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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hancock Wins the Website Traffic Wars

PC Leadership Candidates are using the Internet and websites more seriously and significantly in this campaign than political parties did in the last provincial election. The reasons are obvious. One-person-one-vote means you need to have a direct relationship with a citizen to convince them to buy a membership, show up to vote and then to vote for you. The Internet is the perfect tool for this kind of relationship building. It is self- selecting, direct, content rich, timely, accessible, effective, convenient and inexpensive compared to paid advertising.

The Internet is a pure unfiltered, diverse, independent, decentralized and an aggregated collection of fact, fiction, fad, fuming and fulmination. It is an election friendly way for the collective wisdom of citizens to be expressed and is changing the way democracy is practiced and maybe even how it works.

Increasingly influential in the opinion forming process of citizens is the chatter of the collective wisdom (or pooled ignorance) of the Internet based web forums, chat rooms, website traffic volumes and the bleating babble of us “blogger-mouths.”

I did some research about how this new technology is working for the candidates and which ones are seeing website traffic and activity. I used a website ranking site called Alexa.com. Alexa “crawls” the web and reviews over 16 millions sites every day to determine rankings. It collects data on site visitors, the number of pages they read and the paths and links they used to get to the sites and so forth. A ranking of 150,000 or less means you are a force to be reckoned with on the Internet…you draw interest, traffic, comments and connections.

Here is what I found. At the low end of candidate website ranking we have the Doerksen and Stelmach sites are so little used they generate “No Data” at all. I guess their supporters are not Internet users and those who are curious about them are not users either. Even Alana Delong’s site still registered data (with a feeble ranking of 4,496,033) and she is not even in the race any more. Victor was Minister of Innovation and Science – and in charge of the SuperNet...but perhaps innovative in name only given this No Data Internet ranking.

The next group ranked in the 2million range. McPherson’s site ranked 2,799,479 surprisingly low because he is a late entry candidate and one who could really benefit from the Internet to connect with citizens. I thought he would be "all over" the internet as a campagin tool. Next was Morton at 2,198,606 which is not really a surprise because he really doesn't need it. He has a built in old Reform party and religous support base who are die-hards who don't need more information about him, particularly from the Internet.

Next lowest was a big surprise. Jim Dinning’s site ranked at only 2,139,003. He has the most money, a raft of advisors and consultants, and a vast array of technology at his disposal and has been campaigning the longest. I find it most interesting that he is not generating traffic on his website and I wonder what it means. Just under the 2m ranking we have Oberg at 1,999,438 and Norris at 1,939,596. Again, not all that impressive and not all that surprising looking at the nature of their support base.

Finally the winner of the website traffic rankings is the Dave Hancock site…way ahead of everyone else at 1,017,641 - but still not a real big deal in terms of effective Internet ranking. People interested or attracted to Hancock are obviously using the Internet and the Web more than the supporters of the other candidates. That is all one can really conclude from the traffic rankings.

Given the relative lack of traditional news coverage for the Hancock campaign this traffic does show considerably more interest in him than one would assume from “reading” the newspaper coverage only. We know Albertans want change. The question is who is the real agent of change in this leadership campaign? For me the real and serious agent of change has always been Hancock. Looking at his relatively higher website traffic rankings it appears that lots of others are taking him seriously as an agent of change too.