If you’ve owned a local business or have been providing Local SEO services to clients for half a decade or more, I’m sure you can recall a time, not long ago, when Merchant Circle had a dominant presence in Google’s first page results for local-type queries.
Back in 2009, when Mike Blumenthal penned this post about Merchant Circle buying up thousands of local domains, his wry tone reflected a general sense of wonderment in the Local SEO community over various tactics employed by the then-prominent local business index giant. Back then, you couldn’t seek a local pizza, dentist or landscaper without Google displaying you a handful of Merchant Circle-based profiles. Wish I could dig up a screenshot, but I’m betting you remember this without a visual prompt.
Doubtless owing of their high visibility in Google’s SERPs, Merchant Circle predictably drew a high level of scrutiny from the local business community and made a number of headlines, which as I recall, culminated in 2010 in a $900,000 settlement for ‘unlawful marketing practices’.
Since that time, even as engaged as I am in Local SEO, I must confess that Merchant Circle has pretty much fallen off of my radar. Yes, they are still a citation source worth knowing about, but it recently dawned on me that it had been a long time since I saw them coming up on the first page of Google for any type of local search I’d done in the course of daily work or daily life. While Wikipedia is still a favorite Google response to organic queries, it appears to me that Merchant Circle isn’t feeling Google’s love in Local any more, and hasn’t for some time, and that their plum placement has been usurped, by, you guessed it: