Are you thinking about starting your own local political blog, but aren’t quite sure what steps you need to take in order to make it a widely-read success?
The Blogosphere is home to thousands of politics websites, thanks in large part to the development of user-friendly, inexpensive blogging platforms like WordPress and Blogger. Most local political blogs, though, are only read by a small audience–and don’t have very long lifespans.
I live in Ohio, and two of my favorite local blogs that cover Buckeye State politics are Third Base Politics and Plunderbund. Third Base Politics is an unabashedly Republican blog, and Plunderbund is unabashedly Democrat. I’m subscribed to both blogs, and always look forward to reading their posts . . . although they often have very different viewpoints on Ohio politics.
Third Base Politics and Plnderbund are very popular in their respective partisan corners, which is why I’m using them as case studies in this post. If you want to ensure that your politics blog quickly becomes a popular online hub for the local political community, there are some simple steps you can take to help ensure success . . . and these two Ohio blogs are great examples of how to do it.
1. Optimize Your Blog for Local Political Keywords to Generate Relevant Organic Traffic
Many local political bloggers make the mistake of jumping right into their first website without doing any competitive keyword research or search engine optimization planning. If you want more free traffic for your politics blog, then you need to make sure it’s optimized to rank highly in search engines like Google for phrases that locals are actually searching for.
One of the most powerful things you can do to rank highly for a specific keyword is making sure that it’s included in your website’s domain name. If you’re kicking off a politics blog that focuses on Cleveland, Ohio, for example, then you want to make sure that you try to include the keywords “Cleveland,” “Ohio” or “Politics” in the URL.
One word of warning, however: don’t stuff your domain name with too many keywords and make it difficult to remember. It’s equally important to practice good branding, and a blog that has a short URL is much easier for new readers to remember and recommend to their political friends.
There are other important on-site search engine optimization rules to keep in mind for your new local political blog, too. Make sure that you intersperse your targeted keyword phrases throughout your site, in sidebars and footers, to help your site rank higher and faster. And when you’re writing posts, put some thought into your titles. Always include a keyword phrases that locals might type in if they’re looking for information about your post topic.
2. Build Backlinks & Followers by Forming Relationships with Other Local Political Bloggers
Building good links back to your political blog is vital to driving new traffic and subscribers, and not just because people will click on the links and find your site. The search engine algorithms put a lot of weight on the number of incoming links that a website has when calculating its authority. In layman’s terms, that means that the more high-quality links your new blog has pointing to it from other websites, the more free traffic you’ll get from Google.
If you want to make your politics blog popular fast, then you should be aggressive in building high-quality backlinks. You can do that through link exchanges with other like-minded political websites, by guest posting on other blogs, and by publishing shout-outs to other local bloggers in hopes of a reciprocal link. It’s actually easier to build incoming links to political blogs than most other websites; local bloggers are very likely to include you in their blogroll if they like what you’re writing.
Third Base Politics and Plunderbund are good examples of political blogs that are deeply involved in the local blogging community, with extensive blogrolls and incoming links from other Ohio politics websites.
3. Keep Things Partisan for More Reader Interaction, Controversy & Attention
We keep things strictly non-partisan here, because our target audience consists of political candidates who run as Democrats, Republicans and everything in-between. You can take the high road and keep things non-partisan on your local politics blog, as well, but writing with a partisan slant will generate far more buzz, interaction and traffic.
Reader interaction is one of the best Key Performance Indicators that a blog can have, and if your posts are generating a lot of comments and links then you know you’re on the track to success. By keeping things partisan on your blog, you’ll be providing like-minded readers with red meat that will make them coming back for more . . . and you’ll give your detractors plenty of stuff to get worked up about and mention on their own blogs.
Remember: the more mentions your political blog gets on other websites and social media outlets, the faster you’ll build success. It doesn’t matter if your incoming links are from people who love your blog or hate it; controversy is one of the best ways for a new site to rocket into the spotlight and generate huge amounts of traffic. If you steer away from partisanship, you might have a very well-written, impartial blog . . . but most people will find it too boring to comment on and link to.
When it comes to delivering partisan red meat for their readers, both Third Base Politics and Plunderbund do an outstanding job. Their supporters love them, and their detractors hate them. That’s exactly the kind of formula that leads to huge success for a local politics blog.
4. Gossip & Scoops are Good, but Libel & Slander are Downright Dangerous
In order to generate attention, there’s nothing better than being the first to break some local political news or get the dish on link-worthy gossip. In fact, one of the reasons that many main-stream journalists dislike politics blogs is that the smaller local sites often get the scoop on big media organizations. The elite media doesn’t like to play catch-up on juicy stories they missed or ignored, and local bloggers often do a better job than professional reporters at digging up great scoops on local politicians and political issues.
Here’s an important aside, however: while breaking a story or publishing the “word on the street” can help build traffic, you need to be very careful that your juicy posts don’t stray into the realm of libel and slander. If you’re publishing a scoop about a politician, candidate, group or organization, then you had better ensure it’s substantiated . . . or make it clear that your information is unconfirmed. The best practice is to never publish anything on your politics blog unless you’ve done your homework and can provide proof of your claims.
If you’re a local politics blogger, everything you write is going to be underneath a microscope and examined for accuracy by your enemies. And believe me: if you make a mistake, they will never let you live it down. In fact, there are plenty of local political bloggers who have been sued for publishing stories without checking their facts first.
I’ve seen some great political gossip and scoops published on Third Base Politics and Plunderbund, but neither (as far as I know) has ever gone as far as slandering a political adversary. While the other side might not like their posts, Third Base Politics and Plunderbund both seem to do a good job of checking their facts before hitting the “publish” button.
5. Don’t Damage Your Career with Careless Writing or Publicity Stunts
You might love being involved in politics and generating controversy on your blog now, but keep in mind that the things you write today could come back to haunt you if your career goals change or your employer catches wind of what you’re publishing online.
Local politics blogs, while they can be very fun and personally rewarding, almost never become a full-time income generator for their owners. The vast majority of local political bloggers have day jobs outside of politics (although some are lucky enough to work for local parties and politicians), and they need to be careful about offending current or potential employers.
Here’s the thing about the Internet: you can safely assume that everything you write online is going to be there forever, available for anyone in the world to read. Even if you decide to publish as an “anonymous” blogger, you always run the risk of being outed by someone online and being forever associated with all of the stuff you posted on your site.