Over the last two months, Canadians have read, heard and seen numerous polls about the federal election, many of which focus on the big question, “How are you going to vote?”
But as the campaign period draws to a close, one Canadian took a look at the polls and wondered, “Why hasn’t anybody surveyed peoples’ interest in the political parties’ Web sites?”
That Canadian is Michel Leblanc — an Outremont, Que.-based consultant who recently started up his own Internet marketing and e-business strategies firm, Analyweb Inc. Last week, Leblanc started posting his research on his blog, michelleblanc.com. His blog has already garnered the attention of several Quebec media outlets including La Presse, Les Affaires and Radio-Canada.
While most political parties internally track the amount of traffic on their sites, Leblanc says he’s breaking new ground in election polling.
All of the tools that Leblanc uses to conduct his research are freely available on the Web. For example, alexa.com is a search tool that can be used to look up traffic rankings. The site ranks 100,000 of the most-visited Web sites in the world. By typing in the URL, the search engine generates an approximation of the number of visitors to that site, page views and the site’s overall ranking. When Paul Martin’s Liberals accidentally ran an attack ad that said if elected Stephen Harper would implement martial law, the Liberal Party’s Web site had 150 million page views that day. By this week, however, the Liberal Party’s site saw a sharp decline with the Conservative Party’s site leading at 140 million page views.
According to its own internal monitoring, the Green Party said on January 18, its Web site had one million hits, 250,000 page views and 25,000 visitors. The Party’s executive director Jean Langlois said the Internet is particularly important for the Green Party given its grassroots nature.
“We have very broad support across the country,” said Langlois. “We need to reach people in different places geographically and in different communities. Obviously the Internet is the best way to do that.”
Likewise, the Conservatives have found the Web to be a useful tool to reach voters alongside more traditional mediums like television and radio that aren’t always accessible.
“Some of our supporters are out of the country and are using the Web site to make sure of the rules and to find out how they can vote by mail-in ballot,” said Sandra Buckler, Conservative Party spokeswoman.
In addition to traditional features on their Web sites such as party platform, campaign ads, press releases and candidate info, some of the party sites feature interactive components. The Conservative Party, for example, has Podcasts available for download. The New Democratic Party of Canada goes one step farther with, “The Great Paul Martin Credibility Hunt,” in which voters who are successful in finding Martin’s credibility could be eligible to win a trip for two.
In a separate finding, Leblanc used Intelliseek’s Blogpulse to search which party chief is the most talked-about in blogs among Paul Martin, Stephen Harper and Gilles Duceppe.
“On that criteria Paul Martin is the most talked-about,” said Leblanc. “We don’t know if it’s good or bad, but we know he’s the most talked-about.”
In terms of political party, Leblanc found that the Bloc Quebecois was the most talked about, ahead of the Conservative and Liberal parties.
For another posting, Leblancused Yahoo’s search marketing tool, Overture, to determine the number of times a political party has been entered in a MSN or Yahoo search engine in French and in English.
“In English it was the Conservative party that was the most visited,” said Leblanc. “We see that in French that it was the Bloc.”
In December alone, the number of requests for the Bloc in English jumped from around 600 to nearly 4,000.
Another tool, sitesreportcard.com, allows users to analyze how well a Web site has been built in terms of HTML code, hyperlinks, spelling and technical quality. Leblanc found that the NDP’s side is more advanced than the other party hopefuls.
“In Web marketing, one of the major criteria to be well-positioned in search results is the number of external hyperlinks that point to your Web site,” said Leblanc, adding that a Yahoo search revealed the NDP is the most hyperlinked site of all the political parties.
Leblanc, like millions of other Canadians, will be sitting on the edge of his seat next Monday. But unlike many Canadians, he’ll be anxiously awaiting to see if the political party’s Web site with the biggest reach and best use of technology co-relates with how Canadians vote.
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