Is Boris Johnson dabbling in SEO again?

    Posted on June 30, 2020

     

    Last year, after Boris Johnson had replaced Theresa May as UK Prime Minister, some keen-eyed observers noted that one or two of his more unorthodox actions and remarks were having interesting effects on internet searches related to him.

    The most notable example was his talk of a hobby involving painting wine boxes to look like buses, and the effect it had on other more negative news involving him. We explained the theory in an article last October.

    It remains nothing more than a theory, and some might call it a far-fetched one. Nonetheless, I was reminded of it again this weekend when the PM had another of his bouts of eccentricity, dropping to the ground and performing press-ups in the middle of an interview.

    That’s crazy old Boris for you, isn’t it? It’s just his offbeat way of getting his point across – or is it?

    As of Monday afternoon, a Google search for ‘Boris Johnson press’ returns a first page dominated by reports of his spontaneous mid-interview exercises.

    As you can see, not all of it is positive. In fact, the first two results argue that the incident “sparks public horror” (The Independent) and “falls flat” (The Guardian). However, even if critical, the subject is so ridiculous that it’s unlikely to provoke serious anger or scrutiny. It’s hard not to find the incident funny, whether you approve of it or not.

    Now let’s see what sort of results we get if we search for ‘Boris Johnson press -press-ups’. The minus sign before ‘press-ups’ tells Google to leave out results that contain ‘press-ups’, so in effect what we should get is the results for a ‘Boris Johnson press’ search if the press-ups incident hadn’t happened.

    This returns different results, and the critical ones among them are a lot more serious. Many of them relate to his “press conferences”, with two stories about his high praise for dexamethasone, unflatteringly described by The Guardian as a “cheap steroid”.

    Another Guardian article questions Johnson’s relationship with Dominic Cummings, asking whether the adviser is actually “the real boss”. Also included is a New York Times article that notes Johnson’s “testy” press relations, also citing a jump in virus deaths, although this does date back to May 4th.

    Johnson also has a past career as a journalist that is not without controversy itself. This includes being sacked by The Times under allegations of fabricating a quote, and later attracting criticism for articles published by The Telegraph and The Spectator that made dubious claims about EU legislation and the Hillsborough Disaster. One way to edge out his press career misdemeanors from search rankings is to create new, more light-hearted news about himself and the word “press”.

    Only Johnson and his advisers know whether this is a genuine online strategy or just part of his unique behaviour, but reputation management is a strategy that can help people replace negative online news about them with positive stories. Of course, it’s easier if there is as little negative news as possible to start with, although for a politician, this is easier said than done!

    For positive content that “presses” the right buttons and isn’t just an “exercise” in futility, contact Engage Web.

    John Murray

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