This post was written in response to a comment left by DW from Merchant Circle. The main issue with Merchant Circle isn’t whether businesses have to pay or not to get a basic listing. The problem is how Merchant Circle is handling the conflict of interest between being a useful site for consumers and being an advertising platform for businesses.
Businesses Control the Conversation
With a listing on Merchant Circle, businesses are allowed to delete comments and rearrange them. This is similar to the Brands in Public model except that their model doesn’t allow for outright deletion of consumer feedback, but does allow companies to rearrange feedback…”highlighting the good stuff.” Manipulating a conversation online will kill it.
When it comes to outright fake comments, Merchant Circle doesn’t appear to be doing much do dissuade them. This is what makes Merchant Circle a breeding ground for spam. For a good example of this, check out the Empire Limousine & Bus Service profile.
The profile and pictures are fine, but look in the merchant information… keyword stuffing galore. Now let’s take a look at the reviews. They have 4.5 stars out of 5 based on 48 reviews. Based on the 48 reviews Empire Limousine & Bus Service must be the greatest service in the world. But when you look at the reviews you’ll see that there are really only two categories: spam and fakery. This creates a brutal user experience and decimates credibility.
Merchant Circle vs. Yelp
When you compare the results against Yelp’s listing, you’ll see a slightly different story. On Yelp there are only three reviews, despite the site receiving significantly more traffic. One review is definitely fake, one is probably fake and the legit review is not so nice. While there is undoubtedly fakery going on at Yelp too, they do a better job at policing it.
Merchant Circle Kills the Conversation
The irony of Merchant Circle is that the pro-business owner focus makes the site relatively worthless to business owners. By appealing to businesses with editable and spamable comment sections it damages the credibility and usefulness of Merchant Circle. Without credibility, consumers don’t take Merchant Circle seriously and the site ends up being an ineffective advertising channel at best.
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