None of the parties’ websites rank before page 4 on Google for local election searches, new research finds.
All three main political parties are failing miserably in their use of new digital channels to reach voters, according to a new Digital MOT report released today by UK advertising agency Cheetham Bell JWT (CBJWT) in the run up to the local elections on Thursday.
Using the same Digital MOT that is used to assess the performance of hundreds of household brands each year, CBJWT scored the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems on their use of a range of digital media including website effectiveness, use of social media, accessibility compliance and search engine activity.
All three parties failed to meet the pass rate of 60 points. The Conservatives fared best with 57 out of a possible 105 points; the Lib Dems were second with 54 and Labour trailed in last with 51 points. Some of the most damaging findings of the report include:
Failing to connect with voters through Google
With thousands of searches for political information each month, Google is one of the key ways that the parties can be making themselves easy to find. But none of the 50,000 Google searches per month for ‘local elections’ lists any of the three major parties in pages 1 – 4, a huge missed opportunity to connect with potential voters. Key search terms including immigration, NHS and foreign policy failed to find a single mention of the three parties.
No parties are using Mobile Web effectively
With more people predicted to use mobiles than PCs to get online by 2013, smartphone usage is one of the fastest growing areas of digital media and is an opportunity to interact with voters, even as they’re standing in the voting booth. Neither Labour nor the Lib Dems even have a mobile website and the Conservatives mobile site is uninspiring and difficult to read.
Lazy and uninspiring use of social media
The combined total Facebook updates from the three parties in the month leading up to the local elections is only 68. The total number of tweets over the same period is 79. While they have relatively high follower numbers and likes, there is no outreach activity and no drive to create real dialogue with voters.
The parties are simply replicating existing activity by posting updates about activities and news rather than using them to really interact with voters. There’s also confusion around the number of accounts, with each of the parties operating three separate Twitter accounts each and none of the Tories accounts rated as official.
Failure to comply with Disability Discrimination Guidelines
Labour and the Liberal Democrats are failing to check that their website articles are using alt text that can be read by visually impaired voters. Some pages feature 12 accessibility errors.
CBJWT Chief Executive David Bell who commissioned the report said: “We were genuinely shocked at the lack of understanding and strategy this digital MOT has revealed among the major political parties. The rest of the world is embracing the digital age but politicians are clinging to the same old clumsy, environmentally unfriendly and scattergun electioneering approach - door drops, newspaper inserts, posters etc.
"With political party funding under scrutiny, politicians have to look to digital media as a much more cost effective and targeted way to reach voters, particularly the digitally savvy e-lectorate, who are far more likely to engage with a candidate on Facebook or Google them than to read a leaflet that comes through the door with a handful of pizza menus."
Not all bad news
It’s not all bad news for the political parties as the report did throw up some good work including:
Lib Dems are the clear leaders in blogging – with longer articles, regular updates and reader interaction. The Tories have a much less active blog roll, while Labour have yet to start a blog at all; another missed opportunity to connect with voters and drive SEO
Labour’s website is easy to use and has a clear strategy and purpose with strong calls to action, good links to their social media and opportunities for data collection.
The Tories are the clear leaders in video content, both on their website and on YouTube.
Newer news items:
Older news items: