Social answers or Q&A is quickly becoming a larger part of the local experience. There are a range of Q&A communities and engines out that are wholly or partly local: Aardvark (now part of Google), kgb, ChaCha, Quora, YPG Answers, Yelp has forums, SuperMedia just introduced this today, AT&T’s coming Buzz.com and there are other examples (e.g., Facebook, Twitter to some degree).
And this morning MerchantCircle is expanding its successful Answers program to include the Demand Media-owned AnswerBag service.
The press release does a more succinct job explaining the reciprocal deal than I would:
Through this agreement, questions posted to Answerbag.com will be routed to more than one million members in the MerchantCircle network, and the top responses from merchants on MerchantCircle Answers will be shared with the Answerbag community. As a result, Answerbag users will be able to tap into MerchantCircle’s massive network of experts. MerchantCircle members will also realize a broader distribution of their advice around the Web. Launched in September 2009, MerchantCircle Answers has received nearly 80,000 questions resulting in close to 100,000 responses from MerchantCircle members.
There’s also a parallel deal being announced with city guide HelloMetro, which is somewhat broader in scope:
MerchantCircle has also signed a similar partnership with HelloMetro, a global network of 1500 hyper-local city guides that lets people get to know a city through local articles, history, attractions, real estate, jobs, business listings and more. Through the partnership, consumers will be able to ask questions on more than 1,000 HelloMetro city websites and get answers from local experts they can trust, all powered by MerchantCircle Answers. MerchantCircle will also help HelloMetro business users connect with one another with its social networking system. With both partnerships, MerchantCircle members will receive attribution for their contributions.
In addition MerchantCircle claimed listings (not an advertising category) will become the “featured businesses” on the 1,000-plus HelloMetro sites.
MerchantCircle’s Darren Waddell told me yesterday that roughly 2/3 of MC’s revenues come from advertising (by third parties, e.g., AdSense) and one third from SMBs who opt for MC’s advertising services. We talked a good deal also about future product direction and features. I also asked whether the company, which relies very heavily on SEO, had seen a decline in traffic in the wake of Google’s map and local results taking up more page one real estate.
Waddell said that because MC is more of a long-tail site than most local directories he said that he thought MC had been less impacted than others. He did say there was a drop in traffic but that it seems to be returning to previous levels.
While MC continues to be critiqued by some for its earlier, questionable sales practices it has now become a pretty valuable asset and business network waiting to be scooped up. (The site claims more than 1 million SMB “members.”) I predict we may see that this year or very early next. According to the public information I’ve been able to find the site has only raised about $15 million total. MC would be quite a bit cheaper for a Google to acquire, for example, than Yelp would have been.