MerchantCircle Teams with Demand Media for Answers Distribution

Local business directory and marketing services firm MerchantCircle has paired with Demand Media-owned Answerbag to help small businesses show off their expertise. The hope is that by providing helpful tips to consumers in response to their direct questions, merchants will look less like mere business listings and more like real people with expert knowledge providing real services.

“It’s really about getting your name out there and associating yourself with the topics people are searching for when they’re in the market for your services,” said Darren Waddell, VP of marketing at MerchantCircle. “It sort of short-lists you…being able to show that you know what you’re talking about.”

The deal allows MerchantCircle clients to distribute answers from its own Answers system to Answerbag. Like other Demand Media-owned sites such as eHow.com, Answerbag relies heavily on driving traffic to its practical content via search engines. MerchantCircle expects the relationship to help bring more traffic to its small business profile pages. The company said its own Answers offering has provided nearly 100,000 responses to consumer questions in six months.

“Their investment of time to answer that one question is now paying off more for them because they’re getting more distribution,” said Waddell.

A question posted to MerchantCircle Answers about which cleaning products to use on bathroom tile asks whether “some sort of diluted acid?” might do the trick. A response from one user goes into detail about her grout cleaning process, adding, “If you need any help look me up at www.alabamacleanteam.com I live and work in Trussville. Thanks.”

One current drawback: Consumers seeking services may not necessarily be reading answers from merchants who service their area. However, Waddell suggested that shouldn’t deter service providers from responding to questions from consumers, even if they’re in the other side of the country. “The next time someone from California does a search for a related topic, they’re going to find that thread,” he said.

MerchantCircle has already partnered with Demand Media for the past two years to provide domain name registration to small businesses through Demand’s eNom service.

The local business profile firm also announced a deal with local city guide publisher HelloMetro; the company will populate its local business listings using MerchantCircle’s content.

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