Case Study: New Zealand Election SEO

The NZ elections are coming up on Saturday the 8th of November, and while both major campaigns are marketing themselves fairly well offline, their online search engine optimisation strategies leave a little to be desired.

This post takes a quick look at the Labour and National Party’s websites.

Robots.txt

The robots.txt file is usually my first port of call when undertaking a website’s SEO. This is the file where the webmaster (or SEO) can dictate what the search engines can see, and what they can’t on any website.

Unfortunately, neither Labour nor National have seem to have heard of a robots.txt file:

National offers all their policies in HTML and PDF format. By not disallowing these PDFs, they’re splitting up their link juice, as some external sites will link to the two different pages. Adding the PDF’s to robots.txt is a clear indication to search engines that the HTML version of the page is the one they should rank. National should also put the nofollow tag on each internal link to these PDF.

Authority

Sitelinks are a clear sign that Google thinks a website is authoritative in it’s niche. Labour has them for the keyphrase “labour party,” but also for the more ambiguous keyword “labour.”

National on the other hand, gets no such love. One reason for this is that the sitelink algorithm favours an exact match on the title tag. By putting “NZ” in front of the keyphrase “National Party” they’re diluting the exact matches effect.

Backlinks

Labour’s website shows a total of 558 backlinks according to Yahoo’s Site Explorer. National shows 12,100. Here’s where Labour really messes up. They have redirected www.labour.co.nz, and www.labour.org.nz using a non search engine friendly 302 temporary redirect instead of the search engine friendly 301 permanent redirect. Not only that but going to http://labour.co.nz (without the www) gives a big “Bad Request (Invalid Hostname).” These failed redirections are likely the reason the Labour Party website shows so few backlinks.

Both sites offer some relatively good content to link at, such as tax calculators, but there has clearly been no concise strategy to develop links. They could do a lot better with conversational content… how about a quiz called “Are you a National or Labour voter?”

Title Tags

National has pretty straightforward title tags, generally opting for “$page name – NZ National Party.”

But again Labour is making some serious SEO errors. All of Labour’s policy pages – the main topics people will be searching for when deciding how to vote – have the exact same title tag for every page within the that section.

Next to backlinks, title tags are the most important things search engines look at when deciding where to rank a page.

Final Thoughts

I could go on as there are a few more minor issues that should be given some attention, but judging from the analysis so far the effort would be largley accademic. Both the Labour and National party have some serious SEO problems that could be fixed very easily by a knowledgeable person.

Political bloggers are saying that the internet has only played a minor role in this years election. But if the political spectrum in the US is anything to go by, getting it right is going to be far more important in the years to come.

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