Labour beat Conservatives and Lib Dems in online manifesto campaign
The Conservatives and Labour have now launched their manifestos. The Liberal Democrats launch theirs tomorrow.
As with their party leaders' websites, the parties' online approaches to their manifestos leave a lot to be desired - although Labour have done a better job than the Conservatives.
What they should have done
The launch of a manifesto is a tricky thing - you don't want the details to leak out beforehand - but the moment it's published, you want people to find it when they type "party name manifesto" into Google.
What you should do is have a "living URL" for your manifesto - one URL (like ...com/manifesto) on which you always publish your current manifesto with links to older ones. That way, your current manifesto will benefit from links to that URL (even from when old manifestos were kept on it).
In the run up to the launch, you spray this URL around liberally, and get your army of bloggers to link to this URL, maybe encouraging them to use handy anchor text like "party name manifesto".
If you've forgotten to do this, another suggestion is to make sure your home page HTML title contains the word manifesto - that way maybe Google will return your homepage when people search for your manifesto - better than nothing ...
The manifesto itself
It's fine to do the manifesto as a video, podcast and downloadable PDF - but you also need it as a series of webpages with rich interlinking. Some people will want to read it this way - and search engines will definitely want to see it this way.
What they've actually done
They've made an effort at a living URL. According to wikinews, the 2005 manifesto was on http://www.labour.org.uk/manifesto.html, a URL which now redirects to http://members.labour.org.uk/ - so at least they've put a redirect in place, even if it's not to their manifesto, which is acutally on http://www2.labour.org.uk/manifesto-splash.
If you search for labour manifesto on google, you see this screenshot.
Their homepage appears with an HTML title of "The Labour Party Manifesto 2010" - and they've temporarily redirected their homepage to their manifesto homepage, so this all works nicely from a searcher's point of view.
You may notice the second result - the Membersnet 3.2.4 Beta with a URL of http://www.labour.org.uk/manifesto.htm. That's because of old links pointing to that page from when it did contain the manifesto (but which now redirects to the members' site (via a 302 temporary redirect. Sigh).
The manifesto itself is a series of HTML pages which link to each other plus a video.
So not perfect, but at least it's all findable.
They only launched their manifesto today. But they have made a pig's ear of it.
If you search for conservative manifesto, you get the Daily Telegraph website followed by two old pages about other manifestos.
One reason is that, according to wikinews, the 2005 manifesto was on http://www.conservatives.com/tile.do?def=manifesto.index.page, which they haven't redirected - you just get page not found. The current manifesto is on http://www.conservatives.com/Policy/Manifesto.aspx.
Also, there is no HTML version - just PDFs and MP3s, not ideal from a searcher's or SEO point of view.
They launch theirs tomorrow. Preparations are not going that well ... On the one hand, search for lib dem manifesto today, and at least their home page is first. Sadly, the word manifesto isn't mentioned on it. There is a list of what they stand for, but I want the actual manifesto - or at least news of when it launches.
And what's all that other stuff underneath?
In particular, they look like they have a subdomain for their manifesto: manifesto.libdems.org.uk.
This informs us that:
Although the next General Election does not have to take place until 2010, we have to be prepared for a snap Election and that is why we need your views now on what our key messages should be.
Guys - IT'S HAPPENING! (Hat tip to Martin Belam for the idea).