2017 General Election: a time sensitive political SEO omnishambles?

2017 General Election: a time sensitive political SEO omnishambles?

Monday, May 08, 2017

Companies with sites that target time sensitive terms, for example, ‘flowers’ and ‘chocolates’ around Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, need to make sure that both their technical SEO and content is correctly implemented well ahead of time to prevent any valuable traffic being left on the table or granting competitors free reign.

With the recent announcement of a snap general election in the UK, I thought it would be interesting to see how the major parties approached this aspect of SEO in general election terms. As it turns out, Malcom Tucker might have described it as an and ‘omnishambles’.

For the term ‘general election 2017’ no political party’s site appears on the first 3 pages of the results; it seems that no-one thought that they might need to publish some relevant content targeting the relevant keywords (note that this was tested several days after the announcement.)

Looking at the 3 main parties’ websites several days after the announcement, they do not have any pages directly targeting ‘general election 2017’ and related terms; to make things even worse, Labour have a splash screen before you get to the site, let alone the homepage! Someone needs to tell the Labour webmaster its 2017, not 1994.

So, the key take away for political parties are:

  • Speed is vital when a new story breaks, you must have pages/content targeting this quickly.
  • Have a SEO contingency plan in place – a snap election was a definite possibility, and parties should have had a plan for this ready to go.
  • Given that during elections there are hard limits on spending, effectively throwing away free traffic does not make any sense.

Google also does not seem to provide a very diverse set of sites in response to these keywords, preferring to only list traditional media sites. This could just be a case of Google erring on the side of caution with the recent criticism of fake news sites, however, this doesn’t totally explain why the main political parties’ sites don’t feature. The answer could simply be that Google is unused to parliamentary systems where elections are not held on a fixed cycle like the USA.

Whilst political SEO is a niche area (albeit one that doesn’t seem very well understood by UK parties) many online businesses manage to implement time sensitive searches; for example, a travel/hotel site will have pages targeting seasonal breaks like the upcoming August bank holiday.

All sites should have a marketing calendar where any time sensitive events are recorded so that any required SEO work both for content and technical SEO can be carried out well in advance.