More Trouble for Merchant Circle

Filed in Local Search by Matt McGee on March 25, 2007 25 Comments

A spot on the “Best Posts of the Month” list has been reserved for Rae’s rant on Merchant Circle today, and the goofy way Merchant Circle does business. Rae covers a lot — but not all — of the issues many have had with Merchant Circle for some time now.

Rae really lets them have it over the fact that Merchant Circle lets businesses delete user reviews it doesn’t like. And this isn’t new. Merchant Circle started bragging about this back in December. Crazy, isn’t it? I still think a small business should claim its listing on Merchant Circle’s site (because if you don’t, someone else might). But beyond that, nothing.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you can probably name Merchant Circle’s biggest claim to fame: That really bad “marketing campaign” which involved Merchant Circle calling up small businesses with a warning that someone had just reviewed their business on Merchant Circle’s web site.

That was last September, and we reported a week later that Merchant Circle was putting an end to those phone calls.

But did they start it up again? Two weeks ago, Greg Sterling shared a comment posted on his blog in which the business owner claims to have just received another such phone call.

Kevin, MC’s “Community Relations” guy (who also writes on their blog), is registered and able to comment here on SBS. So I’ll invite him to let us know if that calling campaign has started up again, and if not, what is that business owner on Greg Sterling’s blog talking about? Kevin?

[tags]merchant circle, local search[/tags]

Comments (25)

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  1. chris_c says:

    Why claim a listing when you can remove it?

  2. Matt McGee says:

    That’s an option, true. But I’d prefer to have ownership of my business listings wherever they might be, rather than kill them off and start removing potential referral sources.

  3. merchant circle took my money and gave nothing in company was unsearchable on the net.i told them to cancel my subscription and refund my money.never got my money and learned today they have been debiting my checking account monthly for the last four months.i am filing criminal charges today in california civil court.if i lived in california i would drag the president of this company outside for an old fashion ass kicking.discusted,scott schmidt.

  4. Alexis says:

    I can guarantee that they have started up the calling campaign again. After receiving a phone call from them and before entering any information into the MerchantCircle website, I figured I’d better do a little research. Don’t think I like what I hear about them …

  5. julie says:

    Yes, they’ve started again for certain – today I got a call saying there are pictures of my company on their site…. yeah, right. These guys are slime.

  6. I am and have been a strong detester of their methods to attract and sting the small business market…it is a very short term view of dealing with customers. Too many small business people have no clue what they really do or don’t do and their “used car” selling tactics are truly objectionable.

    That being said, having a site that is merchant centric and allows removal of reviews is not such a bad idea. If the idea came from a better source than MC it might actually be appealing if properly implemented.

    The whole review universe seems broken to me and in the end just another vehicle for spam and competitor bashing.

    Merchants definitely need a way to proactively respond to and manage reviews that is better than the Google method….they will scrape a review from who knows where and leave it up till the cows come home with virtually no recourse…

    The reason that I wouldn’t remove a listing from Merchant Circle is that for whatever reason Google seems to love their search optimization work and it often shows up as a local citation.


  7. Tim Coleman says:

    They’ve started again… I received a call from them with the review thing… yesterday or Friday, can’t remember which.

    Mike, that’s a good point about citations. For that I WILL check the listing. Thanks for the heads up.

  8. Matt McGee says:

    Well said, Mike. I’ve said before that I have no problem with the service they offer. I’ve had small biz owners tell me their MC pages rank well and get some traffic. But the marketing tactics they use are objectionable.

  9. Will Scott says:

    I second Mike’s SEO value mention. I’ve definitely seen MerchantCircle ranking for competitive local business phrases.

    It’s an up and comer in the world of Barnacle SEO.

    It’s unfortunate, just like the “I own thousands of sites to link at you” emails, businesses, especially mom & pop ain’t got no clue and tend to freak when someone says “you’ve got a bad review” or “your picture is online”.


  10. @ Matt

    I don’t outright object to the service they offer but it is not clear to me that it is a good value. The one use I had for the service, a central place to manage all local listings, never really worked.


  11. Ok. I hate Merchant Circle. That is a very strong word. There is no real opt from their list. I started to subscribe but stopped in the middle, never got a login and yet I am still on their list. They sent me emails saying ‘ you are only 78% complete’ then I responded to a variety of emails to opt out. They keep sending me info. There is no phone number to call to opt out. You need to write them – which I am planning to do next. I do not recommend that anyone list with them. The leads that they are sending me are bogus and it does not stop…ok. That is my rant for the day. I have been doing sem for quite sometime and have not encountered anything like this – until now..

  12. Matt McGee says:

    Lia – I think you’ll find a phone number or two over in the comments on this other blog post:

    Good luck.

  13. John says:

    Received a very strange e-mail from MC the other day and decided to just cancel my account. Have gone through the process half a dozen times and the listing is still there. Can’t find an actual phone number to call. I WANT OUT!

  14. Crasymaker says:

    Merchant Circle is now calling businesses and leaving the following message: “There is a picture of your business at Repeat, there is a picture of your business at” What does that even mean?

  15. Maggie says:

    For MONTHS~ I have repeatedly requested that my listing(s) be removed from Merchant Circle.
    I have had serious problems with competitors leaving negative reviews and comments (they forgot to click the annonymous box)
    Merchant Circle posts reviews automatically~ the e-mail address that are provided by the “consumer” are not real e-mail addresses!!!

  16. Scott says:

    IMO |MC is a circle to nowhere!

    Of the 500k plus members MC claims they have I wonder how many never asked for the listing.

    I also wonder what databases they are scrapping to get members that did not opt in.

    MC’s , SEO abilities consist of some scrapped data from merchants that don’t know about the service so MC can become relevant with a geo search term or specific business name. This is why they are showing up in search engines.

    MC makes money off these search terms by displaying Google Ad Words results to other businesses that may be relevant with the targeted market or specific business name. They do this on a merchant’s free MerchantCircle page whether you want it or not. Isn’t that nice of them?

    I believe the end user or shopper that lands on an MC page should be alerted that the merchant ratings may be inaccurate since any review can be deleted by the participating merchant and on the other hand a review may be bogus all together. If the merchant review cannot be properly managed what service is this to the shopper? Shouldn’t the shopper know this?

    Why should I as a business owner have to claim what is already mine, meaning my unique business name. If I do this I fall into the marketing scheme to be contacted by MC and have a sales representative sell me MC advertising.

    A company that fulfills a customer’s want, need or desire is really a valuable service. MC , in my opinion has not created this type of service for merchants. However, MC has done an excellent job in creating a product that serves the MC profit and loss goal.

    My 2 cents of advice:
    Invest into your own business Web site and build your online presence the same way you did your brick and mortar establishment with hard work and ignore gimmicks that are free! By all means protect your business networking circle from MC and keep your profits.

  17. Joe T says:

    As someone that’s been on the end result of fraudulent and malicious complaints I can vouch for sure that this feature is out of hand! It’s too easy for someone to break the rules, get in trouble, then post a complaint on how terrible your company is just for following it’s policy.

    I have no problem with it as if you want to see a bad example of a company that doesn’t remove any reviews (even fraudulent ones), take a look at – If I don’t like a company’s owner I can post whatever I want about that company on this site, true or not, and will not remove the post, even if it’s found to be fraudulent.

  18. Sarah Brehmer says:

    I feel for all of you. I’m just a private citizen, not a business owner. Several months ago, I was just trying to see if my favorite restaurant in Portland, OR had any coupon deals. A search yielded a link to MerchantCircle, and I thought I was signing up for email alerts on dining discounts. Instead, MerchantCircle thinks I am a restaurant. I’ve tried numerous times to get them to remove me from their web circle of hell, but still get emails galore, from them and third parties! Today, I filed a complaint with the BBB of Silicon Valley.

  19. Scott says:

    Way to go Sarah!
    Merchant Circle strikes again.

  20. Mark says:

    I agree with some of the first comments on this post. It is important to claim your listing and manage what is being said about you, but beyond that, I would not pay for their services. We set people up with multiple accounts on “local” directories, blog sites and social networks to increase their online presence. MC is one of them but we keep it to a minimum and do not pay for any of their extra services. Just not worth it.

  21. Craig says:


    Did you sign up accidentally as a free business acct?

    Or a neighbor acct.

    How did it happen/how did you resolve it finally?

  22. Flo says:

    I need help! I am trying to get my domaine name back,to set up a web site. Merchant Circle has the name held. They said they released it, but it is not! Was a free sign up listed for 1 year. Just name and address no other info was on site. Never paid anything. What a scam!!! How can I get my name back?

    • Matt McGee says:

      Hi Flo – the domain expired back on April 20, and Merchant Circle did not renew it, so I would assume that’s what they mean when they tell you that they released it. You can see the existing domain record here:

      It still shows Merchant Circle as the owner/contact, but at the bottom the expiration date is May 20.

      Did Merchant Circle ever contact you to let you know that the domain was about to expire? Did they give you a chance to pay to renew it?

  23. Wendy says:

    I have a free business listing on merchant circle and I am barraged by emails telling me another business wants to link with me. I just ignore them but am wondering if there is any value in “accepting” the invite. Does it improve SEO at all? I haven’t had any problems with Merchant Circle as described in the other comments-I just haven’t been accepting the link offers.

    • Matt McGee says:

      Hi Wendy – I’m not positive how that link stuff works on MC. I think if you accept the link invites, your page will show up on other business pages and other businesses will show up on yours. Don’t know if the links help pass any value or not, but I suspect it would be very little if any.

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