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Campaigns on GOV.UK: standards and guidelines

Options to support promotions and marketing campaigns, from short URLs to dedicated landing pages.


  1. 1. GOV.UK offers government organisations a number of options to support promotions and marketing campaigns, from short URLs to dedicated landing pages.

  2. 2. This guidance sets out:

    1. i. how to talk to the Government Digital Service (GDS) about your campaigns
    2. ii. the campaign fulfilment tools offered on the GOV.UK website
    3. iii. guidelines on setting up new standalone campaign sites and microsites
    4. iv. our approach to the transition of campaign sites which are already live see appendix II
  3. 3. We take ‘campaign’ to mean a time-limited promotional activity, with a specific and measurable goal.

Thinking about a campaign: getting GDS advice and input

  1. 4. If you’re developing a campaign, talk to GDS as early as possible about the digital elements we can help you deliver, how best to use our tools, and how to navigate the processes. Discussing your needs at an early stage helps formal approval processes later on.

  2. 5. Make initial contact with us using the campaign request form - this should come via your organisation’s single point of contact (SPOC) for GOV.UK and/or Digital Leader, after you’ve discussed the campaign with them.

The digital campaign toolkit

  1. 6. Digital campaigns are typically delivered through a combination of approaches – for example, promotion of a GOV.UK landing page via social media.

On the GOV.UK platform

  1. 7. The following table outlines the campaign fulfilment tools currently available on the GOV.UK platform. Illustrated examples are available in this blogpost.
Campaign tool For example Who builds it How it can help your campaign Guidance and principles for usage
Short URL promoting an existing GOV.UK page GDS A URL to use in print and broadcast media Must point to existing content, and follow URL guidelines
Dedicated campaign landing page workplace pensions unimoney GDS A landing page which reflects campaign messages and visuals, and contains simple calls to action. Must link to some content hosted on GOV.UK.
Topic or topical event page G8, WW1 Centenary, UK economy Depts A curated page which reflects government activity around a particular event or topic. Guidance on topical event pages. How to feature content on topic pages.
Campaign asset hosting THINK! campaign material Depts A place to store material for stakeholders.  

The GOV.UK campaign offer is always developing – for example, we’ll be including more promotional navigation on the GOV.UK site.

Off the GOV.UK platform

  1. 8. The following are typical methods of delivering campaigns outside the GOV.UK platform:
Campaign tool For example
Social media (eg Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest) National Citizen Service on Facebook Digital engagement tools
Use of partner sites Your future (on channel 4)
Standalone campaign website FRANK

Usage of these methods should be consistent with your social media policy. Guidance on the use of standalone campaign destinations is given in Appendix I.

Digital campaign approvals routes

  1. 9. The campaign approvals route you choose depends on what you’re asking for and the overall level of campaign spend.

Campaign spend over £100,000

  1. 10. Submit proposals for all digital elements of your campaign as part of a Cabinet Office Advertising, Marketing and Communications proposal. GDS will then work with Cabinet Office colleagues to assess the bids.

Find more information about Cabinet Office controls process.

Campaign spend under £100,000

  1. 11. GDS approvals board and departmental digital leaders must approve all requests for all

    1. i. new standalone websites or microsites
    2. ii. public-facing domains created by central government, whether or not

To submit approval requests, use the GDS proposition assessment form (Request a proposition assessment form). All proposals should all have prior agreement from your department’s Head of Communication and Digital Leader.

See Appendix I for further guidance.

  1. 12. Use the GDS request form to request a:

    1. i. GOV.UK landing page
    2. ii. short URL (eg
    3. iii. topical event

Appendix I: Campaign websites and microsites hosted outside the GOV.UK site

1. GDS approval is needed for all new websites, microsites and public-facing domains set up by central government. This applies whether or not the domain is being used.

All proposals should all have prior approval from your department’s Digital Leader.

2. The only exceptions are if the sites belong to categories formally exempt from GOV.UK – for example, museums or the armed forces.

3. Assessment of proposals is carried out in the weekly GDS approvals board meeting, and by the group of departmental digital leaders. GDS approvals board will apply the following principles when considering proposals.

  1. i. Proposition: is this a subject which fits within the proposition of the main GOV.UK site? If so, no external site should be created (see below)
  2. ii. Functionality: if functionality is needed that GOV.UK can’t supply, is there a demonstrable user need? Can campaign goals be achieved by using existing social media tools and communities, rather than creating a new destination?
  3. iii. Value: is the projected spend on a microsite in line with typical SME charges for this type of work?
  4. iv. Evidence of need, or audience receptiveness: is there evidence of user need, or user research pointing to the likely success of a government-run campaign site?
  5. v. Alternative sources: if it’s not suitable for GOV.UK delivery, can this campaign reasonably be delivered via partner sites?
  6. vi. User journey: will the journey between sites be coherent – or, if there is no journey, are the two sites clearly distinct in the minds of users?

4. When campaign sites or microsites are approved, departmental digital leaders will be accountable for the sites’ continued effectiveness and value for money, and to ensure they stick within any conditions agreed with GDS.

Campaigns and the GOV.UK proposition

5. By default, the home for all government digital content on subjects within the GOV.UK proposition is the main GOV.UK website. Government must not create or promote competing sources of this information outside GOV.UK, whether on partner sites or microsites. Content must need user needs, and be consistent with our style guide.

6. In other words, because tax self-assessment is covered within the GOV.UK proposition, government should not usually set up a standalone tax self-assessment campaign website or microsite. Usually, the approach would instead be to create a campaign landing page on GOV.UK, or use a short URL to promote existing content.

7. In exceptional cases, where particular functionality is critical to the success of a campaign, and where this campaign is within the GOV.UK proposition (for example, the ability to apply online for Royal Mail shares), GDS may consider a temporary campaign site for the GOV.UK domain (subject to our standard approval criteria).

8. This will, however, be on condition that the temporary site shares GOV.UK’s look, feel and style, and in the opinion of GDS does not compromise the user journey. The microsite would take a URL.

Campaigns outside the GOV.UK proposition

9. Government sometimes wants to campaign or raise awareness of matters outside the GOV.UK proposition – for example, drug or alcohol abuse.

10. In these cases, it is unlikely that content would be created on the GOV.UK website – as well as being outside the proposition, it’d more likely than not be counterproductive for the campaign itself.

11. Typically, we’d instead recommend an approach to campaign delivery based on the use of social media or established partner sites for these cases (for example, the PM’s dementia challenge was run in partnership with the Alzheimers’ society).

12. In exceptional cases, however, a standalone microsite may be approved (see para 3 above). In these cases, this microsite would not share a look and feel with GOV.UK, and would not be required to have a URL.

Appendix II – approach to live campaign sites (October 2013)

1. At the time of writing, there are around 20+ government campaign sites and microsites which remain outside of GOV.UK, but for which no exemption case has been received. These sites are on a mixture of Directgov, and domains.

2. In October 2014, GDS will run an assessment exercise for these remaining sites, against the criteria outlined in paragraph 3 above. As part of this exercise, government organisations will be expected to provide evidence of usage and effectiveness if they require them to stand separate from GOV.UK.

3. However, in the meantime, for those sites which seem closest to GOV.UK proposition currently, GDS will discuss with departments the possibility of transitioning them to GOV.UK earlier.

4. These sites can remain separate from GOV.UK if GDS has approved the site as part of the Marketing and Approvals Board process.

Version history

v0.1 Draft version published on Inside GOV.UK blog for comment by digital teams, and Heads of Comms

v1.0 This version approved by GOV.UK Steering Group, December 2013