Website AssumptionsHere are common assumptions that can cause problems for political campaigns. These issues can apply to those who already have campaign websites or are looking to start one.

Assumption 1: You don’t need a campaign website.

More and more, with the rise of social media, the role of the campaign website has shifted from being the bulk of a candidate’s online presence to more of a hub. But the website is still critical, both from an online presence, and as a brand to point to with your offline advertising. While the campaign website contains the core message and branding, people follow candidates and campaigns through a variety of methods – from blog feeds to Facebook and Twitter updates.

Online politics has expanded greatly over the last decade. The web is where voters look for candidate information. In short, voters expect candidates to have a website. If you don’t have your own voice online, then someone else is doing the talking about you.

If you don’t have your own voice online, then someone else is doing the talking about you. Click To Tweet

Assumption 2: Your website will be the first search result when someone types your name.

Go ahead, ‘google’ yourself. Type in your name and search for your name. What shows up? Maybe you share a name with someone else, and links about that person are showing up. Maybe it’s an unflattering newspaper article or blog post?

Do you want to have a say in what shows up on those results? Well, you can.

One reason why we recommend using a candidate’s name as a domain name is that it goes a long way in making that website relevant for the candidate’s name searches. Even if there isn’t much content on the site, the fact of having a domain name that includes the candidate’s name will help it to appear for searches of that name.

You’ll often see a candidate’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages in the search results. These pages tend to appear nowadays because those domains are considered strong and authoritative to the search engines.

If you want to help ‘push’ certain web pages or sites up the search results, you may need to give a little ‘link love’; that is, point links to those pages. For example, to build links to your campaign website, you’ll want to link to the site from your Facebook and Twitter profiles, from supporter’s websites, and from other political sites. You’ll also want to link out to your social media pages from your website, as well.

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Assumption 3: People already know about you.

Believe me, they don’t. How many people do you know that can name their congressperson or state representative? One thing we suggest to candidates is that they include enough information about themselves and their race. The ‘who, what and where’ must be immediately picked up by your site visitors. We’re always amazed when we see local campaigns sites that don’t expressly state what they are running for, and where.

“Vote Smith for Mayor.”

Smith who? Mayor of where? Vote when? People should be able to know within a second or two if your campaign matters to them. If they can’t figure it out right away, they won’t stick around to guess.

For all the talk about interactivity and social media, your campaign website is the perfect place to make that initial introduction. The reality is that many voters simply don’t know you – yet.

Assumption 4: Visitors already support you

Depending on the race, there are likely a block of independent or undecided voters who can swing an election either way. While ‘red meat’ partisan attacks may play well to a base, it will likely turn off some voters. Just because Washington, DC is hyper-partisan doesn’t mean that the average voter is looking for that in their local elections. In fact, most independent voters are turned off by excessive partisanship.

Assumption 5: Your website will become your campaign’s ATM.

If you set up a campaign website for the sole purpose of raising campaign contributions, there’s a good chance you will disappointed.

A website CAN produce significant revenue, but only if your campaign is capable of attracting donors in the first place. The campaign website should inform and persuade first. Allow people to follow your campaign through email and social media. Promote your site offline as a way to contribute toward your campaign. Build trust and rapport, which is the key to opening donor’s wallets.

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