candidate should do during the planning phase.
Just make sure you keep the domain registration private, or the domain itself could become a story.
Laura Packard is a partner at PowerThru Consulting, a Democratic digital strategy firm. She enjoys tweeting about trolling websites via @lpackard – share your favorites with her.