Well respected search engine marketing expert, Danny Sullivan, dissects the mess surrounding the publication of a fraudulent pressrelease on PRweb — a site that was the best of the online press release services. His assessment? Google and other search engines will be forced to bring the SEO hammer down on these sites immediately. Read his article here: How PRWeb Helps Distribute Crap Into Google & News Sites.

We have long-recommended PRWeb to startups with tight marketing budgets and more established firms issuing lower priority news. The service is straightforward, no frills and low cost, while providing search engine visibility and pickup from noteworthy news sites such as Marketwatch and hundreds of regional newspaper websites.

Danny asserts that Google and others will likely penalize or eliminate online newswire services like PRWeb from their indexing, impacting a company’s SEO strategy should it choose services like PRWeb going forward. Clearly the nature and notoriety of the fraud – a speculator issuing false news of an acquisition – will also deeply damage any brand choosing to associate with PRweb in the near future. Other, less well-known services will likely be tainted by the fraud as well.

There is certain to be a flight to quality, with companies and agencies focusing on the big four newswire brands: Business Wire, PRNewswire, Marketwire and Globenewswire. However, given the SEC’s landmark decision elevating corporate blogs as a legitimate means of fair public disclosure, communications strategists should carefully consider when and where newswire services are of value.

In most every instance, newswire services function as a backstop to the public relations process. Using a newswire service is rarely a strategic choice when a company has access to media relations professionals, has established working relationships with journalists or bloggers or has a substantial online presence through which to publish its own news. When considering whether to invest in a newswire service, it is necessary to weigh the lost investment in a company’s own online presence and ability to make news on its own.

A list of those media who picked-up the fraudulent press release:

AP story is still live

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/google-buys-wi-fi-provider-155129102.html

Forbes [corrected]

http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomiogeron/2012/11/26/google-buys-wi-fi-hotspot-provider-icoa-for-400-million/

TechCrunch [corrected]

http://techcrunch.com/2012/11/26/google-acquires-u-s-national-high-traffic-broadband-wi-fi-provider-icoa-inc-for-400m/

BusinessInsider took down their link, but reference it in this piece

http://www.businessinsider.com/prweb-icoa-fake-google-press-release-2012-11

UPDATE: As of December 5th, 2012 PRWeb has updated its press release submission process to require “email authorization if you are discussing another company in your release; the email must come from an executive at the discussed company.”