I’d like first to say that this is a theory. But I’m not big on coincidences, especially when it comes to digital strategy results and Boris Johnson.

Politics is a minefield. Mention it on Twitter; you’ll get extreme views from every angle. But I’m still writing this blog. About politics. That’s because it’s also about SEO.

Now you’ve probably seen news articles appear at position zero. Articles authored by the likes of BBC, Sky, and newspapers. Trusted sources. This content is auto-populated by Google after being flagged in a site’s structured data as an article. You’ll see them displayed whenever using search terms related to recent news. And what are some of the hottest topics at the moment? Politics. Brexit. Boris Johnson.

A bold strategy for bad news?

Boris Johnson has been in the news a lot. There’s been story after story, and not all good. There have been ‘promises’ on buses and a bit of difficulty with a certain Routemaster model, and there’s been an incident with Jennifer Arcuri, a model who our Prime Minister has a history with. Both of which cast Mr Johnson in a negative light. But both were followed by speeches with, let’s say, unexpected words.

These two stories occupied position zero – heaps of the same story in a carousel. A carousel that appears right at the top of the search results. So what’s a quick way to get rid of them? You can’t con Google. Not anymore. It’s too smart. But what if you fed a keyword into the public domain. Something so left-field that it gets picked up. Something like how you build and paint model buses in your spare time. Or you’re a ‘model of restraint’.

How the Boris Bus search term was manipulated
The recent news articles for Boris Bus

The featured articles were quickly diluted, not gone, but diluted. Articles talking about the speech appeared. There were less of the negative results. And more of the middle-of-the-road results documenting the real-time news.

Quick fixes can have long-term consequences

These tactics are only a plaster. They’re a short-term fix. The more significant stories always rise to the top. The ones that the public wants to see. But in that crucial time when it’s big news, a diluted search result is the best you can get.

This technique may not be deliberate. We’ll never know if keywords are fed into speeches. And even if they are, they won’t produce long-term results.

If they were researched, I think the moral line may have been crossed. And Google doesn’t like manipulation. When part of a strategy, I firmly believe it’s ‘black hat’ taken offline.

I’ll be monitoring the next time something pops up in the news that casts a black cloud over Boris Johnson. We may see his speech contain a carefully placed phrase.

I’ve not included any of the facts and figures, but there’s a brilliant post by the guys at Parallax. You can find it here, and it’s well worth a read on the topic.