For this election cycle, the Missourian partnered with e.thePeople to provide an interactive voters guide with customizable ballots and easy submission of candidate information. A custom subdomain was set up at voterguide.columbiamissourian.com and some ads were set up to promote the guide online and in print. My outreach team was tasked with making sure the guide got into the right hands — voters in Boone County.
We employed several strategies to increase awareness and engagement with the guide:
- A social media blitz leading up to Election Day. This gave students the opportunity to create a social media campaign spanning several weeks. The average post reached 2,143 users on Facebook and 2,550 impressions on Twitter.
- 1,000 fliers were distributed to community centers and common spaces around downtown and on campus.
- A paid Facebook post promoted traffic to the guide, reaching 28,000 Facebook users in and around Columbia. The promoted post was shared 162 times and received 180 reactions and 15 comments. Most importantly, it generated 1,158 clicks to the guide.
- A search-engine optimized post was our most successful strategy at reaching community members Election Day. By looking at our analytics leading up to the election, I noticed that people searching for “voter guide” were not hitting our new site, but were rather hitting a guide created for the summer primaries. So we created a post with an SEO-friendly headline, “Missouri Voters Guide: Understand the issues and prepare your ballot,” which exploded in the days before the election and especially on Election Day, attracting almost 5,000 visitors to our site and converting more than 3,000 of them to click on the actual voter guide.
Overall, the voter guide served more than 10,000 mid-Missourians and received positive feedback. Several users wished the guide had served a larger geographic area and included other county and district races. In the future, the voter guide could be embraced by all of the newsrooms at the J-school and bring on other partners in the community, such as the League of Women Voters, while also expanding its geographic footprint.
Bottom line: Without the SEO and search strategy, it’s unlikely many voters never would have known the Voters Guide existed, or they would have been drawn to a competitor’s search result.