While the relationship between the newspaper industry and the search engine optimization (SEO) industry has been rocky at best, some say that SEO could prove to be an important factor in keeping local papers solvent in tough times.

Chris Silver Smith, writing in a guest column at Search Engine Land, says that many newspaper websites, despite being one of the most important primary information sources on the web, are poorly designed and unlikely to achieve high levels of search engine optimization (SEO). And while Silver Smith says that some of the biggest newspaper websites like the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Washington Post are highly optimized, most smaller local papers are not.

Silver Smith recommends optimizing headlines to better appeal to the online audience, and ensuring that the headlines are displayed in the correct place on a given story page. Newspapers should also use up-to-date sitemaps to help Google and other search engines effectively crawl pages on their websites.

However, some newspaper professionals are distancing themselves from the search engine optimization (SEO) industry, rather than embracing it. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is reputedly considering pay walls for much of its online content.