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Lessons compiled by Steven Clift, Board Chair, E-Democracy.Org

E-Democracy created the world's first election-oriented web site, so these tips are based on a a decade of direct experience. 

Our non-partisan goal is to promote competition among political web site so that in the end, more citizens can find and use diverse political information online.

We cannot answer questions related specific online promotion strategies, but welcome your comments.


    You've just spent what seems like hundreds of hours building a candidate or  non-commercial web site related to the election.  You tell one hundreds friends about it, put it on all your literature and five people visit it. Sound familiar? 

    Read these lessons and follow the submission links, additional tips, and connect with other online politics builders below.

    Lesson Number 1

      Build it and they will never come unless you tell them it is there. Reach out online to key online communities and other web sites with an initial site announcement. Do not spam individuals.  Get your site listed or indexed in the web directories and search engines people actually use (see below).

    Lesson Number 2

      Cherish every site visitor.  Carefully convince them to join your one-way opt-in e-mail update list or they will never come back. Never. Make sure you gather opt-in e-mail addresses at every in-person event and welcome them to your update list via e-mail within 48 hours.
    Lesson Number 3
      As you tell people about new content on your site via your e-mail update, you will build traffic, receive feedback and create the incentive loop required to justify keeping your site up-to-date.
    Lesson Number 4 
      Truly undecided voters are the last people to visit political web sites. As you near the end of the campaign, add special content for informed, persuadable voters. In the last couple weeks, create something special for the undecided voters, who against all odds, decided to seek information from your site. 

      For candidates, the rest of the time you should think of your site as a command and control communication center for your core supporters and as a place to mess with your opponents operatives.

    Lesson Number 5
      You are not Howard Dean.  You are not George W. Bush.  You are not John Kerry.  No one really cares about non-Presidential candidates online. U.S. Senate candidates ... in close races, maybe a little, U.S. House candidates ... nope. Sorry. Unless you have outsider "fight the man" star power like Jesse Ventura in 1998, nothing about your online strategy will be easy or a miracle. For non-candidate sites, viral "tell a friend" buzz tends to comes from humor not substance unfortunately.

      Today, effective online campaigning is about political survival not experimentation.  If your opponent gets it right, that might swing the 2% of the vote that you needed.  And, at the local and state legislative level, where television isn't dominant (for the most part) it might even be the 10% swing you needed. 

      So below are some links to help you promote your election-related website online.

    Making Your Site Easier to Find Online

      Assuming that you picked a concise URL (like firstlastname.com or xyzforcongress.org, with no dashes - try to get someone to understand "-" on the telephone) and are printing it on all your materials, at a minimum, submit your site carefully to the following places:

    Additional Tips

      • Voter guides - Contact your local newspaper and share your web address with anyone producing an online or print voter guide. Here is a new network of voter guides from e-thepeople. Contact your local League of Women Voters as well. Many of these voter guide sites often only show up a month or so before an election (and tend to come out in print even later).

      • Party link - If you are a state or local candidate with a party affliation, request links from area political party web sites.

      • Blogs - Some blogs aren't obscure. Some have real power.  Try to get a profile political blogger to mention your site (you need to have something interesting on your site or be in a swing district for any exposure outside of your home state).  You often have to dig and dig for their e-mail addresses.  Local blogs might be a better bet.  Ask your friends for suggestions.

      • E-mail newsletter - Every political web site should have a regular e-mail newsletter.  Even something short that goes out once or twice a month that tells your core users what is new on your site.  If it is interesting, they will pass your e-mail on to their friends.

      • Online Ads - Try it.  Tell us if it works.  If you are negotiating for traditional ad buys, ask how many targeted web impressions they will throw in on the side. Use this online ad space to experiment.  To building your opt-in e-mail list, try placing fill in ads on sites you think your supporters might visit.  With swing groups, annoy your opponent by placing ads where they expect to dominate.  With undecided or youth voters, get some expert advice - do no harm first.

      • Tell a Friend - Have a simple web form that allows visitors to tell a friend about your web site.  You can also encourage supporters to put web buttons and links on their sites, but don't expect too much down ballot - most of your supporters don't have web sites.

      • RSS Headlines - If you plan frequent updates, add an RSS feed on your site that supporters can display their blog or read with a news aggregator.

      • More Links - The more links you receive, the higher ranking you tend to get via search engines.  At a minimum, candidates want to make sure your site comes up the first page of results when your name is searched.

      • Search Engine Optimization - This is an industry apparently.  We don't know who to trust, but we'll exchange a few links with any experts that can help E-Democracy.Org reach the top ten on "elections 2004" and five other mutually agreed keyword combinations on the major sites.  We are already #9 on for election 2004 on Google and #8 on MSN.

      • Post to E-mail Lists, Newsgroups and Online Communities - You must be very selective.  Dig deep into YahooGroups (then MSN Groups) and look for e-mail lists with more than 20 people and at least one post in the last month.  There are hundreds of lists for local political party groups and state efforts of former Presidential candidates.  Join first and post directly (or if you think your announcement is border line appropriate, send it to the forum owner and ask them if it is OK first). Only post a second time if you have a major site upgrade or to announce new content on your site like a position paper related to that e-mail list's topic.

      • For newsgroups, first create a temporary free web-based e-mail account. Then create an account at Google Groups with that e-mail. Post to the local xx.politics newsgroup in your state or see some suggested groups at the bottom of E-Democracy's Discussion links page.  Be selective and don't put an e-mail address in your post that you don't want on every "spam me please" list under the sun. Check your web-based e-mail account in case anyone replies directly instead of using the direct link to your web comment form you so wisely added to your announcement.

        For web-based online communities, head to your local media or portal web sites first.  If they still have web-boards, look for a couple of appropriate topic areas and post and welcome link.  Better yet, find a thread related to a topic your candidate has a position paper on and post a direct link to the position paper.  Yeah, many candidates are afraid to mix it up online - most of them will become extinct in the information age.  Seriously, "one-way" candidates don't come off well in-person do they? Why would they online?  Do some math ... 10 minutes a day to reach 100 informed voters who know everyone or one more block of door-knocking that day ...

        If you are the candidate yourself, try out posting a few times - particularly in the first part of the campaign.  You'll be surprised how many more people read discussion boards rather than post to them.  However, in the last two months of a campaign, unless you are a very local candidate, people might wonder why you aren't pressing the flesh if you are too active online. Also, avoid any one-on-one arguments and give others time to come to your defense (or bring in some authentic supporters to put in a good unscripted word). 

    Want to connect with other campaign and political webheads? 

    Join the Campaigning Online e-mail list and check out the:


    Send comments and site submissions to the E-Democracy.US volunteer team. Our links focus on non-profit and major media sources.