If you Googled “stimulus” earlier this month, you probably stumbled upon a collection of ads blasting the Democrats’ economic recovery plan. Search the phrase “card check” and Google turns up labor union ads backing the controversial Employee Free Choice Act. The “Roy Blunt” Google search, meanwhile, sends you straight to a sponsored link for the Missouri Republican’s new Senate campaign. This isn’t an accident. Campaigns and other political organizations are finally getting Google-savvy, latching onto an advertising tool that most companies have been using for years. The campaigns are using targeted search terms — acquired in Google auctions — to put their message in front of interested online readers in hopes of influencing the political debate outside traditional media and advertising outlets. The stimulus debate offers a case study in how special interests push their spin on Google to reach people who care about the topic of the day in Washington. “Savvy political marketers are looking at this as a way to build their base,” said Peter Greenberger, who helms Google’s elections and issues team in Washington, D.C. “The stimulus was the perfect example of this.” FreedomWorks, an anti-tax group that crusades against government expansion, pegged a series of online campaigns to words like “stimulus” or “stimulus package” the week of the big vote. These include an online petition against the plan, a campaign to call congressional offices and an ad campaign criticizing conservative Blue Dog Democrats who voted for the bill. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner also used targeted searches to highlight a GOP alternative to the Democrats’ stimulus bill. His political action committee, the Freedom Project, sponsored links to popular search terms to spread the Republican message online. “It’s very user-friendly and very effective,” said Don Seymour, a spokesman for the Freedom Project. “The beauty of this is that you can change the campaign on the fly.” The GOP alternative is one of three campaigns Boehner’s Freedom Project has pegged to Google search terms this year. The first was an online petition opposing the release of the second $350 billion of a Wall Street bailout. The last protested the Democrats’ decision not to post the stimulus online for 48 hours, as they had promised. Companies have employed this advertising strategy for years as a business tool, but they have also lagged in using Google as a tool to influence voters. Automakers, for example, have used Google advertising for quite some time to market their cars online. But the auto giants have been less aggressive about taking their case to voters online until last fall, when the automakers used targeted searches to make the case for what became $17.4 billion in federal loans. “They are very savvy marketers about selling cars,” Greenberger said. “They have not done as much on the issues game.” Google started building its political market in 2007 in the early stages of the presidential campaign. Greenberger and his team set out to give the presidential campaigns a vehicle to target potential voters, donors and volunteers. The Google staff also helped the campaigns tailor online searches to target the most sympathetic audience.