Since political campaigns often come and go in a matter of months, we rarely have the time (or, quite frankly, the budget) to really focus on good SEO. But with over half of political activists using search engines to research candidates, issues, and breaking news, SEO can help position your campaign’s website in their Google crosshairs.
When it comes to SEO, it really is about what we learned in kindergarten. Play fair. Don’t cheat. Contribute to the discussion. Google will punish you if it finds you trying to game the system. So here’s a few thoughts for putting together a simple but effective SEO strategy for campaign websites:
1. Build links
Google looks at over 200 factors when building their ranking of who comes out on top for a search term. Of those, the #1 most important factor is almost completely out of your control — which sites link to yours. If you want your website on top in a hurry, build links from credible sources.
Key word here: “credible.” This doesn’t mean creating fake sites just to link to your site. Be creative. Share links on Facebook and Twitter. Comment on related articles on news websites and blogs, and include a link to your site. Encourage bloggers who support your candidate to include a link on their site. As Google sees more (credible) sites linking to yours, it will blast your campaign website to the top — quickly.
2. Research keywords
Sure you want to people to be able to search for your candidate and have the official campaign website appear at the top of the results. But what else can you do from there? Research hot button issues in the campaign, or ballot initiatives that may be in the spotlight as well. Once you have a good list of those keywords, tape it above your desk and try to include them frequently in your press releases and blog posts. The more you add keywords to your campaign website, the higher you increase what is called your “keyword density.” And this, like credible links to your site, will tell Google what your site is about and increase your ranking for those keywords.
Imagine the benefit of having someone search for an important issue in an election, and having your candidate’s website appear near the top of the search results? Just like good PR, that’s publicity money can’t buy.
Speaking of publicity you can’t buy, there is a lot more you can do to build your campaign website’s search engine ranking than what we have time to go into here. But even with all of that good SEO work, a good political or campaign search engine marketing strategy is incomplete without a decent online advertising budget. If you want to make new media really contribute to your campaign, put advertising dollars behind it.
For me, I like advertising on Facebook and Google before anything else. These two ad systems allow us to reach a lot of potential supporters, to target them specifically, and to do so in an amazingly cost effective way. Recently we ran a Facebook campaign for a Senate race and bought ads at $0.12 CPM. Twelve cents!!! There’s also unsubstantiated rumors that advertising on Google can help your search engine rank. I’m not saying that’s true, but hey, it sure can’t hurt.
The best part about advertising online is that you only pay when someone takes action. This is called cost-per-click (CPC) advertising. So you could have a million free impressions and only pay when someone clicks the ad. It’s a great way to demonstrate clear ROI for your eCampaign investment.
What do you think?
What other things can campaigns do to make their websites more search engine friendly? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.