MerchantCircle Tries to Get Stickier with ‘Neighbors’ and ‘Answers’

MerchantCircle is seeking to transform itself from a source of search engine leads for SMBs into more of a destination site that consumers and businesses will use over and over again.

The company reports 20 million unique visitors, which if calculated in a certain way, would make it the fifth largest Internet Yellow Pages. It also has over 900,000 small businesses that have “claimed” a page and may use the company’s robust tool sets and features.

While MerchantCircle already provides a number of features, such as Yelp reviews, just a small percentage use the site as a reference site, akin to an Internet Yellow Pages. Company officials now hope to change that with two new programs: “Neighbors” and “Answers.”

Neighbors — not to be confused with Yahoo! Neighbors, which also launches today — enables consumers to “follow” local businesses, Twitter style, for the latest promotions, coupons and announcements. Business owners can use the feed to communicate directly with their customer base and share information on deals and other things. Deals, especially, reflect one of Merchant Circle’s strengths, since its merchants use the service to publish thousands of coupons.

Answers is a consumer advice service, similar to ones we’ve seen with Yahoo Answers and vertical sites such as (lawyers) and Trulia (real estate). Merchant Circle’s idea is that small businesses will become more bonded to the service if they regularly communicate with potential customers. It says it has already had excellent response rate in a month of trials.

One would think that MerchantCircle may not be ideally positioned to provide such a core consumer service. But company officials note that its strength is not in the Yelp markets such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, but rather in small to medium-sized markets, perhaps up to 150,000 population, where it has achieved a viral effect of businesses recommending each other.

3 thoughts on “MerchantCircle Tries to Get Stickier with ‘Neighbors’ and ‘Answers’

  1. Merchant Circle is one of the most merchant-friendly companies I have ever been associated with. As a member, I feel like part of a big family. Rothstein Jewelers of Beverly Hills (our store) was just featured in their Sept. newsletter. We provide people with real answers to their questions. Our listings, reviews, and blogs show up higher in Google search results because of MerchantCircle.

  2. The Q& A feature on MerchantCircle is fake. Merchants waste their time answering questions that will NEVER be seen by the person asking the questions because they farm the questions in from places like Yahoo answers and Answerbag. I have also seen with my own eyes and have also talked with MANY businesses that have had their MC profiles COMPLETELY drop off the search results with because Google has penalized MerchantCircle. MerchantCircle is NOTHING like it used to be. All it is now just a plain old business directory.

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