Searching for some free publicity: party website research misses the mark

Tamar Political Search Index

Bringing the skills of your consultants to bear on a sector/industry in a way that makes interesting copy for journalists is chapter one in the How to get Free Publicity in Business Services Handbook 2008-2009. This was certainly the intention of search engine optimisation (getting you to the top of Google) outfit Tamar, who found themselves on Sky News off the back of criticising search results related to the main parties.

The general gist is that Labour Party information on policy is ranked poorly by search engines in comparison to the Tories and Lib Dems. Perhaps the pages in question would benefit from the addition of the word ‘policy’ to the page titles and URLs but there is scant evidence that floating voters search for individual party policies in such a systematic way.  The vast majority of people who visit party websites either enter through the front door having searched “X party” or already have a pretty firm opinion about who they’re voting for. Much of the content is therefore dedicated to galvanising (and organising) activists – these websites are for human beings and not search engine robots.

People that are searching for this information are more likely to be journalists, NGOs, researchers and academics. There is an easy explanation as to why labour.org.uk might not be so highly ranked in Google for policy material: we’re in government. The rather obvious implication is that Labour’s policy materials are, erm, hosted on departmental websites!

Gordon Macmillan has more (and better) rebuttal of this flimsy work but if anyone wants to look at the two pages of research – the front and back covers don’t count – be Scrapbook’s guest:

Even Google results can make you laugh.

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