PA cannot SEO

headlien and story on Daily FinanceToday I had an extended row with PA about their omission of key words in a story about an anti-Asda advert from Tesco ruled “misleading” by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Here’s how the row progressed.

Our correspondence is listed in detail at the end but the main issue is that PA wrote a passive news intro (Tesco has had something done to it), without naming the source, and with a headline that omitted the allegations or the word advert. It was a lesson in how not to do journalism.

PA said their story would begin:

Tesco has been reprimanded for a national advertisement in the latest round of a price promotion battle with rival Asda.

In a national press advertisement, Tesco featured a selection of fresh food products displaying their in-store prices, and those of the same or equivalent products at Asda.

I answered:

Can we be as bold as to say

Tesco lied in anti-Asda price ads

Or something as strong with both company names and either the word ads or adverts in the titles?

This headline will fit on a single dec, is SEO, and sells to our Welcome Screen.

PA replied:

I feel your headline suggestion would put us on dangerous ground – Tesco says it was an error, not a lie.

We’ll be going with “Tesco rapped over Asda comparison” on our story

No matter how bad a PA story is written they will not re-write it so I concentrated on the headline. I suggested:

Tesco’s anti-Asda adverts ‘misleading’

fits, uses “advert” (nobody will be searching for the word “comparison”) and “misleading” is from the ASA so has qualified privilege protection.

PA replied:

We will not be describing this as an “anti-Asda advert”. I consider this phrase to be slightly overblown.

Tesco has been reprimanded over a price comparison advert. It claims an “error” was to blame. It’s my view that ‘anti-Asda’ infers nefarious motives and I am confident Tesco would maintain their ad was intended to highlight their own value rather than besmirch their rival.

Our headline – Tesco rapped over Asda comparison – captures the truth of the story perfectly well.

I absolutely understand your desire for a headline that contains the most powerful keywords but we are duty bound to ensure accuracy is our top priority. I would be very happy to change ‘advertisement’ to ‘advert’ in the intro if you consider that to be necessary.

This is, I accept, a subjective viewpoint but I am duty bound to satisfy myself that all PA digital content is fair and accurate.

So I replied:

The advert was anti-Asda in that it referred directly to Asda and not to all supermarkets generally. It said “you won’t find the cheapest in the Asda Price Guarantee”. How can you possibly construe that not to be anti-Asda?

But forget arguing about that. I am concerned that PA fails to understand SEO. Nobody is searching for a story about the “Tesco Asda Comparison”. They are searching the “Tesco Asda Advert” or ad or advertisement. So use advert in the headline and advertisement in the text and maybe even ad second time round.

That way we have the possible search terms covered in the headline and first 40 words. We also need the words, price, prices, guarantee, supermarket and so on, used high up in the story. They might be searching for Advertising Standards Authority and Tesco, so I would include the ASA in the first sentence.

Wherever possible we should use active verbs, not passive. So rather than Tesco have something done to it (passive) we should have the ASA doing something to Tesco (active).

So I’d go with something along the lines of:

Ad watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has rapped supermarket giant Tesco over a “misleading” anti-Asda advert that wrongly claimed 13 fresh foods were not included in Asda’s Price Guarantee.

That’s 30 words and if nobody read another word they’d have pretty much all the facts.

I never heard another peep. I wrote the story myself. We ran a poll and, so far, more than 88% of our readers think Tesco lied.

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One Response to PA cannot SEO

  1. Bear & Staff says:

    The headline ‘PA cannot SEO’ certainly writes a cheque the story cannot cash.
    Maybe the term you were after was ‘Press Association does not offer bespoke service for me’, but then it is impact, not balance and accuracy, that you seem to be striving for.
    As far as I am aware the Press Association – it is always important to give a company their official title in first mention, shortening if you wish to initials afterwards – produces thousands of stories every week for hundreds of customers.
    Because of the number, and variety, of customers, the style of the copy has always been what one would class as ‘vanilla’ where customers can add their own spin or flavour to the emotion-free facts.
    I understand the Press Association offers a number of on-line services, ranging from off-the-peg to bespoke. One would expect to get anything off-the-peg far cheaper than a bespoke product and a piece for that lower price would be the lack of individual tailoring.
    I would be interested to read if the service you are complaining about is an off-the-peg one or a bespoke one, as that is surely a vital element of your gripe which you seem to have omitted to mention.
    One final point with regards to journalistic integrity. Did the person at the Press Association know you were planning to publish on your blog extracts from that discussion? An ethical journalist would never quote anyone without informing them before publishing, would he?

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