LONDON - With what is being dubbed the UK's first social media election just months away, a new political search study highlights that many of the Labour Party's policies are buried on the fifth page of Google's listings, while the Conservatives' policies rank first or second.
Tamar, the natural search conversion agency, has today released the results of its first Political Search Index, which tracks how easy it is for voters to find official policy information from the mainstream political parties online.
The results show the Labour Party trailing badly behind the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Green Party and the Scottish National Party.
Tamar's research looked at fifteen specific policy areas of interest to voters and examined how effectively the political parties have optimised content on their own websites for Google.
The Conservative Party tops the Political Search Index with Conservatives.com appearing in an average ranking of 1.5 in Google's natural search results.
This compares to the Labour Party website, which achieved an average position of 29, equivalent to the bottom of the third page of Google's results.
For a number of key policy areas including Defence, Environment and Pensions, no content from Labour.org.uk appears in the first five pages of Google results.
Tamar said that typically fewer than 5% of internet users look beyond the first page of Google.
Neil Jackson, search director at Tamar, said: "As the general election approaches, Google will be the first point of call for voters looking online to compare the policy positions of rival political parties.
"Our first Political Search Index shows a big discrepancy between those parties which have clearly 'get it' and those who have failed to invest in search engine optimisation when building and maintaining their official websites.
"All political parties are investing heavily in creating their own social networking platforms and using new communication channels like Twitter. However, some like the Labour Party need to go back to basics and ensure that their site can deliver the answers to the most likely queries from voters, on the first page of Google."
One possible flaw in Tamar's study however, is that it does not compensate for the disadvantage that Labour faces with its name being a fairly well-used noun.
In its defence, Tamar said that the study looked at the most likely keyword string from a voter's point of view when it comes to policy. For example, when searching the parties' health policies, Tamar used the search terms: "Conservative Health Policy", "Labour Health Policy", "Liberal Democrat Health Policy", "Green Party Health Policy" and "SNP Health Policy".
A spokesman for Tamar said: "From an SEO perspective Labour should be optimising its content to match the search terms people would commonly use, which means most people referring to them as 'Labour' rather than 'Labour Party'."
Tamar Political Search Index — Oct 2009