Digital Campaigns: Improving SEO for Digital Advocacy

by The Campaign Workshop

SEO for Digital Campaigns

Digital Campaigns - Make Digital Advocacy Easy to Find

When it comes to digital campaigns an organic approach is often overlooked. The first place most of us look to answer a question is online. But often digital advocacy campaigns and political campaigns forget about search especially organic search in their digital strategy.

Start with a plan: Advocacy organizations, Associations and political campaigns need to plan for organic search - specifically Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in their digital campaigns. Recent statistics suggest that 68% of online experiences start with search, only 0.78% of Google users click on links on the second page of search results, and organic search strategies drive significantly more traffic than organic social media strategies. But when it comes to political or advocacy campaigns, many candidates and organizations don’t devote as much energy  to their websites.

Can't an intern do it? Why are some  political and advocacy websites relegated to an intern or volunteer and not seen as important strategic tools? Businesses have moved to content-focused strategies to move search traffic to their sites because they’re a good return on investment. We need to be thinking more about how we can harness organic search traffic for digital campaigns in the advocacy and political space.

But wait, is politics and advocacy different? For a long time, we have thought that public affairs is different from typical businesses and what works for other industries won’t help  political and advocacy campaigns. It was thought that the quick turnaround nature of politics meant that organic search content would not have enough time to make a dent. Some folks even think using the Internet for political campaigns is still new, but our firm has been incorporating digital tactics—including search engine optimization—into public affairs campaigns since 2003. 

Search Matters: Reliance on search engines has increased while local news media has disappeared, and more paywalls have gone up on major news sites. Concern around the biases of political content on social media has gone up and newspaper readership and traditional TV viewership are dwindling. In 2020, “fact check” was a popular search term. Let's face it, folks have no choice but to search the web to understand the issues they care about and to get information about candidates. 

Control the Narrative: By employing a robust SEO strategy on your website, you will have more control of the narrative around your issue or candidate. Without that strategy, your opponents may build websites that will allow them to shape the story when they show up higher in search results. Having poor SEO can also make your campaign or organization seem less legitimate—if no one can find you online, are you really running a serious campaign or running a worthwhile organization? Conversely, being at the top of the results comes with authority. And with just a few tweaks to your digital strategy, you can make that happen.

SEO basics for digital campaigns: There are a few tactics we recommend starting with, since they can make a big impact on your SEO. 

They ask you answer* Content is possibly the most important factor in ranking for search. That content can’t just be based on what you want people to know. It should also be written through the lens of your readers—what do they want to know? For example, when you’re talking about the issues you care about, make sure that you describe them in a way that’s easy for your audience to understand and that answers the questions they would have. Think beyond the standard “about” and “issues” pages. What other information can you provide? If you’re running for office, make sure that your website is a resource for general voting information like early vote dates, too. You’ll also want to make your content interactive, as it will encourage people to stay on your site longer. Are there any quizzes you can build for people to take? If you work for an environmental organization, you could consider creating a quiz around recycling literacy, since that’s something that many people find confusing. According to this October 2020 SEO analysis of the Trump vs. Biden websites, Biden’s site improved with a “Trump Tax Calculator” that compared how much the average American paid in taxes to the amount Trump paid in 2017. 

Keywords can improve your SEO ranking. This gets a bit more technical than other SEO strategies, but it’s not hard to do once you understand the basics. The first thing to figure out is what keyword you want to rank for in a given page, and then you’ll need to build the content of that page around it. Your keyword needs to be included in the setup of your page in a variety of places including the title, subtitle, body copy, URL tail, meta-text, and alt text. In case you’re not familiar, meta text is the snippet that describes a page on Google underneath the page title—it’s really important to make sure you have one of these and that it’s between 120–156 characters. Alt text is used to describe any image you use on the page in case it doesn’t load correctly or the person consuming your content is sight-impaired and uses software that reads the page to them.

Links matter: Backlinking is one of the most important factors in Google’s search algorithm, Backlinking occurs when another website, ideally one that’s considered “reputable” like a news or education site, links to your digital campaigns website. A few ways you can get backlinks to your site include reaching out to reporters who write about your election or issue and asking them to link to your site and asking the same of any endorsers or allied organizations. 

You can find more information on building websites with good SEO for digital campaigns here.

Use your time wisely. Digital advocacy campaigns are not a two-week endeavor. We are now planning digital campaigns six months, a year and even two years in advance. You won’t be using content marketing tactics in a vacuum, either. Organic search tactics should help augment paid digital ad campaigns or your social media outreach. The lesson here is to get started early so your website is built to help you succeed and doesn’t require a lot of retooling once you’re in campaign mode. When you’re thinking about how to connect with your audience, consider using storytelling to draw people in. 

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