Elections are a fanfare in American society—notably, the presidential election. American citizens and even people worldwide want to keep up with election results. 270toWin does precisely that. It is an American political website that shares political news and real-time election results for the President, Senate, House, Governor, and State Legislatures. Using the site’s interactive maps, visitors can create and socially share their own election forecasts. The site also includes supporting content such as expert projections, polls, and simulation models.
For the 2020 US Presidential election, 270toWin achieved 385,865,945 impressions. Leading up to and shortly after November 2, 2020, 270toWin had millions of impressions per day. The founder behind the website is Allan Keiter. You may think he comes from a political background, but he has his B.S. in Accounting and an MBA with concentrations in Marketing and Finance. We had the opportunity to sit down with Allan to learn how he built 270toWin.
Note: Responses have been edited for clarity.
What’s the story behind 270toWin?
I started 270toWin back in 2004. At the time, I was running another website called myrateplan.com, a shopping comparison site for household services including cell phones and cell phone plans. I started 270toWin on the side.
2004 was, of course, the first U.S. presidential election after 2000, a year in which the presidential winner was not the person who got the most popular votes. Al Gore had won the popular vote, but George Bush was elected president because of the Electoral College. Before the 2000 U.S. presidential election, that hadn’t happened since 1888. Nobody alive had ever had that experience where the popular vote winner was not elected president.
The topic was interesting to me, and I started looking online for a map to play around with for the 2004 U.S. presidential election. I couldn’t find anything, so I worked with programmers to create a website around an interactive electoral map.
The site launched in August, 2004. It has gotten more popular with each four-year election cycle, as we’ve added more features and the passion around politics in this country – for better or worse – has grown exponentially. That has particularly been the case since 2016, when there was again a scenario where the popular vote winner was not elected president.
How has it been running 270toWin?
It’s been an incredible experience. All political sites are cyclical, but ours particularly so. For example, we got as much traffic on Election Day, 2020, plus the day before and after, as we had in all of 2017, 2018, and 2019 combined. So I spend a lot of my time now prioritizing features that give people a reason to come back during the off-season.
What vision did you have for 270toWin when you first started, and how does it compare to what it is now?
Since starting 270toWin, we’ve added other elections like the Senate, House, and governor. We’ve added primary polls and the results. We also license
d election results from a third-party provider throughout the year so people can visit the site on primary nights to see results. Doing this gives people more reason to come back.
Who were the people who have been the most helpful in getting you to where you are today?
It’s mostly me in terms of the day-to-day business operations. I have a couple excellent developers who bring my ideas to life. Nothing would ever happen if I had to do any coding.I bring in professionals as needed,
whether accountants, attorneys, graphic designers, or programmers. Freestar does all the ad operations for me, thankfully!
Ad monetization was one of the hardest things to figure out; it was just so opaque. So it was so great for me when I found Freestar, and you took that off my plate. I’ve been with Freestar for four years, and yields have increased. The main thing to know as a business owner is that you can’t be good at everything; you need to outsource as necessary.
What would you do differently if you had to do it all over again?
We’ve tried a lot of things over the years. I sometimes go down a path with a specific feature idea that ends up being overly complicated, but we usually see it through and hope it positively impacts traffic. Although you may not see it with an individual feature, put enough features on the site, and over time, people come and interact with more than one thing. So I don’t regret doing any of that.
Big picture, I probably would have liked to raise more money, bring in more people, and build it into a full-scale business. I was guilty about this with my first website, too. Doing it the way I’ve done, you have to pick and choose what you can do. For example, over the last couple of years, we’ve added more current news articles. Doing that earlier, with real journalists, would have certainly brought faster growth to the website.
What’s the one thing you’d tell your younger self?
In terms of the business, being more aggressive at the outset is essential. If you believe in the idea enough to start it, get other people to believe in it. The other thing I would say, which goes back to my corporate experience, is to focus on relationship-building and networking. If I were starting over again, I would tell my younger self to focus on relationship-building as much as building hard skills.
The midterm elections are in a few weeks. 270toWin will have all the live results for the Senate, House, governor, and mayoral elections and state legislative. You can check in on the results, do your forecasts, and share them between now and then. Check it out now!