Person holding a sign | Political campaign website

Tis the season when election websites start popping up, and as you may expect, I have a lot of opinions about what makes a good political campaign website. Since the Internet went mainstream back in the early ’90s, candidates have been using it to highlight their issues and drive voters to the voting booth. But what you do on your website, and what you don’t do, can have a huge impact on your campaign. If you are a candidate running for office and plan to make your own website, or have a friend or family member do it, I would strongly advise you to reconsider that thought.

Anyone can make a website these days. With the abundance of easy DIY website builders, it’s easy to click your way to having a website. But what you may not realize is that there are things your website needs and you need to do that will impact your campaign that are not always obvious things you see when you land on that homepage, and these can play a huge role in your overall success.

What goes on a political campaign website: The Basics

So with every good political campaign website, you need the minimum of the following five pages:

  • Homepage: This is going to be the primary page your visitors will start on, although it won’t always be where they land. It should include a basic overview of who you are, what you are running for, and why you are running, as well as professional photo.
  • About the Candidate: This is a more robust page about your experience, what makes you tick, why you are a good candidate, etc, etc.
  • Issues: If you are running for office, you need to take a stance on issues, and your issues page lets people know where you stand on those issues.
  • Get Involved/Contact: If someone wants a sign, wants to ask a question, or wants to volunteer, it should be easy to find how how on your website.
  • Donate: Does your campaign need funds? What campaign doesn’t. Make sure people can donate easily on your website.

These are the BARE MINIMUM of what you need on your website and I could go ON AND ON about how this actually isn’t enough, and how to expand on all these items. And I may do that in a follow up post. But today, I really want to focus on some more invisible items that should be done with and for your website that someone who isn’t a professional web developer. And it’s not because they aren’t thoughtful or care, it’s because they aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of all the different aspects of web design and development. So here you go, a somewhat comprehensive list of things that need to be done for your website.

“Invisible” website tasks for your political campaign website

  1. Google Analytics: It is SO important that you know if people are coming to your website and what they are looking at. If you aren’t evaluating your traffic so you can make your website more effective, then you are likely losing votes. If you see that most of your traffic is landing on the homepage but not exploring other pages, then you need to ask yourself why? Why are people not looking at the issues page, or signing up to volunteer? What is making them turn away? You can learn a lot about your constituents by looking at how they are using your website.
  2. Google Search Console: Just because you publish a website, doesn’t mean Google will find it and serve it up in the search results. In fact, if you don’t explicitly tell Google that you have a website and where all the pages are, it could take WEEKS before your website gets published in the search results. For a political campaign website, you don’t have weeks. Your website needs to be indexed ASAP. And to do that, you have to set up Google Search Console and you have to submit an XML sitemap so Google knows where all your pages are.
  3. Accessibility: Did you know that as many as 20% of your website users may have some kind of disability that makes using the Internet more challenging? Do you want to alienate 20% of your voters? That’s why accessibility is so important. You HAVE to make sure that your users can use your website. Additionally, if you are in office and have an official government website, it’s actually the law.
  4. Social Card: Do you know what a social card is? If you don’t make websites professionally, you probably don’t. A social card, or social preview, is the image, title, and description that will show up when people share your website on social media or via text. And if you don’t designate this, then it’ll just pull the default, which is usually the first image on the page, the page title, and the first sentence or two of your text. Will this work? Maybe. But it’s not optimal. You can create a beautiful social card that will not only look great, but display information about your campaign. Here are a few examples.
  1. Thank you page: Your website user’s visit doesn’t have to end after they hit submit. Do you even know what happens on your website after someone hits submit? If you don’t, you are missing a huge opportunity. By default, on most websites, when someone submits a form, there is a message that says something like “Thank you for contacting us, we will get back to you soon.” And you know, that just kind of sucks. You should be using this as an opportunity to get your message in front of more people. You can create a personalized thank you page that extends their visit, gives them more to do or think about, and makes your site more memorable. I wrote a blog post about thank you pages in 2018, and you can read that, and I intend to do a new post later this week about thank you pages specific to a political campaign website.
  2. Exit-Intent Popup: Everyone hates popups, but they exist for a reason. They are effective. An exit-intent popup is a popup that is only triggered when a user attempts to leave the page. Having an exit-intent pop-up can keep your visitors on your site, increase conversions, and grow your audience. What should you put in yours? Well, it depends on what your most important goal is for website visitors. If your #1 goal for visitors is to get them to donate to your campaign, then you better use that exit-intent popup as a last ask for funds. With a big DONATE button that makes it easy to donate. Do you want to spread the word about your campaign? That exit-intent popup should be a last ask for them to share your website on social media. Is it important that they sign up for a sign, use that popup to direct them on how to get a sign. Whatever you think is the MOST IMPORTANT thing you want people to do, that goes in that popup.

Having a great political campaign website is about more than just having a site that looks good and highlights your issues. It’s about making a website that is effective, that is also working for you. Your website isn’t just an extension of your campaign, it’s a tool you can use to increase awareness and engagement in your campaign. These “invisible” items can add a lot of value to your website, even though they aren’t front and center on your homepage. It’s this kind of attention to detail that makes hiring a professional for web design services worthwhile.

Amy Masson, Web Developer

Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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