We are well into the internet age, and political campaigns have known the power of the web for more than a decade. But the state of most political campaign websites is horribly dated — from local races all the way up to the Congressional level.

As a political journalist, consultant and content expert, it hurts my brain to look at most campaign websites. Here are the most common problems I still see.

1) Bad photos

There’s a big difference between pictures you can throw up on your Facebook page and the ones you feature on your campaign website. Make sure any photos you’re including are a high resolution, so they’ll show up no matter what size screen your potential voter is using. Use good lighting, and stay away from staged photos and headshots in most cases. Spend the extra $500 and get candid, professional shots made. Consider hiring a photographer to come to major fundraisers or events. It’ll pay off.

2) Sloppy formatting

With the wealth of pre-built web packages these days, there’s no excuse for a website that looks hastily assembled. Make sure images are lining up the way you’d like them to, that your font is large enough to read, that there aren’t weird breaks anywhere, that links go where they should, and that weird text doesn’t appear in odd places.

3) A woefully outdated blog

It seems to be par for the course for campaign sites to have “blog” sections — but they are rarely updated. It doesn’t make you look like a serious candidate if your last blog update is more than a year in the past. Either ditch the blog, or invest in good content for it. If you’re actively on the campaign trail, you never want to go more than two weeks or so without a blog post.

4) No call to action

You want voters to come to your website and actually do something. Give them a way to show their support. The best way is to include a newsletter sign-up form. That way you can keep up with them over time.

5) Having “Donate” as the call to action

Yes, a donate button is better than no call to action at all. But do you really expect random people to come to your website and just give you money? Unless you’re Beto O’Rourke, I wouldn’t count on it. You need to nurture these relationships before you can count on the big bucks. Yes, you should let people donate online — but that shouldn’t be the primary focus of your website.

6) A rambling “About” page

This isn’t your LinkedIn or your autobiography. People are coming to this page with one primary question: Should I vote for this person? You need to use a brief version of life story to answer this question. Hit the high points of why you’re running for office and be done with it.

7) Too many words

Wordiness is a disease elsewhere on campaign websites as well. Understand what works well on the web — and it’s not big blocks of text. Break up text with subheadings, and stick to the high points.

8) No clear message

Think about your campaign website as a stage in a marketing funnel. You’ve used mailers or yard signs as the very top of the funnel, getting people aware of your name. Now they’re on the next step down, Googling you to see what you’re about. What message do you want people to get at this stage in the game? It should be clear, and right on the homepage.

9) Site that looks bad on mobile

You’re probably designing your website on a desktop computer, but that’s not where you’re readers will be. Count on at least half your traffic to come from a mobile device, most likely a smartphone. Every single aspect of your website should be tested on a mobile device to make sure it looks just as good — if not better.

Want help fixing your campaign website?

Longleaf Politics is here. Our political content services offerings can build your website and fill it with high-quality content. Learn more here.

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