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The S-E-O of S-E-X

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On Monday, Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans, the members of the electro-pop duo YACHT, announced that because of technical errors and “one morally abject person,” an adult video they’d made had been stolen and then leaked. And instead of standing by while the video was passed around without their sanction, they decided to profit off their personal content — by charging $5 for access to the video.

But according to Jezebel, it was all a ruse that YACHT plotted to promote an upcoming music video. Trying to force a viral internet moment to promote something isn’t a new idea, but faking sexual exploitation is a pretty low move.

And also — did it even work?

Bechtolt and Evans made a couple of smart, calculated moves here. They wrote a Facebook post explaining (ahem, lying about) the situation and saying the video featured “uncommon” and potentially “off-putting” sex acts. They even made a standalone website with an easy-to-use pay option and a very good URL (

Now, YACHT is a fairly well-known group, but certainly not mainstream — but a (fake) sex tape is a sex tape, and clearly YACHT was desperate to get some Google juice going. So how did it go? Was lying about revenge porn — something that actually happens to real people and can be devastating — worth the promo blitz? We looked at the stunt’s impact:

Hmmm. This search for “yacht” was holding pretty steady. Also, queries revolved around phrases like “club yacht,” “yacht boat,” and “yacht for sale.” My gut says we’re talking about the seabound type here.

Time to get more specific:

OK, yacht the boat still beat YACHT the band. Next:

YACHT the sex tape beat YACHT the band, but yacht the boat was still the most popular yacht.

Sadly, though, YACHT’s sex tape isn’t even the most popular yacht-related sex tape. Shortly after the Facebook note went live, a search for “yacht sex tape” produced a couple of Google News links up top about the recent story. But actual search revealed links to the infamous 1995 sex tape starring Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee — which was filmed (you guessed it!) on a yacht.

However! Late Monday night, when I pitted “pam anderson sex tape” against “yacht sex tape,” there was a clear victor:

Congratulations to YACHT: During a four-hour period Monday night, “yacht sex tape” was more popular than a sex tape that’s more than 20 years old.

Web analytics firm Chartbeat also pulled some data to help get an overall idea of how much time people actually spent reading the story, and when it peaked and then fell off.

It looks like there was a gentle rise and swell Monday afternoon and evening, when the false news that YACHT was being exploited and selling their sex tape broke. And then there was a much more dramatic rise this morning, when news that they had lied about it broke. Perhaps YACHT is assuming all publicity is good, even when the thing that you wanted to get attention for only kind of worked and the general distaste for it actually captured our interest.

Also, you can see the sharp decline in engaged minutes for yourself.

This better be one hell of a music video.

This piece originally appeared on the Ringer Facebook page on May 10, 2016.