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With 2016 over and 2018 being more crucial for Republicans in Maryland than ever I though it might be a good time to look at the Maryland GOP to see how their digital footprint looks. There are 5 part that I will be looking at:

  1. Accessibility
  2. Indexability
  3. On-Page Ranking Factors
  4. Off-Page Ranking Factors
  5. Competitive Analysis

Maryland Republican Party - SEO Audit

Accessibility

Maryland Republican Party has done the worst possible thing you can do for Search Engine Optimization and the is having your robot.txt:

User-Angent: * Disallow: /

This is telling all crawlers that they are not allowed on the site which keep Search Engines from indexing any pages. In the case of mdgop.org they still index for exact search words and phrases because of sites linking back to it, but it is for from ideal. There robot.txt should look like:

User-Agent: * Disallow: /admin/ Disallow: /utils/ Disallow: /forms/ Disallow: /users/

Beyond that, things start to look better.

The site seems to be fine there are no Robots Meta Tags, but because of the robots.txt the site that is index is a 404 error page. Also, they seem to have XML Sitemap, but don’t have it at in the footer. This is something that should be added because Google recommends it. They do avoid using Flash and JavaScript Navigation, which help the Crawlability.

The site architecture and performance is another mix bag. While the site architecture is simple and allows for easy access the site take a little over 4 seconds to load which can cause problems they should enable compression, use browser caching, and minify files. On the mobile site they need to increase the size of social links so that they are fat finger friendly.

Indexability

Despite the robots.txt mdgop.org does index and has a reported 169 pages indexed, and on mdgop.org page search it shows up in position number one, but no other page shows up.

These searches seem to have had a major effect from the robots.txt because the only mdgop domain that showed when I searched Maryland Republican Party, Maryland GOP and mdgop was mdgop.com which was in position 5, 8 and 1 respectively but both lead to a 404 pages.

Image of Google SERP for Maryland Republican Party

That being said, because of Google My Business the Maryland Republican Party does show up on the right in the knowledge panel, but only when you search Maryland Republican Party.

On-Page Ranking Factors

URLs

Maryland Republican Party site has a good url that contains relevant keywords, are short and user friendly, and avoids the most common problems with urls, but should use hyphens( - ) instead of underscores( _ ).

Content

The Maryland Republican Party has regular post, but are lacking in length and have no keywords. Maryland GOP could try to use narrative post about what the party is currently doing in the community and have volunteers talk about how they got involved with the party. They could also answer questions “like where do I vote” and “how to run for office”.

Keywords

Current Top 5 Keywords by traffic:

Keyword Percent of Search Traffic
1\. republican convention 44.97%
2\. maryland republican party 15.46%
3\. maryland gop 5.75%
4\. maryland republican primary 4.53%
5\. maryland republican delegates 4.31%

They seem to only be getting traffic from republican subject queries this likely means that they are only drawing in republican voters though search and should try to answer election questions.

For ranking with keywords the most important measures are Page Authority(PA) and Domain Authority(DA) mdgop.org is PA: 55/100 DA: 46/100.

GOP: Volume 300k - 1.5m Difficulty 83 Opportunity 64 Potential 80

The top 3 sites PA was between 49 - 86 and DA were between 84 - 100 for GOP making it hard to make meaningful gains, and because Google views it as a national keyword trying to use local key-phrases isn’t possible.

Where to vote: Volume 11.5k - 30.3l Difficulty 70 Opportunity 52 Potential 67

The top 3 sites PA was 60 -71 and DA 57 - 75, but Google treats this a a local search to some degree so while it may be hard to rank nationally if they continue down the local search path it will be one of the easer key-phrases to rank with

Where to vote in Maryland: Volume 101 - 200 Difficulty 38 Opportunity 46 Potential

The top 3 site are the same without Maryland added. With Google looking at their query as a local search more this key-phrase will help you with local SEO, and during midterms the election is more likely to drive local searches over nation ones.

Republican Beliefs : Volume 4.3k - 6.5k Difficulty 31 Opportunity 64 Potential 72

The top sites Page Authority was between 24 - 25 and Domain Authority was between 22 - 36 for Republican Beliefs and while it has much less volume the ability to rank well for this keyword. It also is a keyword that will fit in naturally with narrative content.

HTML Markup

The Maryland Republican Party’s HTML Markup is lacking in a number of areas

Title Tag
  • The Maryland Republican Party’s site has a good title tag, and uses the proper format they might want to replace the dash (-) with a vertical bar ( ).
Meta Description
  • They are lacking any Meta Description on all of their pages. One thing that they can add is a general description of each page, and what can be found on it
Other <head> Tags
  • The rest of head> section seems to be in good shape with the exception of the social media tags. The Facebook tag doesn’t have a picture of the landing page and the description for Facebook is “Joe Cluster, Executive Director of the Maryland Republican Party, was recently appointed to the Maryland House of Delegates and is leaving the Party on December 31, 2016. The MDGOP is..” because the ‘og: description’ property should be explicitly provided. For twitter the description is blank causing a similar problem to Facebook and has no picture, which means that they are losing out on making their tweets more fat finger friendly.
Image
  • Images has no ALT text this is a huge problem. The best ALT text for the landing page image is “Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan Greets excited crowd “. Also try to use scrset to help with load times.
Other Body Tags
  • “Join Governor Larry Hogan & the Maryland Republican Party to change Maryland for the better!” should be in <h2> tag. Also they should remove the commit above the header due to Internet Explorer, along with removing the end tag </form> that has no open element, and the unclosed element <div class="row">.

Off-Page Ranking Factors

Overall the off-page factors are defiantly the strongest part of the website. It has high quality back links from newspapers and government sites, and lacks any spam quality links. The one suggestion I would give them is that try to reach out to influences both locally and nationally through social media. Also, they need to start to focus on Key Performance Indicators like email sign up or RSVP for an event.

Competitive Analysis (mddems.org)

The final peace of the Site Audit is to look at Maryland Republican Party main competitor Maryland Democratic Party.

Top 5 Keywords by traffic:

Keyword Percent of Search Traffic
1\. maryland voter registration 15.42%
2\. maryland democratic party 13.53%
3\. md party 8.27%
4\. democratic party website 5.10%
5\. maryland democratic delegates 3.93%

Their keywords seem to be border, and 2 of the keywords are generic searches with Maryland voter registration being their best performing. This is a keyword that the MD GOP should target because it is a basic search for new voters that could be more persuadable. In terms of backlink opportunities there seems to not be any given they are earning them through affiliate organizations and news stories. That being said linking with other GOP groups is something that could benefit The Republicans site.