Controversy doesn’t just sell, it also boosts website traffic. Two very good cases in point are from unlikely sources: petitions to the White House. In the past several months, there have been a few petitions filed to the White House that have made some waves – if not at the White House itself, than certainly online. Two White House petitions in particular have caused some massive boosts in website traffic. These spikes are coming from users in the specific countries referenced in each petition, and the traffic surges are being generated largely from referral traffic.
Request to Give Alaska to Russia
A petition in poorly written English was filed with the White House on Mar 21, 2014 asking people to ”[v]ote for secession of Alaska from the United States and joining Russia.” It received nearly 43,000 signatures, not enough for the 100,000 minimum requirement before it could be considered by the Obama Administration. But that’s not the interesting part. What we found fascinating was what happened with Russian web traffic to the petition site.
After it was filed, there was an immediate spike in Russian Web traffic to the White House petitions section, with surges in social media, referral traffic from Russian websites, and direct traffic to the URL. Perhaps “spike” isn’t the accurate term to describe what happened here. Traffic rose from 80,000 page views the month before to a whopping 2.4 million page views the month it was filed.Looks like Russians might be interested in acquiring a prime chunk of American real estate. One can only imagine the bizarre alternate future reality where Alaska becomes part of Russia. Finally Sarah Palin can rectify that SNL-spoofed statement to instead to say, “I can see America from my house!”
Request to Free Pakistani Convicted of Assault and Attempted Murder of U.S. Officials & Translators Interrogating her Re: Suspected Dirty Bomb Plans
Similarly, a White House petition filed with the Obama Administration on July 4, 2014 sought to ‘repatriate’ MIT-trained microbiologist Aafia Siddiqui, alleging that the Pakistani is an “innocent woman.” Siddiqui was convicted for assault and attempted murder of American officials in Afghanistan who were interrogating her about materials found in her possession. These included dirty bombs (as opposed to clean ones?), and mass casualty attacks on New York City landmarks.
The petition secured more than 110,000 online signatures, and resulted in a Web traffic spike of more than 600,000 page views from Pakistani users to the White House petition site, including nearly 200,000 social media referrals. This makes sense, as petitions are often shared on social media…especially on sites like Facebook, where very often these petitions are shared.
It will be interesting to see what other White House petitions will cause such huge traffic boosts, especially with regards to referral traffic. It would make sense that social media platforms are the springboards for cultivating interest in social change.