After my earth shattering post on using phone numbers for SEO, where I discovered that Merchant Circle had been using small business phone numbers in URLs, Kevin Leu of MerchantCircle pinged me to offer a bit more insight into their SEO strategy. Here’s what I found:
- 17.5 million page views on June (that’s some nice local search traffic)
- June search engine referrals were driven by 844,000 keywords (nice keyword volume)
- Phone number searches generate 15,000 to 25,000 page views per month. I am not sure if this equates to 15-25K organic referrals per month, but this shows that phone number searches are driving traffic. According to Merchant Circle offline promotions are driving the bulk of phone number searches. Apparently MC has been using phone numbers in their URLs for several years. It happened by accident – they were using them as unique identifiers for the businesses in their database.
There are certain categories that drive most of the phone number searches. Apparenly a massage therapist in Michigan gets a lot (Are you reading this Ellot Spitzer?) and other professions that do most of their business over the phone , like transportation consultants.
So the company is generating some impressive numbers. My initial reaction is:
Merchant Circle = Facebook + LinkedIn + Local
Besides the SEO strategy what really intrigues me about Merchant Circle is that they are slowly but surely on their way to becoming a LinkedIn for local. One of the key features of the site is to allow merchants to invite other merchants (and customers) into their network. They claim the average merchant on their system has three connections. That implies to me that they have been relatively successful in getting businesses to use their networking tools.
They relaunched their site back in December 2007 and they claim they have seen a 10x increase in merchants buying services. According to their reports, 80% of these merchants have no web presence and 85% of them have never purchased online advertising before. Even more interesting to me is that 25% of the merchants in their system are DIYers – people who are using their tools for free. I would suspect that a portion of the DIYers are very active social networkers and could be responsible for bringing in a number of paying customers for Merchant Circle.
While Merchant Circle could be a great marketing tool for small businesses, my point of view is that their system is a fantastic one for SEOs. It would seem to me to be fairly straightforward to set up your client sites with a free Merchant Circle account, network (in a non-spammy way please) with existing members and boost your MC site in the SERPs, which in turn can promote your own site.
More on Merchant Circle’s SEO strategy coming soon…