Merrick Lozano – Local Search interview

Today we’re talking with Merrick Lozano of PRLeap.com.

This is the second time I’ve interviewed Merrick be sure to go back and read the first interview we did in 2006. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today Merrick. For the first question let’s pretend you’re not involved in Internet marketing at all, what are some local searches that you find yourself doing?
When Google SMS came out, I began searching for restaurant and retail business phone numbers on my phone. Now that I have a Smartphone with a better browser, bigger screen and a keyboard I use Google Mobile to search for movie listings and graphical traffic reports.

When we first spoke you mentioned people should localize their press releases to get more out of them. If I’m holding a local event say a car show, am I better of targeting the state, county, or town level to get the best results?

A recent comScore press release states that

“63 percent of U.S. Internet users (or approximately 109 million people) performed a local search online in July, a 43-percent increase versus July of 2005.” Of those surveyed “41 percent of those conducting a local search were searching for something in their home area.”

I would target the town level first, county second. While I would not necessarily target the state, I would include the state name to help search engines in cases where the same town names exist in multiple states.

Topix.net and Google News look for city, county and states mentioned within a press release. Yahoo Local’s search results include web search results below the business listings. We are seeing press releases distributed through PR Leap show up on those search results but only those that target a local area.

If I wanted to get my press release into Google and Yahoo News are there any tips you have, and whats the best way to schedule a press release before an event?

To improve the chances of getting into Google News and Yahoo News make sure to write your press release in the inverted pyramid format. The momentum to modernize the press release format and establish a microformat over the last 6 months is refreshing, but today’s news search engines are setup to receive news in the inverted pyramid format. Google News sets off an error titled “Article Fragmented” when it receives news that consists of isolated sentences rather than paragraphs.

* Side note – If anyone from Yahoo is reading – we would love to get our members (28,000+) news in Yahoo News.

Since online news releases serve journalists, the former audience (bloggers) and your target audience you have to schedule your online press releases to meet the needs of people you primarily want to reach out to.

If you want coverage on blogs or traditional media you need to release your news well in advance and give them time to do some research and work your news into their editorial schedule.

If you are running a contest aimed at consumers and you release your news in advance of the contest then you have to link to something on your site from within your press release that will encourage consumers to come back to your site later when the contest begins.

I’m sure you see a lot of people making mistakes that make their press releases less effective, what are some things to avoid?

At the beginning of the year, many people forget to change the dates in their lead paragraphs to the current year. At PR Leap we see many submissions that have dates like February 1, 2006 in the lead paragraph instead of February 1, 2007. When Google sees an old date in the lead paragraph it skips that news because it is not interested in old news.

While this is not necessarily a mistake, it falls under missed opportunities. Some companies like to take the two words in their name and then join them by omitting a space between them. Avoid the temptation to join two words no matter how cool you think it looks. For example if your site or company name is Rustic Furniture don’t join it as RusticFurniture and then use that throughout your press release. Even though Google Search can figure out that those are two words, Google News does not and your news is may not be included for keyword searches containing Rustic or Furniture.

Let’s take a look into the future, what do you see for local search in the next few years?

The bulk of innovation in local search should happen on mobile phones. If you have not considered the importance of the mobile phone, take a look at Tomi Ahonen’s post: Putting 2.7 billion in context: Mobile phone users, it’s a must read.

Local search will be much different 3 years from now. At a minimum we will move past the digitized phonebook and maps. We should have a mobile phone local recommendation engine based on user generated content. When you search for pizza on your phone, you should get back a list of recommendations and you shouldn’t have to type in a zip code your phone will know where you are at. Not everyone is going to have an iPhone so we will continue to see text based services but Yahoo Local’s Traffic and Driving directions product is sign of what we can expect to see more of.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. If you’re looking for a great place to submit your press release head on over to PRLeap.com and if you want some great tips be sure to check out the PRLeap Blog.

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