The findings come at a time when the major parties are moving into top gear ahead of the General Election campaign in May. The Labour Party has launched its Future Fair for All campaign with a new high-profile web page and a full-scale social drive, harnessing the micro-blogging service, Twitter. The Conservatives, at the same time, have revamped their website and launched an intensive Twitter campaign.
While the Conservatives online redesign brings major improvements, all three main parties are still missing crucial opportunities to communicate their policy messages to potential voters by integrating their online campaigns to match more closely the queries being posed by people searching for policy answers, through natural search optimization and paid search techniques.
Tamar conducted in-depth research on the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats websites, measuring their effectiveness at addressing issues that voters were searching for online. Tamar identified the most often used issues-based words and phrases that people are using - for example transport policy, primary schools, secondary education, health policy - then used the rankings for these medium to high-volume keywords to create a visibility index.
While search visibility is very high for the specific queries that include the party name (e.g. Labour health, Conservatives transport, Lib Dems environment), there are not as many of the broader terms that would deliver interested people to the party websites. The websites currently are lacking in touchpoints that would match the more general search terms.
Tamar research finds that there is still a disconnection between the messages being delivered by the websites, measured by the keywords the sites rank well for and the major issues and policies of the three parties. Tamars data shows the Conservatives fare best in matching their content with peoples issues-based search queries.
However, Tamar found during its research that the most commonly-used, issues-based search phrases were not mentioned on the homepages of the three party sites. This disconnect between onsite content and what most people are searching for, termed organic search, means that the major parties are missing an opportunity to engage more deeply with voters on key policy issues. Traditionally the homepage is the most valuable page of a website and should be the showcase for the most important issues.
Tamars research also indicates the level of engagement, measured by the number of daily visitors to the party websites over the past year. The sites have not attracted a huge amount of people, which indicates that, rather than an overall lack of content or lack of interest, the sites are badly set-up, or not optimised to be search-engine friendly. To put the numbers into perspective, Tamar also rated the party websites against Mumsnet.com, a website with a constituency that all the parties are seeking to engage with and win over before the voters go to the polls.
The disconnections are also very apparent in other visibility tactics the parties use. For example, anyone can join auctions for sponsored results and these paid-for terms can help to push people to websites. Tamar finds that the keywords the major parties are bidding on do not line up consistently with their policies and key issues. For example, the Conservatives have a heavy focus on bidding for NHS terms and Labour are bidding on Conservative keywords. And while Labour and the Lib Dems website appear in the popular Google News results that would also drive traffic, the same cannot be said for Conservatives. They do not appear in any news results from Google.
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Voters will be engaging online with political parties on a wide range of issues around policies and weve shown that what people want to talk about is not being fully met yet by the main parties. The two groups are not yet talking the same language and the major parties seem to be assuming that people will link any online question they ask with the name of the party, which in our view is wrong-headed.
The political parties will be gearing up for the General Election and battling for dominance online so they will need to more agile and responsive in the way they engage with potential supporters.
Neil Jackson, Search Strategy Director at Tamar
Tamar, the UK's award-winning search and social conversion agency, combines extensive expertise in natural search engine optimisation with conversion-driven design and social media to generate more online sales for businesses. This results-focused delivery of campaigns is achieved through five complementary divisions: search, analytics, conversion design, technology and social media. Tamar’s approach is to use its 15 years of online expertise and experience and combine this with clients’ customer intelligence to maximise client revenues. Tamar specialises in working with major financial services, travel, gaming and retail brands. Its extensive, high-profile client base includes The Arcadia Group, B&Q, Domestic & General, Endsleigh, LloydsTSB and Royal Caribbean. www.tamar.com
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