MerchantCircle Morphs into SMB Reputation Management Service

MCMerchantCircle, which launched last year, as a marketing, CRM and SEO tool for SMBs, has evolved into something more complex and interesting. Here’s my original post on the site.

I just got off the phone with Walt Duflock, Director of Marketing for MerchantCircle, who told me that the site had 70,000 local businesses that had claimed their online profiles. (That’s not equivalent to paying advertisers but impressive nonetheless.)

Duflock took me through their new, expanded strategy. The most compelling piece of that strategy involves a dashboard where local merchants can see all the reviews written about them on the major review sites: Yahoo! Local, Citysearch, Yelp, SuperPages, Judy’s Book and so on.

User-generated content is here to stay and increasingly important for consumers and thus merchants as well. A Yahoo! survey (done by Harris in October, 2006 n= 2,766) found that 79% of consumers were likely to be influenced by online reviews. (Kevin Newcomb wrote up some of that data today in his SearchDay post.)

This brave new world of user reviews creates something of a problem for local businesses. Most don’t have the time/energy to effectively market themselves online, let alone manage their reputations across dozens of review sites. MerchantCircle gives them the ability to see all those reviews in a single place.

This is a timely development for MerchantCircle. I’m unaware of any other site offering a comparable service. The company then offers a range of tools and suggestions to merchants (here’s where the business model comes in) to help them try and manage and/or improve their reputations online. Of course that’s a much more complicated proposition.


14 Responses to “MerchantCircle Morphs into SMB Reputation Management Service”

  1. AhmedF Says:

    Reading their blog makes me angry – I cannot stand them. Allowing ‘users’ to accuse businesses of malpractice and of being terrorists? And that is just a small sample of the random accusations littered on that website.

    Just a way of goading hapless business owners into having to register.

  2. Daniel Says:

    MerchantCircle is just one site of several services that has reviews on them, both positive and negative. But unlike the others, you can sign up and get rid of the bad reviews and improve your image on it. So simply getting angry at one of the services is not necessarily the right knee-jerk reaction to have. This service helps to fix that image, whether it’s right or wrong.

  3. Jimmy Says:


    I am delighted to see MerchantCircle out there. I have just signed up with a free page of my own. I am strongly considering a paid membership.

    I wondered what other sites, if any, might be offering a similar service for local merchants like me. Any feedback is appreciated. I have no idea where to begin researching this.


  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    Many sites offer free listings: Google, Yahoo, etc.

    All the major yellow pages sites offer a free listing option and has a cheap ($129 annually) paid inclusion program:

  5. Hom Says:

    The marketing practices to attract businesses to sign on are lame at best. Misleading tactics such as calling and leaving automated fabricated accusations of disgruntled customers submiting bad reviews is almost humerous. It only suprises me that it has taken this long for the agency to investigate and begin proceedings against merchant circle.

  6. What’s Up with Merchant Circle? « Screenwerk Says:

    […] think the company’s plan to become an online reputation management service is a good idea. But I’m struck by the persistence of these critical […]

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    […] fully. They now become an interesting potential sales channel partner potentially. And their “reputation management” strategy is still almost entirely […]

  8. Pete Says:

    “Don’t like a review? Delete it.” Isn’t allowing users to see the reviews (positive and negative) of a business the point? Allowing businesses to delete any post they want eliminates all credibility of this site.

  9. ‘Conversational Marketing’ for SMBs « Screenwerk Says:

    […] proliferating reviews out there is starting to be addressed too. There are at least three companies, in addition to MerchantCircle, that are building or have built the capacity to automate the collection of reviews from multiple […]

  10. Victor Says:

    Does anyone know how these reviews are being pulled? Is Merchant Circle simply scraping all the reviews? If so, how can they help you manage your reputation?

  11. Greg Sterling Says:

    I don’t know the precise methodology but I would imagine that they are being scraped from specific sites.

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