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 building your website pages to make them more attractive to search engines and have them rank higher for related searches.
Here are some basic SEO tips when building out your website:
Optimize your site’s 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.
Once your website is completed, you’ll want to create backlinks 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 can come from your campaign’s social media accounts. Make sure your social media profiles are linked back to your website. When you post new content, make sure you mention this in your social media accounts.
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.
Related links help build overall relevance, which help web pages rank for related searches.
Create 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 Webmasters site 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.
You can add your site to the Google Webmasters at https://www.google.com/webmasters/ and to Bing at http://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster. Don’t submit your website until it is finished and it has officially launched.
With a little work, applying a little SEO to your political campaign website will go a long way to attract more traffic. That means more people to see your message – and potential volunteers and donors.