The week's buzz is rising on MerchantCircle, a local search play with a twist. I spoke to CEO Ben Smith this week, and he got me smart on the idea behind it. In short, MerchantCircle is trying to get local merchants to play the search game on their own…

MerchantcircleThe week’s buzz is rising on MerchantCircle, a local search play with a twist. I spoke to CEO Ben Smith this week, and he got me smart on the idea behind it. In short, MerchantCircle is trying to get local merchants to play the search game on their own terms, and I like that idea.

SiliconBeat has some good thoughts on it:

…MerchantCircle has pre-populated its database with generic business listings. Business owners can then sign in to claim their profile pages.

…Smith doesn’t view MerchantCircle as a destination site for users. Most people won’t go here looking for a local bike shop, although you could. Instead, they’ll find MerchantCircle profiles when they’re Googling for Palo Alto bike shops, for example.

The “circle” in the company’s name comes from the idea that merchants will create networks of affiliated businesses by adding their names to their profile pages and swapping ads with each other. The idea is to give merchants an incentive to invite other merchants into MerchantCircle. Indeed, Smith is relying on this type of viral marketing to build his business because he doesn’t have a cadre of salespeople to recruit business owners.

Garrett French has more on MerchantCircle here, as does Greg Sterling.

216 thoughts on “MerchantCircle”

  1. There isn’t anything for free!
    If you are getting that much traffic I wonder how many visitors left your FREE MC page to go to one of the PPC ads MC is running on your FREE MC page.

  2. Has anyone tried to get out of the Merchant Circle web? We’re not getting any increase in customers and finally decided to drop the City Search. It’s incredibly frustrating trying to find any contact info. We finally resorted to changing our financial account number so they could no longer access it for auto-payments. We were finally able to talk to 2 representatives who both left the company immediately afterwards, apparently. Now we are getting dunned for ever-increasing fees. It’s been Dante-esque and also is beginning to very much seem like a Bernie Madoff scam to me.

  3. I am happy with my results on Merchant Circle. I have never felt any pressure to upgrade from my free listing, and the other merchants are a great help if you have any questions about how the service works. Any small business has nothing to lose by signing up for free.

  4. MerchantCircle is by far the best advertising venue hands down. I’m amazed at the results I get with my MerchantCircle listing. I can be found 1st page (and in many instances #1 position on 1st page using many different search terms related to Glass all over the Twin Cities area. Thanks to MerchantCircle my phone doesn’t quit ringing. I am a very active member and volunteer countless hours trying to help and mentor other merchants to find the success I have using this High powered business directory. I also volunteer, (Not an Employee) my time as a Forum Moderator. As far as I know, nobody has ever been forced to join and nobody has ever been pressured to pay a dime to this company. I respect everyone’s opinions positive or negative, and wish everyone the best.

  5. MERCHANT CIRCLE SUCKS!! Here’s my story. I was sitting in my home office working. A good customer calls and says,“Have you seen the comment written about you in ?”“What’s a Merchant Circle” I say?(I found out you have to join “website” before Merchant Circle will contact you about good/bad comments made about your business). The long story short, there was a SCATHINGLY, NASTY, UNTRUE comment written about my company calling me every kind of unethical thief and criminal you can imagine for the ENTIRE WORLD to see!! The “person” who wrote is someone I met briefly and who doesn’t know me or my company very well AT ALL yet he can go to Merchant Circle’s site, and many other sites like it, and try to ruin my good name and reputation to the world just because!! This “person” continued to write NASTY COMMENTS about us for months! I let it go on so I could find out what his problem was, and still is! This person also has a pretty powerful means to continue to defame us locally but GUESS WHAT? He and this other entity are about to be slapped with a complaint leading to a lawsuit! Defamation of character is VERY hard to prove and that we cannot prove so far!! Thank you VERY, VERY much Merchant Circle for costing us 3 attorneys and 2 private investigator to find out WHY this “person” was/is trying to ruin us!!Would you like to pay my lost time and money because of your site??
    Signing up is about the only thing that is free wih Merchant Circle!! That site has cost me lots of money, precious business time, and emotional stress and if I knew how to put their company in the same stranglehold I would do it in a heartbeat!! MC is impossible to get hold of and you have to pay JUST TO TALK TO THEM!! It’s a 900 number call at a hefty $30!! MC’s system hurts small businesses! Do I sound angry?? YOU BET YOUR BUTTONS I AM!! MC and others like them, need to be thoroughly investigated!!
    Now, everybody reading this, go eagerly and sign up with merchantcircle and watch all the psychopaths in the world try to ruin everything you’ve worked so many long, hard years to build!! MERCHANT CIRCLE SUCKS!! I can’t say it enough!!! The bad thing about it is, I can’t touch Merchant Circle, or, if I can I haven’t found the way YET!! Free and easy has a price that goes with it! Beware of Merchant Circle!! I would rather not know what other businesses think of me or mine!! They just shouldn’t do business with me if they don’t like how I do it!! If I do something unethical then sue me!! They should NOT go around spreading lies about my business on the internet!! Shame on you Merchant Circle and all businesses like yours!!

  6. I have mixed feelings about MC. Please conduct this experiment and see what happens. Do a search on google for your type of business from the same computer and browser you use to edit your MC site. Now do the same search from another computer at a different local, “so the IP address is different”, do you get the same results? I don’t. I am always listed on the first page in google from my computer but may or may not show up if I use a friends etc.

  7. For all those folks who have been burned by Merchant Circle let me assure you that the fun continues. Found seriously negative and patently false review from someone who had not had contact with my business. When I tried to find out who to contact I ran into the same problem of online contact that consisted solely of them telling me to write or call the $30 toll number. Worse yet, I didn’t have the option of “claiming” the site for free to get rid of the negatives because someone (probably the harassing poster) has already claims it. Obviously MC did little or nothing to verify the identity of the person purporting to be from my company. In accordance with Ben Smith’s entry earlier in the chain I have emailed them to remove my listing. We shall see whether his promise of one-day removal is worth anything. Have filed BBB complaint and am readying complaint to Virginia AG. Thankfully I am an attorney by training so if this is not resolved very quickly I can handle most of the legal work myself.

  8. I never signed up for this service and was getting regular BS emails from them with no unsubscribe option and no “reply to” option. This is a real unethical company. I can’t stand these kinds of SCAMS! Reading this forum makes me realize that if I complain, they’ll just write a negative review of my business to spite me. This is bullshit through and through. No ethical company signs you up for an account without your approval and then spams you. STAY AWAY FROM MERCHANTCIRCLE.

  9. What turned me off of Merchant Circle in the beginning (not sure if they stopped this shady tactic or not but) they sent me an email that stated: “One of your customers is looking for you to answer this question” which was a common question I get for my industry. I typed out a thoughtful reply taking my time to make sure I put my best foot forward for my potential client and sent it off. Later, I got another inquiry but since I didn’t get a response after the first, I took a closer look at the message. The beginning was identical/verbatim with only the main point of the question different so it was structured the same however asking something else entirely.

    I searched Google for the beginning and I found thousands of questions pre-populated waiting for answers from Merchant Circle businesses.

    I was fuming! I wasted so much time answering a question in good faith when it was Merchant Circle’s deceptive ploy to generate content on the backs of their experts. What value did I get? Nothing. I wasted 2 hours typing one of my most thoughtful replies only to find out it was a ‘bot’ behind the question and not a real person/prospect.

    Before that I had advised my clients to participate in Merchant Circle now I advise them to avoid it like the plague. I’m an I.T. consultant in St. Petersburg, FL.

  10. I have a negative review on this site.  I never knew anything ab out this place! A person who purchased a puppy from me posted a negative review which was proven to be unfounded.  This person signed me up and proceeded to defame me on there.  I cannot remove it as I never signed up on that site!!! That seems illegal!

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