Mia Mottley's COP26 Speech: How viral content leads to searches

Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, shook audiences with her UN plenary speech at COP26. Here are ways this speech may generate internet searches.

Mia Mottley's COP26 Speech: How viral content leads to searches

Viral events don't happen that often among climate folks, so when they do, it's really exciting.

This year at COP26, Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, shook audiences and internet goers with her plenary speech before the UN. Barbados is a small Caribbean island nation with a population of less than 300,000.

The people of Barbados have a lot at stake when it comes to climate change. The threats of sea level rise, crop failure, and forced migration are just a few of the most obvious issues. Affording the technological shift of an energy transition is another. Β 

I first saw Mottley's speech mentioned in a tweet by one of my favorite climate journalists, Antonia Juhasz:

After reading this tweet, I watched the speech and understood what she meant. I immediately shared it on Facebook. Then I noticed it getting more and more shares. The reaction below sums up its power:

My goal here is not to summarize her speech. You should really just listen to the whole thing, if you haven't already.

Instead, my aim is to show how a trending moment can spark lots of internet searches.

A great strategy for producing searchable content online is to reference viral instances, especially ones you want to amplify. This helps searchers understand them better.

Your related content can add depth, context, and authoritative or personal perspectives to the topic.

Internet searches by type

Internet searches are traditionally categorized as follows:

  • Informational - searches for info. Searchers may type key phrases on topics or simply write questions using the "5 ws." These searches answer the who, what, when, where, why and how or how much of a topic.
  • Transactional - searches for a product or service. The searcher has the intention of shopping around with an intent to purchase something.
  • Navigational - searches for a specific website. Searchers will type in a specific brand or organization name in the search query bar with the goal if finding its website.

These standard search categories are helpful for understanding a broad overview of searcher intent, but they don't give you much detail.

To build out some additional categories of search, I'm going to walk you through some of the most searchable aspects of PM Mia Mottley's speech.

The goal with this exercise is to help you think like a searcher, so you can develop content that people would actually search for.

Searchable content ideas from Mia Mottley's Speech

Since viral moments cause a temporary influx of searches, you can use them to generate related content topic ideas. There will likely be lots of internet searches linked to this viral internet moment and others like it that come out of COP26. It's a good idea to use that energy to develop content ideas based on this momentum.

I've bolded keywords that would match the search categories below. Keywords are the primary search term people will likely type into the search query bar. They should be repeated in your content titles, URLs, headings, and the body of the text (listed in order of importance).

Who is Mia Mottley? I honestly didn't know much about PM Mia Mottley, her career, or her legacy before this. Now's a good time to write about her backstory, because people on the internet will be searching for more information about her biography.

Beyond the names of famous people, you can also use the names of places, treaties, policies, brands, or landmarks as keywords in your content. People search proper names often, which is why Wikipedia.org is so useful. This is why dedicating a single page to each well-known person in your organization is a helpful search strategy online.

Keep in mind that the principle of one URL per main topic is important to follow in terms of searchable content. A long list with multiple biographies and names is hard for search engines to interpret. Having a directory that links to the individual pages works best.

There are so many delicious facts worth looking up in this speech:

  • the gap between climate pledges and action,
  • the lack of mitigation efforts,
  • the $20 billion gap in climate finance

Now would be a good time to write about one of these facts in an article. Fact-checking content, which adds depth and perspective, is the primary purpose of websites like Politifact.com and Snopes.com. These websites succeed, because people love to fact check information.

For your content keyword, you can either use the most intuitive phrase to highlight or you can conduct a search with some key phrases. See what suggestions Google has using its automated search completion function within the query bar. Β 

One of Mottley's main points focuses on climate finance. But what is climate finance? How is climate finance in the Paris Agreement supposed to work? A handy, readable explainer could help elucidate this topic.

This vs that

Mottley's speech covers both climate adaptation and mitigation. If you're wondering how the two compare, you're definitely not alone. Now would be a good time to write about climate mitigation vs adaptation and link it to Mottley's speech.

Famous quote

Mottley cites a quote by Eddy Grant: "Will they mourn us on the frontline?" This is a person and reference I'm unfamiliar with. I'd have to search it to understand.


The word "frontline" is used in many contexts, but it has particular relevance for the climate movement. A piece answering the question "what is a frontline community?" could highlight the etymology of the word frontline and its use as climate jargon.


One of my favorite moments in Mottley's speech prompted me to conduct my own internet search: "There is a sword that can cut down this Gordian knot; it has been wielded before." I didn't know what a Gordian knot is and I had to look it up. This is a highly repeatable metaphor. Perhaps publish a piece on why it's such a good metaphor for this moment?

Pros and cons of solutions

Policy leaders suggest solutions all of the time. Mottley does so in a very persuasive manner in this speech. She argues the following:

"The Central Banks of the wealthiest countries engaged in 25 trillion dollars of quantitative easing in 13 years; $9 trillion in 18 months. Had we used the $25trn to purchase bonds that financed the energy transition, we would BE keeping within 1.5 degrees.

An annual increase in SDRs of $500bn for 20 years put in a Trust to finance the transition is the REAL gap we need to close, not the $50bn being proposed FOR adaptation."

Do you agree with Mottley? Explain why and amplify her message for your network. Now would be a great time to write a deep dive think piece on this topic: How much should countries spend to solve climate change?

Why this, why now?

Calls to action take place left and right. But why is that? People probably want to know why we can't just wait a little longer to tackle climate change.

Mottley states: "Leaders today, not leaders in 2030 or 2050, must make this choice." She's referring to a moral choice to reduce the impacts of climate change which are causing harm to the people of her country and others around the world.

Some people may not be familiar with IPCC's timeline for reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius, though. They may need context to understand the urgency of Mottley's speech.

Can you put this into concrete terms that people can make sense of? Great! Then write a piece about this: Why we need to act on climate today.

Find the full transcribed text of Mottley's speech here.

Channel your inner searcher

Take a moment to think about the times you've had to look something up online.

This can help you empathize with other searchers, and it will help you connect with searchers more easily through your written content.

Try to help make people feel like they are insiders rather than outsiders on complex topics like climate change.

Providing answers to questions--and then going above and beyond expectations--is what searchable content does best. Lean in to your organization's unique authority.

You'll be surprised how much traffic you can receive just by helping people understand each other better. Β 

  • Please reply to this message if you want specific advice on creating searchable content for your site. As an SEO expert focusing on climate tech, ESG, and sustainability--I can help!

Thanks for reading :)

Sustainability Traffic is a (mostly) weekly newsletter written by Erica Eller. I am a content marketing strategist and writer who works with climate tech, ESG, and sustainable companies.