Thursday, September 2, 2010

More online campaigning tips: Your Website

Here are some more things to expand on yesterday’s list of tips for online campaigning. Most of today’s tips involve tinkering with the HTML or other parts of your website’s code, so you may need to find a suitable geek to help you on these.

Keeping people up to date

 Have an RSS feed that includes when you make blog posts, add videos, policy documents, new events, etc. This will allow some of the people interested in your campaign to keep up to date without having to check back with your website (which the vast majority of potentially interested people simply won’t do).

You will also want to post a summary of what’s new to the front page of your website.


 There are a number of things you can do to make your website’s listings on Google clearer (and more likely to be found and clicked on).

Your pages’ titles are what Google use to provide links to your website. So, make sure you have clear titles (found in the <title> element in the <head> of your website html). Ideally, each page on your website should have a distinct, clear, title. E.g., “Candidate X Campaign for Ward 15”, “Candidate X Biography”, “Contact Candidate X”, etc.

Use the description meta-tag (“<meta name="description" content="A short description of what this web page is about." />”) to give Google listings a clear and concise summary for each page on your website. (This is the text Google displays right under the link.)

Provide Google (and other search engines) with a Sitemap which helps them know the structure of your website, and find the various pages you have.

See Google’s Webmaster Tools for a bunch more you can do.

Mobile devices

 Test how your website looks on common devices such as iPhones and BlackBerries. There are ways to set up your website’s stylesheets (the “.css” files) to do special formatting for those platforms (here’s a ton of info for the Safari web browser used on iPhones, etc.). Given how many people in Calgary are using these devices these days, it’s worth your while to make your website accessible to them.

You can also pick up a bit of attention by having your campaign produce a custom application for these devices. Note that this is only worth doing if you can get a high quality application produced. An ugly, or uninteresting application will reflect poorly.

Make your campaign information computer-readable

Make your calendar of events available as an up-to-date iCalendar (“.ics”) format file. People can then load that into their personal calendar applications (iCal, Outlook, iPhone Calendar, etc.) allowing them to have automatically updated reminders of your events right in their calendars. Having an iCalendar file available for your campaign will also be usable by other websites like Calgary Democracy to keep an up-to-date list of your events.

If your website admin doesn’t have the facility to generate the iCalendar file for your site, you can use something like the Google Calendar tool to generate a calendar people can subscribe to (including the iCalendar format).

Have your campaign contact information available as a vCard (“.vcf”) file. This makes it easy for people to add you to their address books to stay more readily connected to your campaign. Be sure to include at least your phone number, email and website in the vCard file.

 If you want to be particularly data-friendly, you can also apply the appropriate microformats right into your existing web pages. There’s a growing range of software that understands microformats, making it easier for users to copy things like events and contact information from your web pages.


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