• Celebrities and public figures like Taylor Swift and Boris Johnson are speculated to use SEO to strategically manage their public image.
  • While SEO can be effective for reputation management, it has its limitations and manipulating short term search results alone is not a guaranteed solution for long term reputation management.

Exploring the speculated use of SEO in celebrity reputation management

Over the years there has been growing speculation that celebrities and public figures might be turning to SEO to manage their public image, especially when controversies arise. It’s whispered that this is becoming their secret weapon to swiftly (often temporarily) counter negative attention and flip the script in their favour.

Here, we’re going to delve into the intricate blend of fame, public opinion, and online strategies. We’ll examine how stars like Taylor Swift and political figures like Boris Johnson are rumoured to cleverly use SEO to steer public discourse, sidestep scandals, and sustain the personas they wish to present to the world. 

We’ll also investigate the longevity and effectiveness of such strategies. Is this just a quick fix for immediate crises, or is it part of a larger, long-term plan for reputation management in the celebrity world?

How Taylor Swift used SEO to ‘Shake it off’ (I know, I’m sorry, I had to)

2023 Google Trends comparison for keywords – ‘taylor swift jet’, ‘taylor swift jets game’ and ‘taylor swift private jet’ – you can see the search for ‘taylor swift jets game’ surpassed the search volumes for the other keywords on October 6th – the day she attended the Jets game.

It was in 2023 when Taylor Swift, the celebrated singer-songwriter and marketing savant, found herself in the midst of climate change controversy. Why? Her frequent use of her private jet. As the internet buzzed with searches for “Taylor Swift jet,” criticism escalated, painting the skies of her public image with shades of controversy. But then, something interesting happened. Almost as if by magic, Taylor Swift appeared at a New York Jets football game.

Was this a mere coincidence, considering her new boyfriend was playing for the opposing team or was it a stroke of genius in SEO strategy to shift the spotlight and searches to something more positive?

Who can say for sure – but the timing was impeccable. Swift’s presence at the game not only deflected the focus from the private jet issue but also sparked a wave of captivating, speculative headlines about her romantic life. It was a seemingly masterful move that temporarily submerged the jet usage criticism under a tide of new, favourable attention and searches. 

As we step into 2024, the true nature of Taylor Swift’s SEO strategies and her team’s approach might become more apparent. We’re in an era where issues of capitalism and greed are particularly resonant with the younger generations. Swift, who was labelled the ‘Capitalist Queen’ in 2023 on social media, following the financial triumph of her tour, presents an interesting case study. The term ‘Taylornomics,’ often used to describe her business savvy, has garnered mixed reactions. Some view it positively, as a testament to her commercial success, while others see it as an indication that for Swift, financial gains now take precedence. 

Perhaps she will attempt to override the ‘Capitalist Queen’ narrative with philanthropic efforts in 2024, or position herself as an environmentalist by vowing to only take public transport from now on. I doubt she’ll give up the jet, but I am so intrigued to see how she navigates any potential reputational challenges using SEO in the future.

How Boris Johnson used SEO to ‘steer’ public opinion..

We couldn’t possibly talk about public figures managing their reputations using SEO without talking about the former UK Prime Minister, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (or Boris Johnson to you and I). Over the years there has been rampant speculation at Boris’ use of SEO tactics to cloak potential negative press and online searches, especially back in 2019 ahead of the general election. 

A prime example of this is the “Model of Restraint” incident. Amid speculation about an affair with a model, Johnson described himself as a “model of restraint.” This clever wordplay was seemingly designed to influence search results. Now, if you search “Boris Johnson model,” you’re as likely to find articles about his restraint as you are to discover stories about his hobby of painting model buses made from old wine boxes – stay with me.

The Kipper incident appears to be another example of Boris’s attempt to control an online narrative by replacing it with another. In this instance, Johnson employed an exaggerated criticism of EU regulations regarding kippers, using an actual kipper as a prop to emphasise his point. This was thought to replace his associations with the UKIP party whose supporters also happen to be known as Kippers. 

Perhaps the most humorous of Johnson’s SEO endeavours is linked to his Painting Buses episode (calling it an episode is kind). Claiming to repurpose old wine boxes into brightly painted buses with cheerful passengers, this whimsical tale appeared to be a deliberate attempt to redirect attention from the controversial Brexit campaign bus. The original bus, notorious for its misleading claims about NHS funding and Brexit’s financial benefits for the UK, had become a focal point of critique. Johnson’s tale of painting model buses seemed to cleverly steer public discourse away from this contentious topic towards his more eccentric and personable (not quite relatable, for most) hobby.

The limitations of using SEO to manage short term reputation gaffes

While SEO certainly has its place in online reputation management, it’s not a fool-proof solution for long-term reputation challenges. While it can be effective, as seen in cases like Taylor Swift and Boris Johnson, SEO doesn’t have the power to erase history. It can temporarily overshadow less favourable aspects of a digital footprint, but it doesn’t eliminate them, SEO alone can’t fully hide past controversies or issues. If someone decides to dig deeper, those past stories and issues can still surface, they may be further down the results page – but they’re still there.

So, instead of trying to manipulate search results, it’s probably fair to argue that for truly effective and enduring online reputation management, there needs to be a balanced blend of genuine goodwill, consistent positive actions, and a strategic use of SEO. 

The first two are kind of on you, but we can absolutely help with the last bit. If you’re interested in getting strategic with your SEO get in touch. We’d be happy to help.