Is The SEO/Public Relations Relationship Made in Heaven or Hell?

I have long advocated for a marriage between public relations and search engine optimization. But I’m afraid the type of union being made between some newspapers and a company that understands the value of SEO could spell doom for some newspaper websites’ authority in Google’s eyes.

Follow me as I connect some dots:

The SEO Public Relations Connection

Original Intent
I’m not hating on this service. I think it’s brilliant. CCMS is a newspaper design firm that created a digital portal newspapers can add to their websites. It provides a mechanism for people to submit their press releases in hope of reporters seeing them and turning those press releases into published articles.

CCMS Owner/CEO Bill Ostendorf and I spoke late last year about this income-producing opportunity for newspapers.

“We built this platform initially to help newsrooms handle press releases,” he said. “They come in by fax, email, courier; 30 reporters will get the release, three will write it up and two get thrown away.”

This digital portal enables everyone to submit their press releases and allows reporters to view all the releases in a format like a wire service. They can mark the release to note whether they’re covering the event to avoid duplicating efforts in the newsroom.

Tampa Bay Times is one newspaper using this service to archive the approximately 10,000 press releases it receives per week, Ostendorf said. Anyone can submit a press release to the portal free of charge.

An A-Ha Moment
Then Ostendorf realized the SEO potential. What if the portal could be wired in a way that anyone could submit a release, pay to have it published right away, and it would look to Google like it was written by Tampa Bay Times, or to the newspaper that houses this portal?

This is How Things Go Wrong
Boom – a way to work the system was born. I promise, I’m normally a glass-half-full girl. But I know SEO, and I know SEO companies. Enough of them are unscrupulous and willing do anything in their power to game a system intended for good.

There’s nothing to stop anyone from posting anything from anywhere in the country on the Tampa Bay Times portal, Ostendorf said. If you pay, you can post your press release, regardless of whether it’s relevant to the community paper to which you’re posting. My hope is that papers such as Tampa Bay Times, Providence Business News, and all other papers using this portal will scrutinize press releases posted to their portals and weed out irrelevant releases. That might protect the integrity of these newspapers’ high authority in Google’s eyes.

If they don’t, my concern is that we’ll see Google’s Web spam team drop the hammer and devalue these sites’ authority. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.