If anyone had earlier Googled ‘Boris Johnson cheese’ even just a few days ago, they would have been met with results on partygate, from every major news source in the world. But now, if anyone would repeat the same search, they will find a page made up almost entirely of stories to do with these new working from home comments. Experts are asking, if the British Prime Minister has planned this. Experts question whether Boris Johnson is using certain words, combined with clever search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, to try and bury certain news stories which are embarrassing to him.
Couple of years ago, rumors started appearing in the SEO world of the search engines about how the British Prime Minister might be trying to manipulate Google rankings for his own benefit. Several people within the digital marketing community started asking if the bizarre answers Boris Johnson was giving in interviews were actually cleverly calculated messages – ones that can change the online narrative and alter the results that future search engine users see when researching him. For example, when Boris Johnson talked to an interviewer about painting wine boxes to look like model buses, most people laughed or rolled their eyes. But in just one interview, Boris Johnson pushed many old news stories down the search engine results. Stories about the £350 million for the NHS Brexit bus, and his flight with Carrie that resulted in a wine-soaked sofa, as well as one about his affair with a former model all became less prominent.
Or lets say, when he brought up his vision for an Irish Sea Bridge, which many people claimed was fantastical from the start, was he actually using these words to help clean up older articles about his failed £53 million London Garden Bridge project?
According to cyber experts, such method that Boris Johnson is believed to be using is often successful because people mostly search in short phrases or words, such as, for example, ‘Boris Johnson wine’ or ‘Boris Johnson bus’. This is mainly because of Google’s ‘autosuggest’ feature, which offers autocompleted text strings that appear as a drop down when people start a search.
If people can get one of the main media outlets to feature those words in the headline of an article, then it is often sufficient to convince search engines that the article is relevant enough to appear at the top of the results for that query. It may be mentioned here that, search engines tend to feature newer content more favorably, and it is quite easy to change what results are displayed when people have the power to create news with every interview they give.
According to computer scientists, engineers and cyber specialists, the practice that Boris Johnson is possibly using is a kind of activities that has been a part of the SEO world since search engines first began journey. There is a whole reputation management subset of digital marketing, one that helps brands and individuals remove or bury negative results on the web. And, such reputation management companies are very much available throughout the world, while there are hundreds of such companies in India, for example. For a reputation management firm or any individual with substantial knowledge on this matter, it is possible to clean up Google results by pushing positive website and articles to the top, above undesirable ones.
It may be assumed that average politicians are unaware of what SEO is, or how to remove or burry any content from the search engines. But of course, in today’s world of advanced technology, politicians are aware of the impact of bad press or negative stories which can have negative impact on their political career. That is why, many politicians are hiring reputation management companies or cyber experts to do the needful in burying negative contents about them from the SEO.