By Jess Melia •

Boris Johnson: The Unlikely SEO Strategist


Yesterday, Boris Johnson appeared on talkRadio and chatted to Ross Kempsell, Political Editor, about what he likes to do when we he wants to relax and switch off. You can see the video here. And of course today, the focus of the news has been all about his bizarre new pastime: making model buses.

To most, this is probably easy to shrug off as another strange remark about what he does in his spare time – like the time he said he enjoyed painting cheese boxes. But to us here at Parallax – and anyone else with a modicum of knowledge about search rankings – there’s something amiss in the would-be Prime Minister’s choice of relaxation. Could this latest news piece be more than a short-term ‘dead cat strategy’ and more of a long-term SEO strategy?

The Conservative MP has had a dubious history with buses; images of him in front of a red bus with the words “We send the EU £350 million a week” plastered across the side are easy to find, and the relatively recent failing of his redesigned London Routemaster buses had no end of complaints popping up across the internet. Doesn’t it then seem likely then that, now, during his campaign to be Prime Minister, that Boris would want to push down any mention of these on Google?

We think so.

How Boris’ Remarks Affect Rankings

After the interview, news pieces started popping up across the SERPs. The BBC, The Guardian, The Independent, Huffington Post, The Sun, the Express, The Mirror, The Daily Mail, The London Economic, and many, many more are dominating the news section of Google, all referring to him and his supposed new hobby. And in the title of every single piece of coverage? His name next to the word ‘bus’.

Let’s look at this as if it were a content marketing campaign you were running for your client. Say the KPI was increasing the rankings of a specific keyword, or perhaps more generally the branded key term. Any marketer undergoing a link building campaign waiting for press to come in would consider the above coverage as a huge success, no doubt monitoring closely what affect this would have on your client’s rankings.

But here’s why all this really matters. On the 20th June, if you typed in the term ‘boris bus’ into Google, you would have been supplied with news stories, tweets and articles on Boris Johnson’s Routemaster buses. If you look at the first list of URLS below, you’ll see four of the six ranking articles for this key term are unsavoury articles about the failure of his buses.

Boris SEO Strat

Now take a look above at the second set of URLS and see what you get today. Three top stories with his name and the phrase ‘model buses’, three Tweets mentioning ‘model buses’ and his name, and then four organic search results, two of which are about him and ‘model buses’. This is only one day in too – remember, search is a long game, not a short game.

Boris SEO Strat
Boris SEO Strat

If you look at Google clickthrough stats, the top three positions have CTRs from nearly 30% in first position to 10% in third position. In the lower positions of 9 to 10, CTR has fallen to a sub 2%, according to Smart Insights. Mentions from so many high tier publications with hefty domain authorities are pushing down ‘Routemaster bus’ related articles and replacing them with articles about Boris making… model buses.

The Verdict

Not only has Boris used his infamous ‘dead cat strategy’ to move the conversation away from him and Carrie Symonds and his plans for Brexit, he’s managed to push down his past mistakes on Google, too – making it more difficult for people to get a quick snapshot of relevant information. He’s not just controlling the narrative here – he’s practically rewriting it. And judged by the standards of an SEO campaign, it’s hard to describe it as anything other than a resounding success.

And yet, all that being said, perhaps we’re giving him too much credit here. Maybe, when questioned, he was merely grasping for something other than “running through a field of wheat”. Or maybe he was simply staring out of the window and saw a bus go past. Or perhaps he really does enjoy making model buses out of crates.

Complete and utter genius, or an accidental fluke? Whatever you think, it’s certainly made one thing happen for Boris – we’re all talking about him. Again.

If you think you’ve got more smarts than Boris in the SEO department, we’re looking for a Technical SEO Specialist to join our team! Apply here.

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