MerchantCircle, a social network for local businesses, which boasts over a million businesses, announced an expanded partnership with Demand Media. I spoke with Darren Waddell, VP of marketing for MerchantCircle and Sean Pate, the company's Director of PR about this and some other news.
MerchantCircle has had a pre-existing partnership with Demand Media that functions in several capacities. For one, Demand's domain registrar is used to give MerchantCircle businesses domains that MerchantCircle recommends based on their business profile. In addition, Demand Media content appears on merchant sites. For example, a plumber may have plumbing-related content from Demand Media on his site to make it more relevant and useful to users. Now, there is a new element to the partnership - Q&A.
Demand Media's AnswerBag is a Q&A site, and the 122nd most popular site on the Internet, according to Merchant Circle. Now, AnswerBag questions will be routed to MerchantCircle businesses to answer when appropriate. This way, in theory, if a person asks a plumbing question, it will go to a plumber, and make for a more helpful and relevant answer. In turn, the MerchantCircle business (the plumber) will get more exposure, credit for answering (which can enhance the appearance of credibility), and even links - so businesses have an incentive to answer questions.
"The more you're able to show off your expertise online the more likely you are to get more business," Waddell tells WebProNews. Through the partnership, MerchantCircle is basically providing greater distribution of the answer given. Plus there's another perk: potential search engine traffic. "We're a really good complement for SEO-savvy businesses to help people get more exposure on Google or other search engines," says Wadell. "A good complement that can help get them more traffic."
The AnswerBag deal isn't the only piece of news. They also announced a partnership with HelloMetro, a company with hyperlocal sites for over 1,000 cities, serving between 4 and 5 million unique visitors a month. MerchantCircle will power its directories.
MerchantCircle is also now leveraging the Yahoo Answers API to introduce even more questions to its merchants. They're taking questions from Yahoo Answers and introducing them to merchants. They say they take only really relevant questions that pertain to categories that are strong in merchant's circle, and again, merchants can get more links. If you go to a merchant's listing page, you'll see all the questions they've answered. You can see what they're experts in, which can be a strong selling point for a business.
Q&A search is getting to be a big business these days. Even Google has recognized this, as evidenced by its recent acquisition of Aardvark. MerchantCircle has put an interesting spin on it that seemingly offers a fair amount of potential for businesses to capitalize on. With these partnerships, that potential should only grow.