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. Received yet another recorded message from Merchant Circle. I’ve been trying to post this comment on every blog I can find to alert others to this deceptive practice.

    I’d love to find a professional way to stop Merchant Circle from wasting all of our time and resources. As tempting as it is, I don’t want to stoop to their level.

    Any ideas?


  2. I’m getting a phone call every month.
    The recording is short rude and a pain.
    I can call the 800 number to get off the
    list, but opt to call the 650-654-8500
    number every so often till I get hold
    of a mgr or make the point.
    Scam or not, the recording telemarketing is out of control.


    Above is the link for the BBB conplaints! YOU ARE ALL NOT ALONE!!!

    Here is a different name and phone number that has a real persons voice on the answering machine!

    CONTACT: Kevin Leu MerchantCircle +1-858-xxx-xxx

    I would also call the Los
    Altos Chamber of commerce at
    (650) 948-1455
    Attorney General and/or Public Utility Commission

    Check out this link!

    **editor’s note: I have taken out the phone number, as it’s a personal number, according to Kevin. **


    Above is the link for the BBB conplaints! YOU ARE ALL NOT ALONE!!!

    Here is a different name and phone number that has a real persons voice on the answering machine!

    CONTACT: Kevin Leu MerchantCircle +1-858-xxxxxxx

    I would also call the Los
    Altos Chamber of commerce at
    (650) 948-1455
    Attorney General and/or Public Utility Commission

    Check out this link!

    *editor’s note: I have taken out the number as I am told it is a private number – jbat**

    THAT NUMBER doesn’t work but it is good to raz them

    *editor’s note: I have taken out the number as I am told it is a private number – jbat**

  6. I am thinking it is not MC but someone who may be trying to put them out of business or someone with too much time on their hands.
    I want to add that Merchant Circle phone call has happened to our business, A Theme Learning Center Box, LLC or I do have a free account with MC. I have found the free account to be of some help. The networking has been helpful.
    I did think of not keeping it after the scam.
    I came upon this site while I was trying to get on MC account from another computer not our own so it was not book marked
    I am thinking it is not MC but someone who may be trying to put them out of business.
    I am going to call. Thank you for a phone number!

  7. Thanks to all the posters above. Merchantcircle has been leaving messages pestering us to confirm for some Googler that our church is a legitimate business.

  8. # September 28, 2006 5:31 PM

    I made a post here on the above date.

    Not that long ago I started getting messages from these guys again…If I have to sift through hundreds of google search results, again, to find a way to personally contact one of these idiots…they will not like me when I finally do reach them.

    I’ve often wondered how far some sort of a law suite against them would get if there were enough people pissed off by them to initiate it. Can’t be that hard to start up here in good old California.

  9. Merchant Circle lied to me and I can see they have pissed a lot of other people off too now that I found this blog with other rants about Merchant Circle.

    There isn’t anyone looking for me on Google as the marketing messages to me implied. Scare tactics are entirely unnecessary and smacks of poor sales call planning when the company they call is already page one #1 on Google and we’ve been page one #1 for more than six years.

    SEO Exercise: Enter the Google search phrase: virtual tour cameras, or 360 virtual tours, or broker agent software, or real estate SEO (as this is where I help REALTORS with SEO specifically for them.) Page one visibility means I don’t need a Yellow Page ad, a bill board, or a display ad in the back of a USA Today newspaper and it MOST certainly means I don’t need any help from Merchant Circle, either. I have all the leads I can deal with now and we don’t have to spend a dime on outside advertising.

    Merchant Circle has no contact phone number so I can call them and tell them to get me out of their computer telemarketing calls. If you want to send a complaint, here you go. This is the VC firm that is funding them:

    Tom Unterman
    2425 Olympic Boulevard,
    Suite 6050 West
    Santa Monica, CA 90404

  10. I too have felt the negative impact of this horrible directory, MerchantCircle. They list my business information incorrectly costing me dearly. I want them to cease advertising my business. I want my business aligned with reputable directories only!

  11. I filed a complaint with the BBB and the responses I received were outrageous and not even on topic. They gave me some lame excuse about their getting information from multiple sources but did nothing to APOLOGIZE for lying to me.

    Voyager never had any issue with a customer trying to find me on Google because we have been page one #1 for the past size years. And no on was posting unsavory information about my firm on MerchantCircle either.

    I demanded that Ben Smith (CEO) send me a letter of apology. I have yet to get that in the mail, but I did get this response this morning:

    On July 07, 2008, the business provided the following information:

    Dear Mr. Wilson:

    I apologize for any inconvenience we have caused you. My team has removed your listings as you have requested, and your phone number has been placed on our ‘do not call’ list. I hope this resolves your immediate concerns regarding this complaint.

    Best Regards,

    Ben T. Smith

  12. We just received the cold call from MerchantCircle even after registering our corporate number with ‘do not call’ registry. We do not want, need or have the time to listen to or respond to such cold calls. We want our number(s) removed immediately from your call MerchantCircle’s call list. Any suggestions?

  13. Yes…did a google search and found info on MerchantCircle. Suspected it was a scam-related call.

    How do you suppose they get our business phone numbers ? Any ideas ?

  14. Their toll free number that shows up as the call back number is 866-849-3243. If you call it you’ll get a voice recording telling you to that they’ll call you back later or that you can automatically remove a phone number from their call list by pressing the # key. I suggest everyone getting a call, call the number and press the pound key then leave the phone off the hook until they hang up the line. If everyone they called did this just once, that would solve the problem very quickly.

  15. I have read many blogs and researched MC extensively and I have experienced just about every complaint that everyone has shared. I actually helped promote MC over two years ago within my community and took advantage of the ad dollars they would pay out if I were to invite merchants and write endorsements. I must add that I really thought in 2006 that MC was doing a great service but now I’m sorry I encouraged my business social network to join. There are many more details concerning my specific MC drama but I have an idea that hopefully may catch on and settle the issues that we have all experienced without lawyers getting paid.
    Why don’t we all use the business social network mechanism of the MC portal and in a civil manner use it against them to notify visitors that MC….. Get the idea?

  16. One of my workers got a voice message on his phone regarding MerchantCircle to see the video made of our company. I decided to google it before I went to the website and glad that I did. Now they have a new approach.

  17. got this too about the video being of our business and went to site, but fortunately checked out this site before submitting anything. the message rang alarm bells and well i’m glad i didn’t submit anything. if they can’t tell me anything about my business then most likely they are spammers because the message itself is so generic. kind of like the automated message letting me know that my automible is …..etc i google every company before submitting any information nowadays.

  18. Thank Goodness for blogs like this! All I need is 20 more calls a day with people trying to sell me bogus online marketing. I just got the automated response suggesting I take a look at a negative video that was put up on MC about my company.

  19. This has to be a scam, I received a phone call about a video of our company, Well I guess someone is spying on us because we are not a visual company. Maybe they have a video of a building that doesn’t even have a sign on it. Thank god for web sites like this so people can look out for others.

  20. Merchant circle sucks donkey ballz. None of my customers would ever take the time to leave a review, let alone a video. second of all i could give a shit less if they did. i know my customer service is bueno!!!! what a stupid ass annoying company.

  21. I have some information. Merchantcircle is hiding their information, hosting contacts and the like. I did a little research and found that they are hosting with the following firm:

    Silicon Valley Colocation, Inc.
    PO Box 390804
    Mountain View, CA 94039
    Phone 4087470724
    Phone 408400-0550

    These people knew nothing of the trouble and asked that people contact them with complaints. Lets make a difference and shut down a bad company.

  22. I was looking for a company to help my business idea of helping small businesses elevate their exposure online and I came across MC and this blog. I saw that this company has merged with and a contact number is also provided: (Kevin Leu)
    (redacted by editor)

    I hope this helps everyone get what they need.

    Good Luck!

  23. “Merchant Circle” are scammers. They make false claims. They’ve listed my business incorrectly. They left a message that there was a video of my business on their site. Not! After many attempts to correct these people I find I cannot. They will not list the name of my business correctly. They don’t offer an e-mail, an address or phone number. It seems the only way is to register with them. Why would I want to register with a business that can’t even be bothered to list me correctly? They are damaging my business, not helping it.

  24. Nice speech from Ben…..yes…but what’s your number dude? Oh, right! If I pay $49.95 per month I can have a contact number? (sure…..) Can’t wait to sign up for that!

    Here is a partial list of damage you caused to me personally:

    1. The aggravation caused muscle tightening: Cost for series of massages to undo this tension: $700 (6 sessions)

    2. 2 new wrinkles from grimacing: Cost: $2000 for facial resurfacing.

    3. Hair loss and new gray hairs: Cost: plugs and hair color (not fully attributed to Ben) : estimate: $5000 (1/10th of total cost).

    4. Productivity loss: $2000 (more)

    5. Legal fees to fight the unautorized charge against my card to verify my business. $10,000

    6. Legal fees for my liability of having provided people in my business network that could vouch for me: $60,000.

    ….now, this is only the beginning.

    So far: $79,700

    multiply this by the number of people you are harasssing. Your vc’s should jump and you should jump out.

  25. I have received numerous recorded solicitsation messages from Merchants Circle in the last several years, and usually ignore them. The most recent one from last week has a new twist, not the video one. The message stated I had “low score” and to go to the site and type my busines sphone number in the blue box. Given what I have read in various blogs, I am not making that effort and don’t particularly care what their rating of my professional services may be.

  26. I have never seen a forum with so many complete IDIOTS! You complain about this company calling your business even though you registered it on the DNC list.

    Guess what? You’re not covered! Check this out.

    Item #14 states…

    The National Do Not Call Registry is only for personal phone numbers. Business-to-business calls and faxes are not covered by the National Do Not Call Registry.

    It says the DNC is for personal numbers only. If you are using a personal line for your business, it’s a business line.

    So SHUT UP! BTW, I an listed on MC and I’m HAPPY.

  27. Hey RB,
    We are not idiots!
    You should not tell people to shut up!
    Why don’t you look up a local MC “anger management counselor” in your area?

    BTW, I am not listed on MC anymore and I’m happy too.

  28. passing on a quote from another article on MC:

    ” If anyone would like their listing to be removed from MerchantCircle please email and include your business name and phone # and we will remove your listing from the site and your contact information from our system within the day.”

  29. I’m a business owner and I’ve been surprised to have new students call my martial arts school and call as a result of finding out about my school on Merchant Circle’s website. One guy even wrote a really nice review and this one simple review has helped others feel good about coming in. I’ve researched some of what I’ve read here and I can see where some would be bothered.

    I’ve also noticed that there is a page where I’m given the option for removing all of my info and listing from their system.

    Are the main issues that you guys are having only when you have paid?

    Rick Metzler
    Chief Instructor-The Pit

  30. We now sign all of our small business clients up for a MerchantCircle account, and most of them we recommend Premium.

    Our sister company, a small business financial services firm, is presently the fastest growing company in its field in Southern California thanks largely to local search in general and MerchantCircle in particular.

    Contrary to some of the negative comments above – earlier this year MerchantCircle became the cornerstone of AD|MAX’s low-end local search advertising program. The amazing marketing power of MerchantCircle was obvious to us after experimenting, trial and error, with dozens of local search engines, directories and small business Internet marketing platforms. We really found nothing else that could come close to matching it.

    MerchantCircle is the ‘Prometheus’ of local small business Internet marketing.

  31. I just signed on to Merchant Circle. I am part of their marketing team. They have treated me like family. They have shown me their focus – to help local business network with one another and help them gain an Internet presence.

    So far I LOVE what I see. And they are helping my customers get in Google faster than I have ever seen.

  32. I admit I was a bit confused by your blog. The reason I recommend MerchantCircle involves my own small business. If you “Google” LaPuma, you will find a family that has doctors, attorneys, and writers! My own little site got lost in the shuffle. By using MerchantCircle, I am now proud to say I have made it to page 2 on a Google search.

    My own initial experience about MerchantCircle and those strange phone calls were similar to the complaining bloggers; however, I found out one of those calls was generated from my old customer who had used MerchantCircle to track me down. I then found out MerchantCircle was run by ex-Google employees who knew all the “hacks” to get more hits on business searches, and I was sold.


  33. Hacks!
    That does not make sense and if your site was optimized then you should have traffic to your Web site not an ad laden MC page.

  34. I can’t see how Merchant Circle listings would have anything to do with page rank or rising the search listings. Thats a load of bull, they’re clearly spammers, hacks, and very unethical. Try and find a phone number anywhere on their site, you can’t find one. They don’t even review their reviews, I’ve seen vulgar and obscene comments left unedited and its ridiculous!

  35. I agree with Andy!

    Why would you want an ad at MC that uses your business name and geo market or niche to diplay ads for other companies that MC gets paid for?

  36. Does anyone out there have any written proof of what Merchant Circle is doing to businesses. They have ruined ours by posting a review from someone that was totally a lie. We are sueing so any help whatsoever would be great.

  37. Trying to contact them is an effort in futility. They have hidden all contact information and all phone numbers lead to a fax or voicemail which is never answered. I have done some research and found out who actually hosts their site. I contacted them and they seemed genuinely surprised to hear their was an issue. This is not surprising considering the trouble I had to go through to find out the information. I related what was going on and they seemed genuinely concerned. They asked that I send a complaint to them via email and include some of what I found. I did include slanderous reviews on the site, incorrect information links to revealing photos and much more. I also informed them that I was going to place this information on the net for others to use. They said that would be fine.

  38. We have had to fight with MC over the past 2 years to keep them from posting a web site for us . 6 monthes after they remove the site after weeks of requestes , they put it back up agien. Its pathetic we have to keep monerting thir site to make sure they dont put up a page in our name . They do not respond to e-mail phone or fax

  39. Merchant Circle has not been a customer of Silicon Valley Colocation for many months now. You’ll need to look up their current IP address and use that to determine who their current provider is.

    If I did this for you, it would just inflict that provider after Merchant Circle has left there. You have to look it up, as it might change when they move or get booted from one provider to another.

  40. I guess I don’t see where MerchantCircle is somehow doing negative damage to a business reputation or name.

    If you are not paying a penny for top search result page placement, where is the damage being done?
    I have had reviews written all over the internet by past customers, most do not give me the option to delete an attack or negative review, should I be going after them with a lawsuit as well?

    Do I agree with all of MerchantCircles tactics? Absolutely not (I have some horror stories of my own).
    But because of the traffic that it is bringing me (and increased page placement on Google and Yahoo), I am in fact getting more business from a much larger area (it may be my savior through this tough economy).
    My main website is also being pulled up organically because of my MerchantCircle listing.

    Am I an employee of MC?
    No I am definitely not…
    I am just a business owner that is trying to make the best of this economy, using as many free tools to advertise my business that the internet has to offer (I can also determine when good can outweigh bad). Look at my MC page I am getting an average of 8000 page vews a month, and 300-400 Yahoo and Google Crawlers.
    Where is the negative in those statistics?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.