Search Engine Optimization for Election Campaigns
The political campaign website faces an uphill struggle in the battle to achieve poltical directory listings and warranted page rankings by Google and the other search engines. Since most campaign management teams are ad hoc organizations which come together for the purpose of electing a friend or associate to public office, they lack the expertise to move quickly and decisively to achieve directory listings and fair page rankings.
Search engine algorithms determine the page ranking for every website which appears when a web surfer clicks on search. These algorithms do not consider the vagaries of political campaigns and the relatively short lifespan of the campaign website. Most websites start with relatively low page rankings and gradually climb upward into more public visibility. The political campaign website can ill afford to wait six months or year before it achieves a first page search engine page rank.
Since the major component to determine page ranking is links from other websites, the political website is particularly disadvantaged. Most political campaign websites only come into existence about a year before the general election. This gives them little time to build the necessary hyperlinks from recognized legitimate websites which will help the campaign to achieve Internet visibility.
Small Campaigns Without Professional Management
The candidate for state house or senate seat in a small state or for city council in a small town needs to begin his assessment by considering both the advantages and the disadvantages of a political website.
Political Website Advatanges
Preemption — The first advantage of a well-designed website is that it will discourage other candidates from entering the race. The website makes a statement that says to the other candidates that the candidate is organized and ready to go and that, if other candidates enter the race, they will face a tough opponent. It says to the money people in the community or district that here is a serious candidate. Since it discourages other candidates, it preempts them from entering the race.
Endorsements — Endorsements from respected individuals in the community breed other endorsements. By putting the endorsements on the website, the candidate is showing his viability and community support. The more endorsements a candidate has; the more endorsements he will receive get. There is one caveat: make certain that every endorser has signed an endorsement card. There is nothing worse than claiming an endorsement on the website and then having the endorser denounce by saying that he never endorsed the candidate.
Political Website Disadvantages
The political website is not a replacement for meet-and-greet which is the mainstay of small district or municipal politics. When a candidate actually walks the precincts and directly interacts with the voters face-to-face, he gains more votes than anything else that candidate might do.
Improving Search Engine Page Ranking
Website Page Title — One of the first things that you need to do to improve your campaign's page ranking is to carefully choose the title tag for each page of your website. The title should include the candidate's name, the political office sought, the district number, and what the page is about. The title tag is placed after the <head> and before the </head> of the webpage. The title tag would read something like this “<title> John Smith - Democrat for California State Senate 41st District</title>”. The title for the candidate's biography webpage would read something like this “<title>John Smith - Democrat for California State Senate 41st District - Biography</title>”. Remember that you will need to change the name and omit the quotation marks.
Meta Tag Description — Google and other search engines use the description meta tag as a portion of the algorithms to determine search engine page ranking. This meta tag is placed again between the head tag (<head>) and the close head tag (</head>). This is an example of a description meta tag: “<meta name=“description” content=“John Smith is a Democratic candidate for the California State Senate in the 41st District. He is opposing incumbent Republican Michael Orez.”>”
Within this meta tag, you need to mention the name of the candidate, his political party affiliation, office sought, and the name of his opponent or opponents. You need to include the state or city name to permit more effective search results. You should include the name of your opponent in order that, when someone searches your opponents name, your web page will appear among the search engine results.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization is as important to political campaigns as it is to advocacy campaigns. The strategy begins with being listed in the Open Project Director at http://www.dmoz.org.
Donald Lewin Nelson
6023 Amos Avenue, Lakewood, California 90712-1324