MerchantCircle Registering SMB Domains

Mike Blumenthal sent me a link to this post, where he describes the following:

It appears that Merchant Circle has purchased as many as 10,700 domains. These domain purchases have been going on for a number of months and are often in the format of localbusinessnamelocale.com. MC has gone on to create a website for the business based on the unverified Merchant Circle record and appears to have done so without permission or engagement of the business . . .

Mike asks:

Is this MC’s newest SEO strategy to gain additional footing on the first page of Google? Are they taking cybersquatting to a new level to gain Maps traffic from the new local focused Google SERPS or are they just giving away domain names to businesses that “forgot” to buy them? I am trying to understand why MC would spend $70,000 on domain purchases, many of which have include the trade name for local businesses.

I haven’t spoken to MerchantCircle about this but will ask. I’m sure this is both an SEO strategy and another way to try and gain new customers/advertisers.

While this behavior is not illegal of course it certainly exists in a fairly gray area. The question in my mind is: does MC approach the businesses whose domains it has registered and, if so, what does MC tell the local SMBs about those domains?

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3 Responses to “MerchantCircle Registering SMB Domains”

  1. Darren Says:

    Hi Greg,

    I tried my best to straighten out the confusion on Mike’s blog. To recap, the vast majority of our Instant Website customers selected the domain name for their Instant Website when they bought the service. In some very limited cases, we’ve given away domain names for free to our top merchants.

    In this case, we notified the merchant via different channels and provided them direct contact information for a MerchantCircle representative who can answer any questions. Usually, this is the first “real” (i.e., non-MerchantCircle) website the merchant has had.

    As I mentioned on Mike’s blog, a tiny fraction of merchants have asked us if they could have the domain name transferred to them and we’ve been happy to oblige, free of charge.

    Our goal is and will continue to be to help bring more consumer traffic to local members.

    Thanks Greg.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    Thanks for clarifying; I’ll pursue with Ben when I see him today.

  3. laura Says:

    I wanted to respond becuase I had a $348 charge on my debit card. I tried to contact MC many times with great difficulty and did receive a call back from a David . The charges to my account were explained to me because I paid for a website for a company called Bit Market. MC had my credit information and also my home address linked to the creation of this web page called New Zealand Authentics. Long and short of the story they did not have my email address which is needed to sign into the account nor did they have my authority. They are fully aware that my credit card was misused. They explained to me that the company that is listed can’t even be contacted because it is a bogus phone number listed on MC and goes to a fax machine. The so called Bit Market is in Kenosha,WI. Anyhow MC representative David was empathetic to my story and is in full awarement that my debit card was misused by this so called company selling electronics. They got my card information because my son tried to by an Apple Touch off a company called GigaDrive which unbelievably is no longer searchable on the web. Hum how interesting. What I don’t understand is why MC would continue to carry the listing for Bit Market if they know it is bogus and maybe they could be a bit more helpful by sending me a letter to turn into my debit card company so maybe I can recoupe the money when I contest the charges with the card company. And Darren I know you have responded to this site and I will cut and paste this onto the other address you listed. Maybe you can talk to David and get my number he has both my home and work and we can get this taken care of. Sadly enough this isn’t money I worked for but was my son’s child support money. If you don’t believe me look up Pennsylvania Eppicard. Thanks so much and Darren hope to verbally hear from you soon.

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