Interview with Merrick Lozano of PRLeap.com

I know everybody says it but one of the most important parts of Pubcon is the networking. I met Mario and Merrick Lozano of PRLeap and had a great time “talking shop” one night. Merrick was nice enough to do an interview and answer a few questions about himself and his company.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got started on the internet.

I was born in San Diego and raised on both sides of the border: San Diego / Tijuana. I first went online in 1993 on a brand new 486 computer with a “fast” 14.4kbps modem. I didn’t get hooked until I was at UCLA in 1995; the network on campus was fast and new interesting sites were coming online all the time. I was an Economics major thinking I would become a CPA or a Lawyer, but I was working part-time as a computer consultant and and a database developer.

In late 1998 I had two quarters left at UCLA and I was done with my major. I got tired of the LA club scene and began spending nights and weekends reading sites like WebMonkey trying to figure out how to build websites. I began building a golf site, and in June 1999 after attending a tennis tournament at La Costa I uploaded some pictures of Anna Kournikova to my website. I sent an email with a link to the pictures to 10 friends. A week later I was close to my bandwidth limit and my golf site did not have any new users to show for it. I looked at the referrer report and saw AltaVista was pointing people to the Anna Kournikova pictures. That sparked my interest in SEO. I sought out all the search engine optimization information I could find and I landed at Search Engine Watch.

Tell us a little bit about PRLeap and how the company got started.

By October of 2002, Mario and I were helping companies optimize their sites and building our own sites. We wanted to get the word out for one a new project and found that no one was optimizing press releases for search engines. We learned everything we could about PR and decided to run with the idea of press releases distribution to search engines. Only we couldn’t run, we had to crawl. We had zero funds to develop and market PR Leap so we did everything ourselves on a shoestring budget. We didn’t launch until June of 2003.

What are some tips you can give people to help them get the most out of a press release

Localize your press release – include the City, State and Zip Code in the body of your press release if your preferred wire service does not already. Local news is becoming more important online every day. Gannett Company, one of the largest newspaper companies is reorganizing all of its 89 newsrooms and one of their four goals is to prioritize local news over national news. Their second goal is to publish more user-generated content.

Tie your news to current events. Just make sure you have something newsworthy and unique to discuss in your press release.

What are some mistakes that people should avoid when submitting a press release

Keep in mind that distribution does not equal inclusion or syndication. We can make sure a search engine sees your news but there are things you have to do to make sure it is included. News search engines want to see a few paragraphs of news or they will not include a press release in their search results. Avoid including dates older than the release date within the lead paragraph of a press release. Google News filters out news that it perceives is old.

The body of the release cannot be too short or else news search engines may ignore the release. We like to see at least 150 words not including the company profile at the bottom.

Do you have any stories of press releases that did much better than you expected, or maybe some creative out of the box thinking about press releases.

A few weeks ago I knew Christmas was near when I saw the referral traffic spike for “santa’s phone number”. I had no idea thousands of people were interested in calling Santa. One clever company “found” Santa’s secret phone number and announced it through PR Leap a year ago. They have top placement for their target keywords once again this year.

Are you working on new and exciting projects at PRLeap you can tell us about?

We are always up to something. Right now we are developing a social news release package, it will be out in early 2007.

If anyone wants more the tips on press release optimization visit the PR Leap Blog we add new tips every month.

Thank you for the interview.

Thanks Merrick, I just added your blog to my list of feeds, and I look forward to hearing more about your social media package next year.

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