Building up traffic to a local party or councillor website is much like building up a delivery network: it brings big benefits, but it’s not the sort of thing you can do overnight. They are both best achieved by making slow and steady progress over a period of time.
Steadily work your way down the list over the next couple of months and by the time this May’s election campaigns proper kick off you should really notice the difference.
Make sure the site is listed: there are numerous websites and blog directories, but generally only two really matter for political sites: DMOZ (http://www.dmoz.org/add.html) and Wikio (http://www.wikio.com/addblog – despite the address, this is not just for blogs). In addition, if it is a blog, then also go for Liberal Democrat Blogs (http://www.libdemblogs.co.uk/add/).
Make sure your site is linked to: the more links a site has, the better it does in search results. It is therefore worth ensuring that all the Liberal Democrat sites in your area and region link to each other. The party’s federal website, www.libdems.org.uk, also links to each local party site (one per local party) along with an MP and Parliamentary candidate sites. If any are missing or wrong, drop a line to website AT libdems.org.uk with details.
Some local council sites will also be happy to add links to any local councillor sites in their area, though different councils have different policies on linking to “political” sites.
Regularly add content: regularly updated sites are read more heavily that those left untouched for long periods, partly because people get in the habit of coming back to look for new stories. A good initial target is adding two stories each week: one about a local issue and one about a national issue that is also of local interest (e.g. the economy). For the latter, the regular Campaigner email from ALDC and the Lib Dem Daily from the Liberal Democrat press team are good, convenient sources.
To be added to the Lib Dem Daily, visit http://www.libdems.org.uk/huddle.aspx.
Schedule your posts: usually stories that appear during normal working hours, Monday-Friday, will do better than stories which appear at other times (unless there is a particular deadline or piece of breaking news where you want to get in first on the story).
Therefore, if you are tapping at the keyboard at other times, it is best to schedule the post to appear during peak hours. Most websites (including the Prater Raines and MyCouncillor sites) let you set a story to automatically appear at a particular time in the future.
Promote the site via Facebook: stories can be automatically imported in to a person’s Facebook profile, or to a Facebook page, using Facebook’s notes feature. This requires the website to have an RSS/news feed of latest stories. Nearly all sites have these, including the MyCouncillor and Prater Raines ones. (Rather than using the built-in Facebook import feature, you may well find RSSGraffiti works better.)
Mention the site in emails and leaflets: don’t just give the web address, also give people a reason to go to the site, e.g. “For more information on this story, see…”. Simply sticking a web address on a website rarely works – you need to be a bit cleverer than that. If you have a particularly interesting new story, you could also text people to promote it.
And finally: keep an eye on the statistics for your website, particularly to see which stories are most popular and which links people follow to come to the site. That will give you an idea of what sort of content to add in future, and also where your stories are being talked about online – which in turn can give ideas for where you should keep an eye on or post up comments. Most sites will come with a statistics package, or you can add the Google Analytics service. It’s free and requires only a fairly low level of technical skill to add.