Submitted by Alexis Wilke on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 11:01
I created a MerchantCircle account a very long time ago and at first did not see any value in it. Today, my account as a Google rank of 3. It's not the best of the best, but it points to all my main websites, such as Snap!, equally increasing their rank and this without having to do much work, really!
First, assuming you are a small business, you want to add a link from your main website to your MerchantCircle account. This will send some traffic to your MerchantCircle account and end up in some people connecting with you.
For this purpose, you can use your MerchantCircle vanity URL. This is done by going to your Dashboard and after clicking on Business Information, scroll down to Website Links (at this time, the last entry on the page) and then click the Edit link. Here you are given a way to enter two links: your main website and your Custom Link (or vanity link). In there, enter your preferred alias. In general, the best is your business domain name. Say your business website is http://www.example.com/ then use example. Finally, hit Save.
The system tells you whether the name is already taken. If it is just add a word in link with your business (alexis is taken, try alexiscandles!)
Now you can use your link such as: http://member.merchantcircle.com/m2osw
Excellent! Now you are ready for the next step.
Once you are on MerchantCircle, you can connect with other merchants. This is very easy. I suggest that at first you find other merchants in your area, go to their account and click Invite Merchant, then just send the invitation. You do not currently need to have their email address, although if you do, it strengthen the likelihood for a positive reply. You can also change the default connection message. This being said, I still get about 45% of the people to accept my invitations.
Take a little time and invite many people and eventually, the merchants connected to the these merchants you sent an invitation to.
Now... some merchants will accept your invitation and something magical happens when they do: You receive an email with a link "Connect with the merchants below!" offering you to connect with 6 other merchants. Make sure to click on ALL those links you receive in your mailbox. I repeat ALL of them.
This will quickly increase your connections. Think about it, with about 45% of the people responding, out of 6 people you will get 2.7 connections. Assume you get 10 positive response in a day, you just sent 60 new requests and you will get 27 new connections out of it! Which themselves will give you 27 emails and thus another 27 x 6 x 45% = 73 connections! There seems to be a limit though. I generally get about 100 to 150 new connections a week.
There is one gotcha with the automatic connection system on MerchantCircle (not with the emails.) In some cases it sends you to a page where it offers you to send additional connections to many new people (the first time 6, then in bunch of 10.)
I tell you that because sending the same invitation to the same person over and over is not going to increase your bottom line. It will make them either block you or totally ignore MerchantCircle.
So now your connections increase by 10, 20, 100 people a week just by clicking on links1!
Frankly, anybody will do. If you become selective, your numbers will plummet. This being said, you are more than welcome to refuse connecting with your archenemies (but ask yourself why you have such!) Now, at the start, to increase your numbers faster, it is a good idea to connect with people who already have many connections. They are much more likely to accept your own connection. I am a good example, and I advise you to connect with me to start with. At time of writing, I have over 5,700 connections2 on MerchantCircle. I will not only accept your connection, you'll have access to my list of connections and the majority is more than likely to connect with you!
At the beginning, as you browse your MerchantCircle account, you may see a block with a few businesses and a link offering you to connect with those merchants. Don't hesitate to click on these links. It again increases your connections!
The fact is that all the links between pages on MerchantCicle are all good valuable links (see the talk about follow and no follow.) This means they give you SEO points for ranking. Each time you connect with someone, links are created on several different pages, links that point to your page and reference it using your name (i.e. So today Made to Order Software Corporation has thousand of links on MerchantCircle pointing to its Account.)
The other way to add very valuable links is to post comments on pages that already have a high rank. For example, I have a rank of 3, so you posting a comment on my page will add a link from my page to yours and that gives you a small ranking boost. Do that on many merchant pages who have a rank of 3 and you'll soon be rank 1. Do that some more, and you'll move to rank 2, etc.
Not only that, if you post a comment on someone else page, you become more visible as you participate to the MerchantCircle community. The comment is posted publicly and others can click on the link and find your account at once.
The best would be to take the time to write a comment on all your connections, but that is a bit of a killer... Well, unless you have hire someone to help.
Of course, you can use all the other features offered by MerchantCircle. I like to comment because it's simple and I can write exactly what I want. But it is also possible to post a review and give 5 stars, there are actually 12 different rewards you can offer a business, such as marking them environmentally friendly or excellent service. Don't abuse the system too much and don't feel like you have to return the favor to those who gave you one of those. It is best for you to give it to other merchants so that way it creates one way links which are more valuable than two way links.
For yourself, there is a blog as well. Copy the teaser of one of your blog posts there once in a while and you'll get some extra links to your blog and corresponding traffic.
Of course, all of those people are connecting with you and they are leads too! This means, whenever you have a new product or service, you are free to let them know via coupons, blog messages, direct mail, etc. (just don't send them something everyday, once a month is good and sufficient.)
If you have 10 connections, that's definitively a waste of your time. Now imagine you had 5,000+... you'd probably get some real clicking going!
Good Luck with your MerchantCircle endeavors, and don't hesitate to post your comments below if you encounter problems or joy on MerchantCircle!
I now have over 10,000 connections on MerchantCircle...