Political SEO Case Study: Louisville Metro Council Website

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Highlands Campaign Site

A site that I was lucky to work on during this 2020 election was that of Shawn Reilly, a candidate for Louisville Metro Council District 8.   The site is aesthetically pleasing, the candidate picked out a good template for that.  The template does incorporate some oddities in its coding and utilizes a page builder that was new to me.  Elementor remains my go to favorite page builder and is widely used, this template uses Bold Builder which reminds me a little bit of King or WP Page Bakery.

The page builder can be unintuitive and clunky at times requiring creative fixes and CSS hacks.  Ultimately though I’d say the page builder is neither an asset or a liability for this theme.

Reillyforcouncil.com wasn’t my preferred domain name, I prefer the candidate’s name but I joined the effort after the initial decisions were made, including the web host.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an effect on the election.  The way it is carried out and the date have had to adapt.  The candidate created a smart section to the site about this new factor in the election.  A Coronavirus resource page for Louisville called Highlands Strong is now up and running.   This resource may eclipse the typical draw on a campaign site such as the Issues page which outlines the candidates causes for the Highlands neighborhood.

This candidate site has been an exception to my past ones with a more involved candidate and that has translated into a less controlled environment for me.  You might think a more involved client is better but generally in SEO the more centralized the decision making process with an SEO the better the results for the site.  Where a candidate might know his or her message to voters, the SEO knows how to get Google to deliver that message to the intended voters.

Shawn Reilly Is A Doer

The candidate for Louisville’s Metro Council race is a doer.  He’s know as a hands on neighborhood champion and that message was the primary focus.   It’s been evident in past news articles such as when Shawn did the city’s neglected work and paved a pothole.  This grass roots can do mentality may be great for a councilman.   He’s experienced in local politics and serves as the president of a neighborhood association within the Highlands.

Shawn Reilly Site Speed

Notice that the site receives an A in PageSpeed.  As I have noted to many clients this is not telling you that the site has a good page speed.  This just reflects how much optimization is incorporated on the metrics that GTMetrix reviews.  It can be said then that this site is optimized and the page speed won’t be improved through more optimization.

I prefer for SEO efforts to have the site on a VPS cloud server but the site is hosted on a shared plan, much like most clients begin with these are budget options but tend to come with speed deficiencies.  Speed wise the site is clocking in at 5.9s which is double the standard goal of 3 seconds.  The lack of a CDN is something I plan to address with the candidate this week.  Obviously my preferred vendor here is Cloudflare.  I suspect that will move the site load closer to 3 seconds…generally a CDN cuts load times in half.

SEO Is More Than The Content

Social Media is paramount in providing early rankings in Google with desired keywords.  The work we did together was primarily focused on the site’s creation, he has worked to bolster the content but the site’s SEO efforts haven’t really been addressed.  These largely fell outside of the scope of the work I was hired to do but are coming to my attention as a need to deliver a solution that really works for the client.

I’ve noted in previous articles and also on Quora that SEO is more about what happens off site than what happens on the page.  In Is SEO optimization easier than we are led to believe?  I noted “Anyone who thinks SEO is about content should go out and build a site with the absolute best content and then sit there and tell us what happens. If you want a spoiler, nothing happens…you’re content will sit there alone and die a slow death from loneliness. If youre tinkering with the content you must have already done the hard work, that actually makes up about 75% of a site’s ability to rank. Or you don’t know what ranking factors are more important and then yes….you can believe you’re doing SEO. Most ranking factors have nothing to do with the on page factors.”

In this case the site has the content and has the regular updates but at present is ranking for only about 2 keywords on Google.  The opponents site is not ranking any better which demonstrates that Political SEO is still too often an after thought.  I hear campaigns now and then say that they hadn’t seen results in the past, and thats largely because SEO wasn’t given the same priority as building the site itself.

Political SEO Case Study

This creates an interesting opportunity for me to demonstrate the changes a site might receive with a concerted SEO effort.  The Shawn Reilly site has been up for about 2 months and found 2 keywords on Google.  SEMRush shows little organic traffic earned for the site or the opponents site.

I plan to address the SEO speed issue with a move to include a CDN.  To push the campaign to post video blogs on Youtube and Facebook which link back to the site and to build relevant backlinks to the site.  It’ll be interesting to compare the two sites SEO visibility as we get closer to the election.

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Could Reality TV Bring Back Basketball?


Remember back to the beginning of March, when everything still felt normal? It’s been 20 days since the NBA put its season on pause, and the league is talking about how it might come back this year. The Hot Takedown team thinks that the logistics of even a shortened playoff or play-in tournament might be too complicated to manage in the next few months but had fun considering the smaller, more manageable spectacle of a Big3-style reality series where it’s Kawhi vs. everybody.

The crew then talks about the implications of the NCAA Division I Council’s decision to extend eligibility requirements for spring student-athletes, and how that will affect athletic programs big and small. There are still a lot of unanswered questions as to how many students will be able to finish out their collegiate careers, and how many schools will be able to afford them. However, the team agrees that it’ll be easier to manage than if more money-making sports were included in the extension — with minimal shade thrown to water polo.

Our Rabbit Hole isn’t quite enough to tempt Sara to watch esports, but an iRacing tournament with actual NASCAR drivers gets pretty darn close to simulating the real races.

What we’re looking at this week:

The Coronavirus Isn’t Just A Blue State Problem

Washington state was the initial epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. And New York is now the hardest-hit part of the country so far, with hospitalizations increasing at rapid rates — more than 37,000 people had been diagnosed with the coronavirus in New York as of late Thursday afternoon.

Because COVID-19 hit blue, coastal states first, and because politics is politics, the response to the pandemic hasn’t exactly been apolitical.

But blue states are hardly alone in what is becoming a nationwide epidemic. Jefferson Parish, Louisiana — which went for Trump by 15 percentage points in 2016 — has a death rate about equal to that of Manhattan. And as terrifying as the hospital situation is in New York City, hospital capacity is also under strain in states such as Michigan and Georgia.

Overall, although the number of detected cases is higher in blue states, the number is increasing at a more rapid rate in red states.<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="1" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-coronavirus-isnt-just-a-blue-state-problem/#fn-1" data-footnote-content="

Something to keep in mind as we’re comparing cases across states: We’re dealing only with detected cases, and testing regimens — quantity and criteria — have varied from state to state. We can’t say how these numbers are affected by differences in testing rather than the actual infection rate. But this is the data we have. Our hope is that putting states together into big groups of Clinton states and Trump states will mitigate the effects of testing anomalies in any one state.

“>1 Moreover, blue states have conducted more tests per capita than red states, so — given that the large majority of coronavirus cases remain undetected — the lower rate of cases in red states may partially be an artifact of less testing.

Here is the data as of late Thursday afternoon, with states sorted by the increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases between Monday (March 23) and Thursday (March 26).<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="2" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-coronavirus-isnt-just-a-blue-state-problem/#fn-2" data-footnote-content="

Picking the right time interval to analyze changes in the number of cases is tricky, as the daily situation can change rapidly, and bottlenecks in reporting results can sometimes result in irregularities in any one day’s numbers. But a three-day timespan has proven to be a reasonably good compromise as I’ve looked at the data in different states and countries.

“>2 All data is taken from the invaluable COVID Tracking Project.

Detected COVID-19 cases are on the rise in red states

Known COVID-19 cases as of March 23 and March 26, according to The COVID Tracking Project

March 23 March 26
State Detected cases Per 10k pop. Detected cases Per 10k pop. Change 2016 winner
Texas 352 0.12 1396 0.48 297% Trump
West Virginia 16 0.09 51 0.28 219 Trump
Massachusetts 777 1.12 2417 3.48 211 Clinton
Oklahoma 81 0.2 248 0.63 206 Trump
Alabama 167 0.34 506 1.03 203 Trump
Missouri 183 0.3 502 0.82 174 Trump
Alaska 22 0.3 59 0.81 168 Trump
Pennsylvania 644 0.5 1687 1.32 162 Trump
Idaho 47 0.26 123 0.69 162 Trump
Indiana 259 0.38 645 0.96 149 Trump
Connecticut 415 1.16 1012 2.84 144 Clinton
New Jersey 2844 3.2 6876 7.74 142 Clinton
Arizona 265 0.36 577 0.79 118 Trump
Michigan 1328 1.33 2856 2.86 115 Trump
North Carolina 297 0.28 636 0.61 114 Trump
Vermont 75 1.2 158 2.53 111 Clinton
Montana 34 0.32 71 0.66 109 Trump
Kansas 82 0.28 168 0.58 105 Trump
Wyoming 26 0.45 53 0.92 104 Trump
Maryland 288 0.48 580 0.96 101 Clinton
Florida 1171 0.55 2355 1.1 101 Trump
District of Columbia 116 1.64 231 3.27 99 Clinton
Georgia 772 0.73 1525 1.44 98 Trump
Illinois 1285 1.01 2538 2 98 Clinton
Louisiana 1172 2.52 2305 4.96 97 Trump
Ohio 442 0.38 867 0.74 96 Trump
Mississippi 249 0.84 485 1.63 95 Trump
Arkansas 174 0.58 335 1.11 93 Trump
Delaware 68 0.7 130 1.34 91 Clinton
Kentucky 104 0.23 198 0.44 90 Trump
Colorado 591 1.03 1086 1.89 84 Clinton
Virginia 254 0.3 460 0.54 81 Clinton
New York 20875 10.73 37258 19.15 78 Clinton
New Hampshire 78 0.57 137 1.01 76 Clinton
California 1733 0.44 3006 0.76 73 Clinton
North Dakota 30 0.39 52 0.68 73 Trump
New Mexico 65 0.31 112 0.53 72 Clinton
Nevada 245 0.8 420 1.36 71 Clinton
Oregon 191 0.45 327 0.78 71 Clinton
Iowa 105 0.33 179 0.57 70 Trump
Wisconsin 416 0.71 707 1.21 70 Trump
Hawaii 56 0.4 95 0.67 70 Clinton
South Dakota 28 0.32 46 0.52 64 Trump
Utah 257 0.8 402 1.25 56 Trump
Rhode Island 106 1 165 1.56 56 Clinton
Tennessee 615 0.9 957 1.4 56 Trump
South Carolina 299 0.58 456 0.89 53 Trump
Minnesota 235 0.42 346 0.61 47 Clinton
Nebraska 50 0.26 73 0.38 46 Trump
Maine 107 0.8 155 1.15 45 Clinton
Washington 1996 2.62 2580 3.39 29 Clinton

Sources: The COVID Tracking Project, U.S. Census

Nine of the 10 states that have seen the most rapid increase in coronavirus from Monday to Thursday are states that voted for Trump in 2016, led by Texas, where the number of reported cases increased by 297 percent.

On average, states that voted for Trump saw a 119 percent increase in cases over this 3-day period, as compared to an 88 percent increase in states that voted for Hillary Clinton (plus the District of Columbia). Weighted by state populations, the difference is slightly larger: 141 percent in states Trump won and 88 percent in states Clinton won.

For now, states Clinton won do have considerably more total reported cases. As of Thursday, Clinton states had 4.29 positive tests per 10,000 people, as compared to 1.13 per 10,000 people in Trump states. A lot of that difference is attributable to New York; without New York, Clinton states have 1.89 cases per 10,000 people.

But the nature of exponential growth is such that these differences could evaporate in a hurry. If reported cases in Trump states continued to increase at 119 percent every three days (about 30 percent per day) while reported cases in Clinton states increased by 88 percent every three days (about 23 percent per day), then the per capita case count in Trump states would surpass that in Clinton states within about 30 days, or by late April.

Hopefully, the rate of increase will slow in both types of states as we begin to see further effects of social distancing measures in the data. However, these measures were generally enacted earlier and have been more forceful in blue states. That means the rate at which new cases are being diagnosed could slow down faster in blue states than in red states, meaning that red states would catch up earlier.

Blue states have also conducted more testing than red states. In states with reliable estimates of the number of positive and negative tests as of Thursday night,<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="3" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-coronavirus-isnt-just-a-blue-state-problem/#fn-3" data-footnote-content="

That is, excluding states that The Covid Tracking Project says do not report complete negative test results from private labs, and states that had not updated their number of negative tests as of The COVID Tracking Project’s Thursday update

“>3 Clinton states had conducted 21.8 tests per 10,000 people as compared to 12.5 tests per 10,000 people in Trump states.<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="4" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-coronavirus-isnt-just-a-blue-state-problem/#fn-4" data-footnote-content="

Not including results that are reported as “pending”; only tests that were confirmed to be positive or negative.


Blue states have done more COVID-19 testing

Tests completed per capita as of March 26, in states with reliable reporting on the number of negative tests

State Tests completed per 10k people* 2016 winner
New York 62.8 Clinton
Louisiana 38.8 Trump
New Mexico 37.2 Clinton
Massachusetts 34.0 Clinton
Vermont 32.2 Clinton
Maine 26.4 Clinton
District of Columbia 26.3 Clinton
Alaska 25.4 Trump
Utah 24.0 Trump
New Jersey 23.1 Clinton
New Hampshire 23.1 Clinton
Minnesota 23.0 Clinton
South Dakota 22.8 Trump
Tennessee 21.8 Trump
Wisconsin 21.1 Trump
Montana 20.6 Trump
Connecticut 18.6 Clinton
Oregon 17.3 Clinton
Nevada 16.6 Clinton
Ohio 14.8 Trump
Rhode Island 14.2 Clinton
Pennsylvania 14.2 Trump
Illinois 13.1 Clinton
Idaho 12.2 Trump
Florida 12.2 Trump
Kansas 10.4 Trump
Michigan 9.4 Trump
Nebraska 8.6 Trump
Georgia 8.4 Trump
Alabama 8.4 Trump
Texas 7.4 Trump
Kentucky 7.4 Trump
Virginia 7.3 Clinton
Arkansas 6.1 Trump
West Virginia 6.0 Trump
California 5.2 Clinton
Oklahoma 3.0 Trump

* Excluding tests that are listed as pending.

Sources: The COVID Tracking Project, U.S. Census

That means the true gap in the number of cases may not be as large as the roughly fourfold difference in reported cases between blue states and red states right now. States such as Louisiana have discovered they have far more cases than they originally realized as they’ve ramped up testing over the past week, and other red states (and blue states) could follow.

COVID-19 has also led to a slightly higher case fatality rate (the number of deaths as a share of the number of known cases) in red states so far. As of Thursday evening, the death rate per case was 1.7 percent in Trump states as compared to 1.3 percent in Clinton states. This could reflect a variety of factors, including potential underreporting of cases in Trump states,<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="5" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-coronavirus-isnt-just-a-blue-state-problem/#fn-5" data-footnote-content="

Since missing more non-severe cases will lead to a higher apparent case fatality rate.

“>5 the age and health of the populations in each set of states, or the efficacy of responses by local health care systems.

However, the higher fatality rate it is a somewhat troubling sign for red states given that many of them are generally at an earlier point in their epidemic curves, meaning that many people who have acquired COVID-19 in those states have done so recently and have not yet developed the most serious symptoms that could lead to long-term hospitalization or death.

Politics Podcast: COVID-19 Has Started A New Economic Era

A stunning 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, almost 5 times as many as the 695,000 who filed initial claims in the old record-high week. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, Ben Casselman, an economics reporter at The New York Times, joins Galen Druke and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux to put those numbers in context, discuss what the future looks like and talk about how the government is responding.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

Women’s Basketball Was Building Momentum. Then All The Games Stopped.

The spring and summer of 2020 were poised to offer some of the biggest moments yet for women’s basketball. Stellar Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu — who declined to enter the WNBA draft as a junior last year for another crack at the national title — had the Ducks looking like the favorite going into this season’s tournament. Ionescu is also the presumptive No. 1 pick in this year’s WNBA draft, whereupon she would have the chance to start a rivalry with Elena Delle Donne and the rest of the league’s veteran stars. And of course, the best women’s players in the world would congregate in Tokyo this July for the Olympics, another prime showcase for the sport on a global stage.

Now all of that is up in the air because of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. The NCAA Tournament was canceled, denying Ionescu her last chance at college glory. The draft, the subsequent WNBA season and even the Olympics have not yet been postponed, but there will be many logistical challenges to keeping their schedules — from the 90-plus active players currently overseas during the outbreak, to the possibility that postponed men’s sports will crowd the women out of arenas deep into the summer. And that’s assuming the virus’s spread is stopped in time to hold sporting events (with or without fans) before summer’s end. Whatever momentum women’s basketball had a few weeks ago will likely be gone by the time it resumes again.

And it did have momentum. The women’s NCAA Tournament saw its highest attendance in 15 years in 2019, and television ratings for the final were slightly up year-over-year — despite subscriber losses from ESPN, the event’s main broadcaster, and a less dominant season than usual by perennial draw UConn. The WNBA had a rough finals in terms of television ratings but had shown more encouraging signs earlier in the summer. And in general, interest in women’s basketball has been rising in recent years. According to Google Trends, search interest in both the women’s NCAA tourney and (especially) the WNBA was higher in 2019 than it was in 2016:

For the WNBA in particular, search traffic was up nearly 50 percent from three years earlier. Over the same span, the league’s players embraced labor solidarity with the U.S. women’s national soccer team in its high-profile quest for pay equality and were ultimately able to earn more money and better benefits in a new collective bargaining agreement signed in January.

And there was even more reason for optimism when looking ahead to 2020. As Bela Kirpalani of High Post Hoops recently noted, ticket demand for the 2020 WNBA season was increasing substantially as compared with 2019. According to data from VividSeats, an online ticketing marketplace, late-February site traffic was up year over year for 11 of the WNBA’s 12 teams, and six teams saw traffic increase at least twofold from 2019 (headlined by the defending champion Washington Mystics, whose traffic was up 837 percent in 2020).

The team with the second-largest surge in ticket interest (up 234 percent) was the New York Liberty, and that’s no coincidence. The Liberty have the first pick in the 2020 draft, and one of the other trends VividSeats noted was that Oregon women’s basketball ticket prices had exploded during Ionescu’s four seasons in Eugene,<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="1" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/womens-basketball-was-building-momentum-then-all-the-games-stopped/#fn-1" data-footnote-content="

In fairness, this was also perhaps related to the fact that the Ducks were tournament-bound in all four seasons after making it just once over the previous 15 years.

“>1 a testament to her drawing power. With the Liberty presumably getting a new star and moving from Westchester County to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the biggest market in the league would have a lot to be excited about.

But the coronavirus has imposed a new reality on our world, and sports are by no means an exception. The WNBA draft, scheduled for April 17, could conceivably be held on schedule — the NFL is planning to conduct its draft a week later, closed to the public, likely with the aid of technology to ensure proper social distancing. But it’s looking less and less likely that other items on the league schedule will happen as planned.

On March 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended banning mass gatherings of 50 or more people for the following eight weeks, which would push back any event with fans (and perhaps limit teams to skeleton staffs) until mid-May at the earliest. (Opening day is scheduled for May 15.) More realistically, the NBA has braced for the possibility that it will not be able to return until mid-to-late June, if not later; along those same lines, it has checked on arena availability into August.

What this means for the WNBA is unclear.

The league, usually on precarious financial footing even in normal times, will lose precious revenue if it plays games without getting gate revenue from fans. And with fans facing a recession, they may be less willing to spend even when the arenas reopen. There is also the question of how the WNBA would manage to carve out space in the sports calendar in late summer, if both the NBA and NHL — with whom three WNBA teams share arenas — claim arena dates and broadcast slots.

Also unclear: how the many, many WNBA players who supplement their incomes playing overseas will be able to keep those obligations if their American schedule is pushed back. (And how long international travel bans will be in effect, preventing players from playing abroad.)

Meanwhile, it seems more and more inevitable that this crisis will force the Olympics to be postponed. If that comes to pass, it would delay Team USA’s chance to win its seventh straight gold medal — and to tap into the same energy that made the U.S. women’s soccer team sporting icons last summer. The only saving grace from the WNBA’s perspective might be that it has a built-in Olympic break from mid-July to mid-August, which could potentially create a period of time for the other major sports to finish their seasons without overlap.

But it seems very likely that, in this time of great disruption, women’s hoops will have to improvise to keep from falling through the cracks. An optimist might predict increased excitement for sports whenever the leagues do come back, given the void left when essentially all of them suspended play all at once; maybe that appetite for competition will extend across the entire sporting landscape.

But with the amount of uncertainty facing all sports this year, the possibilities that women’s basketball held just a few short weeks ago have been dashed, its hard-fought progress now on hold.