'No' campaign wins despite worse-performing website, say White Hat Media

The Scottish independence referendum returned a 'No' vote in spite of the 'Yes' campaign's better optimised site, research with White Hat Media's Sitechecker app has revealed.

On 16th September, White Hat Media used the proprietary web app to scan the official website of the independence campaign, yesscotland.net, and bettertogether.net, representing the 'No' campaign, to see which side had built their web presence on the best SEO practice.

While the referendum last night was won by the 'No' campaign with 55% of the votes, the 'Yes' campaign can at least take some small consolation from the fact that they won the battle of the websites with a score of 59/100, compared to 51/100 for 'No'.

Both websites though, could have done far more to improve their SEO and reach a wider audience. SiteChecker revealed that the ‘No’ campaign website featured a total of 9,685 urgent issues, including missing page titles, meta descriptions, text link titles and image titles. It also found issues with duplicate titles, incorrect use of H1 tags and slow-to-load pages.

The website of the ‘Yes’ campaign came off slightly better in the scathing report, but wasn't without its own share of SEO problems: a total of 11,245 urgent issues including missing titles and meta descriptions. The bulk of these were made up by 9,713 text links with missing titles, a slightly less egregious issue. The higher website score of 59% ultimately came down to a smaller variety of issues discovered on the ‘Yes’ campaign site.

In terms of design, both sides harnessed the power of the infographic, provided events listings and included a countdown timer to highlight the urgency of coming to a decision and voting. The main aim of each website was clearly not just to convince visitors of their positions, but also to capture data, with the ‘Yes’ campaign featuring a particularly large information sign-up form. However, whereas the ‘No’ campaign website relied on large hero banners, giant call-to-actions and regularly updated blog posts, the ‘Yes’ chose a more minimal design that put the faces of Scotland front and centre.