Business Week calls it a MySpace for Local Businesses:
Using data obtained from public records and a proprietary Web crawler developed by cofounder Yamamoto, the eight-employee MerchantCircle builds the listings, then relies on merchants finding listings through word-of-mouth and search engines. MerchantCircle optimizes each entry in the directory, so that it gets good placement when it is picked up by major search engines such as Google (GOOG). “We make it easy for people to link to your site, make it easy for merchants to create new content, and tag it in a way the Web loves. Google wants people to be able to find stuff that they’re interested in. For a small-business man to do that himself would be impossible, but we’re applying that [technology] across lots and lots of merchants’ pages,” says Yamamoto.
MerchantCircle also hopes to appeal to small-business owners by aggregating every review and consumer-generated posting about a specific business on the Web in one placein essence, providing a way to manage a business’s online reputation. Whenever a comment is posted anywhere on the Web, the business owner can read about it almost instantaneously on the free online dashboard provided to each of the businesses with entries in the directory. It’s an effective way for the “merchant to understand what’s being said about them anddecide how they want to manage it,” says MerchantCircle cofounder Smith.