What’s worse than a candidate not having a campaign website? It’s having a campaign website that no one can find. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a way of creating your content to make it more attractive to search engines and have it rank higher for related searches.
Why is SEO important for politicians? It’s not just social media that has an influence, but search engines results have an influence over voters as well.
Use these basic political SEO strategies when building out your website:
Optimize individual campaign site web pages
The page title is an important search engine ranking element. The primary keyword or phrase related to the page should be featured at least once in the page title. For this reason, page title tags in your page HTML should clearly relate to their page. To ensure that your full title tag shows in Google search results, your title should be about 65 characters or less. You can create longer titles, but they may be truncated in the results.
The page title is displayed in the top border of the web browser when a visitor views your website. This serves as an anchor so that the visitor knows where he or she is on your website. Most web browsers only display the first 95 characters of your title tag. For title tags longer than 95 characters, browsers will simply crop the tag.
The description meta tag is what usually displays as a link description in the search engine results. Create individual meta descriptions for each page. This tag is intended to be a brief and concise summary of your page’s content. If you do not insert a description, the default description in the Site Setup will be used. One or two sentences is best. Anything longer will get truncated by the search engines.
At this point in time, the meta keyword is useless. If you decide to use this meta on your pages, do it properly. Use keywords that are focused specifically for that page. Limit your keywords or keyword phrases to less than five, and be sure that each of the keywords appear somewhere in the copy of the page. But really, just skip the meta keyword tag.
Your pages should contain the critical text necessary for the search engines (and site visitors) to know who you are and what you are running for. This information includes your full location (including state), primary or election date, contact information and any appropriate disclaimers.
All of these factors will help with your site’s search visibility.
Create relevant content for your campaign website and social media accounts
A ‘thin site‘ is a website with very little content. A ‘thin’ political candidate site may just consist of a home page, contact page and maybe a donation page.
Without a good matching domain name, you will be lucky to rank for a candidate’s name. There just isn’t enough meat for a search engine to know what the site is about. (Voters won’t glean much information, either.)
Here’s a tip: You want to have at least 8-10 content pages. That includes your home page, issue pages and blog posts. Contact pages, form pages and disclaimer pages do not count.
The best way to put enough meat on your site is to write about what is important to you cause. This can be done through static issue pages along with a blog section to post updates and additional material.
Craft pages specifically for each major campaign issue.
Be sure to include relevant phrases (TinyTown traffic, traffic in TinyTown, Tinytown traffic problems, etc.) in your page title and throughout the body of your text, where appropriate. Break your text into manageable chunks and use subheadings to make the content readable and logical. Link out to related sources. For example, if your page is about traffic, link out to relevant articles or online traffic studies addressing the problem.
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Cross-link pages within your website.
Where it makes sense within the content of a page, link to your othepr pages. For example, you may have a list of important issues on your home page. You will will want to link from the phrase ‘TinyTown traffic’ or ‘traffic in TinyTown’ directly to your issue page. This cross-linking will act as a signal to the search engines and builds relevancy. Try to avoid generic links like, “Click here”.
Related links help build overall relevance, which help web pages rank for related searches.
In addition to internal links within your site, you’ll want to create backlinks (or links from other online sources) to your website.
Links are the currency of the web
Links between websites help determine how and what appears in search engine results.
The easiest backlinks come from your campaign’s social media accounts. In the profile section, make sure your social accounts link to your website. When you post new content to your site, make sure you mention this content through your social media accounts.
The most popular sites for political campaigns today remain:
Are there local or regional web sites that would agree to link to your site? What about other local candidates and organizations? Are there county and state political blogs that would link to your site? Ask them to put a link from their website to yours, and offer to do the same for them. By trading links, you can both benefit from the cross-traffic and bring exposure to others interested in similar issues.
Online press releases can also help in your link-building efforts. Craft a brief press release and syndicate it online. If you choose to use a free service, we recommend onlineprnews, because it automatically links any URLs you put into the release. If you want a better online promotional solution, try a paid PR site like prweb.com. When you syndicate a release on one site, it tends to be picked up by other PR websites.
Be sure to include a link directly to website, and use a complete URL, starting with https://.
Create campaign search engine accounts
Creating search engine accounts for your campaign is highly recommended. Many campaigns create a campaign Gmail account as a way to get started. Accounts are free and allow you access to a number of useful services, including AdWords, Google Analytics, and more. The Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) provides detailed information about your site’s visibility on Google, what other sites link to your website, opportunities to diagnose site issues, and information on how visitors arrive at your site.
- Add your site to the Google Webmasters at https://www.google.com/webmasters/
- Add to Bing at https://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster.
Tip: Don’t submit your website until it is ready for public viewing.
Applying optimization tactics to your campaign election website will go a long way to attract more traffic. That means more people to see your message – and potential volunteers and donors.
But your job doesn’t end with basic SEO…
Political online reputation management as an SEO strategy
Political campaigns need to keep an eye as to how they appear on the internet. Keeping this in place is an aspect of online reputation management.
Basically, you want to control what appears for searches related to you and issues related to your campaign.
Your campaign site and social profiles will generally tend to appear in the first results in search rankings. However, you want to make sure that your social profiles are complete and regularly updated in order for them to remain relevant.
Strategies in political online reputation management can help can keep positive content appearing in searches. If you have bad items that appear, replace that material with more positive pages, content, press release and/or news articles.
If you can get negative material pushed past the first page results, you are probably safe because the majority of people never look past the first page of search results.
A campaign SEO strategy and online reputation monitoring will help keep you front and center before voters.
Online Candidate websites are easy-to-use and SEO-optimized right out of the box. Not sure if you’ve optimized your site properly? Our Site Launch Service will help get your site ready for visitors and indexed in the search engines. We help hundreds of campaigns every election cycle. We can help you, too!
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