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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

MerchantCircle:FUD marketing (and these guys get $10 mil?)

MerchantCircle has been criticized in the past for its agressive and fear driven marketing to get small businesses to sign up to its services (see John Batelle, Matt McGee & Greg Sterling). They claim that 250,000 small businesses signed up for their service. According to Peter Krasilovsky at Kelsey Group:

the claim of 250,000 registered businesses, while impressive, should be sliced and diced for exactly what it is. The vast majority may have been duped into registering by an aggressive telemarketing campaign that strongly implied these businesses had a negative review, so they should go online and check it out. To see their “review,” they first had to register.

The obvious question is, how many of these violated businesses become loyal customers of MerchantCircle and are ready to be upsold into the SEM and promotion packages, etc.? No one will tell me. I imagine it is a very low number. Maybe it isn’t.

Well it appears that they are now attempting to motivate those that did signup previously to engage more with their service with similarly deceptive (although subtler) tactics.

I had signed up with MerchantCircle last year to see if they could help me manage my listing at multiple Local Search Engines including Yahoo and Google with a single central listing. I did everything they asked but they were unable to locate any of my records with Google (they have since stopped claiming to update Google), Yahoo or the Yellowpages so I stopped trying.

Today I received this email piece from them:


Customer Activity Report
Dear Mike Blumenthal,

We’re happy to send you your monthly activity summary report for on MerchantCircle.

Your business listing profile is 71% complete. Visit the address below to add more information about your business to get better search result placement in Google and Yahoo!

This table shows activity for your business listing for December 2007

Activity Tracker
Nearby Members: 4
Total Ratings: 2
Google: 1
Visitors: 1
Talk To Me: 1
Forum Posts: 0
Yahoo: 0
Connections: 0
Deal Requests: 0
Total Reviews: 0
Active Coupons: 0


I was particularly curious about the 2 new ratings as I am in a very small market (15,000 residents). It seemed surprising to me to have that many in one month so I logged in and was unable to find my new ratings but I did find this:


Web Reputation Score merchantcirclerep.gif

Your MerchantCircle Web Reputation Score is important and so is keeping track of new information related to it on the web. The higher your Web Reputation Score the easier it is for customers to find your business online. Your score is pulled together from all the listings that are associated with your business on the Internet. We take into account the accuracy of your contact information, the number and quality of reviews given to your business, and the great content you create here on MerchantCircle to tell customers about your business. Good reviews, correct contact information, and creating ads, blogs, newsletters, and coupons all help raise your score.

Service Data Ratings Accuracy My Business?
insider logo Listing Not Found No Match
insider logo Listing Not Found No Match
insider logo Listing Not Found No Match Yahoo Yellow Pages


Given that they could not even find my listing with Yahoo or YellowPages, it wasn’t surprising that they couldn’t find any quality reviews (there arn’t any). What is surprising is that my business still received a “reputation score” of 67%. I guess if I just created a few coupons, blogs and newsletters at MerchantCircle my rating would go up. Nice to know.