One of the items I am going to add to the 2018 Technology Outreach Scorecards is a review of candidates websites. I plan to mix these reviews into the evaluations and conduct more that one website review during the election cycle. Here is a breakdown of what I will be looking at when conducting the reviews:
- Information on the site
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
- Mobile / Responsive Review
- Overall Website Grade
Here is some of the specifics I will be looking at for each section:
Information on the site:
There are some basic information components I think every political website should have..and each section will receive a point in the scoring (Homepage, About/Bio, Issues, Contact form, Donations and Social Media links). Other items that could receive some additional points are (Events, Email address and Endorsements).
I will come up with a score breakdown and assign a grade letter to it for the evaluation. This may change over time and if it does I will be sure to update this post so that everyone is informed.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
I will be looking at the site to see that it includes things like (Title tag, Meta description tag, Header tags, Image Alt attributes, Backlinks, Broken links, Robots.txt files, Sitemaps and Google analytics code). These are all important aspects of SEO and each site should have these evaluated and updated throughout the campaign cycle.
Mobile / Responsive Review
I will be looking at factors important for mobile devices including (Rendering, use of mobile viewports, checking to see if Flash or iFrames is running on the site (fyi – don’t) and looking to see if the site has a Favicon). ALL sites today should be optimized for mobile devices and this should not be overlooked when building your campaign website.
Overall Website Grade
There may be other factors where I subtract points (if you have images that do not work or if the site is too cluttered) or even add some points if you have features that are useful to voters (links to voter registration, maps of your district or other helpful tools).
I will then give an overall grade to the website. Hopefully this evaluation will be used by candidates to make improvements to the site that will benefit potential voters in the upcoming election cycle.
Want to see what this may look like? Here is an early evaluation of a candidate (I am choosing one out of state for this evaluation so everyone can see what I am looking for in the review).
Candidate: Rick Saccone – candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania
Information Grade: A
Has all of the basics (Homepage, About/Bio, Issues, Contact form, Donations and Social Media links). He even lists an endorsements page. He lists “News and Events” but it is more of a news/blog page than an actual events page.
This is a good site for SEO but it seems to be missing a couple of items (No Meta Description Tag on the homepage and I did not find a XML sitemap). These are simple fixes (especially for a WordPress website – that is what this site is). If those get corrected in the future it will raise up the grade of the evaluation.
Mobile / Responsive: A
No issues at all found with the mobile view of this website on phones or tablets.
Overall website grade: B+
Trust me when I say that this is a good website score…and can easily and quickly be improved with some modifications on the SEO items. Many of the sites I have looked at for candidates in Maryland are not up to par yet. Candidates would be SHOCKED if I published their scores today…so I am going to wait a bit and give everyone time to get their sites optimized for voters.
Hopefully this gives you an idea of the items I will be looking at going forward. Candidates, be sure to start looking at this sooner rather than later. Your online presence is important when running for office today.
I hope this evaluation is useful for some candidates.