Will Your Civic Website Rock the Vote This Year?
It’s officially election season. As a municipal website administrator, you know what that means: you can expect a huge spike in civic website traffic on November 7. FairVote estimates that 40 percent of the eligible population turns out to vote during a non-presidential election year. These voter turnout statistics translate to massive amounts of voter data that local governments will want to share online. If not properly managed, big data and large traffic volumes could wreak havoc on your civic website this Election Day.
At CivicPlus, our experience developing and hosting over 2,500 local government websites has revealed some simple, but essential best practices to keep local government websites fully operational and optimized for high traffic volumes during election season. This year, keep citizens informed regarding election results without compromising on the quality of their online interaction—or the functionality of your website—by following these essential best practices:
1. Communicate in Advance. Communicate in advance to your citizens in advance when you expect to post election results. This will help to mitigate high volumes of repeat traffic throughout the day before results are available. Communicate anticipated timing to citizens using all available communication platforms, including email and social media.
2. Set up a Designated Results Page. Post election results as content within a designated site page, rather than as a separate document. This will help to ensure your site speed is not impacted in any way. To further protect site speeds, post election summary data only.
3. Add a Homepage Graphic. Create a prominently displayed, temporary graphic link from your home page to make it easy for citizens to find your election results page. The more quickly users navigate to their destination page, the better your site performance.
4. Direct Traffic to Your Results Page. Provide the specific link to your results page to news outlets, and post to social media to route citizens directly to the appropriate page.
5. Mobile Optimize. Many citizens will be checking election results on-the-go from their mobile devices. Make sure your content is mobile-friendly. If you post your election results within a site page on your CivicEngage website, your page will automatically be mobile-responsive.
6. Create a Short Page Title. Use a simple and succinct page title such as “City Name 2017 Election Results.” Choose a page title that will help your search engine optimization (SEO). The top of your webpage should include the page title, or something very similar, that is tagged with the HTML heading <h1>. Depending on your content management system (CMS), this could be a manual or automatic process. For users of CivicEngage, this process is done automatically when your page title is created. The <h1> tag is important for search engines like GoogleTM, Yahoo!®, and Bing that are indexing your site.
Your CivicEngage website is designed to be optimized for search engines, but you still have the flexibility to customize your menu text, title, description, and keyword fields with election results content to further enhance your SEO.
Remember that page titles should be 70 characters or less. If a longer page title is used, the page name will appear truncated on search engine results pages (see example below).
7. Add a meta description to your election results page that is less than 150 characters. If more than 150 characters are used, the text again will appear truncated on search engine results pages (see example below).
A good meta (page) description ensures people using search engines that they are clicking on the correct page. If you are a current CivicEngage client and need a refresher on how to add meta descriptions to new site pages, contact your account manager or login to theCivicPlus Help Center for assistance.
The following advice will help you further optimize your website's performance on election day:
1. Do not post election results in the form of a document such as a PDF or Microsoft Word file. The repeated request to serve up large files will slow your site speed and impact site accessibility.
2. For best performance, avoid posting a large number of graphics, or any graphics with large file sizes, to your election results page. This will slow your site’s page-load speeds.
3. Do not use infographics to share election results. Infographics are typically large files, which will slow your site speed. On election night, when traffic volumes will be high, post results in text format only. If you do intend to create an engaging infographic for your citizens regarding local election results, we recommend sharing it via social media or email instead of on your results page.
Want to know how your civic website performs overall in such categories as speed, mobility, readability, and broken links? Get your free third-party website performance report by clicking on the link below.