Saturday, June 30, 2007

Battle of the Kevin Leu's and What it Means to You

Alright, I've already been called narcissistic, so what have I got to lose? So at least several times a day, I Google my name - Kevin Leu - it's a good name. And for awhile I was running second in search results to some champion, child-prodigy flutist from San Diego. There were many nights when I hoped that he would give up the flute and do something more practical with his life, like gardening. Or maybe he could be like a normal kid and play video games all day long or other teenage activities like sitting in shopping carts while getting pushed at full speed into bushes.
Shopping Cart
Since this kid wasn't going anywhere, I started to think to myself, I have got to do something noteworthy so that I don't lose the battle of supremacy for the name, Kevin Leu. For example, can you imagine what it must have been like to be the other Howard Stern, Howard K.? I was not going to go through life as the other Kevin Leu; this was war!
Howard K. Stern
Right off the bat, I had heard that linking to a site helps bring it up higher in search engine results. Linking is what I'm doing here, with my profile from my last job at Newscenter in Columbus, OH. It's when you create this link going from one website to another that apparently helps out these search results. So I did that a few times from this exact blog and waddya know? My Newscenter bio was starting to come up higher than that champion flutist.... I can't remember his name.
Well this wasn't half bad. I decided to create a blog recently off Blogger - an excellent resource (you can see my blog by clicking here), and start a company, Kevin Leu Productions and Public Relations (don't tell my bosses). Of course I used MerchantCircle to start my business presence on the web (you can see my business here), and I use our blog services as well to write about my business methods. One of the cool things that MerchantCircle lets you do is include all the links you have from any other websites. So I started to cross link all of them - my Myspace profile, my Linkedin profile, my Facebook profile, my blog, Silicon Valley Bachelor, and my MerchantCircle page.

One day later, I checked in and I was flabbergasted! I was now the top 4 results after I Googled my name and 5 of the top 10! I couldn't sleep that night for at least an hour (but then afterwards I slept very soundly, thanks for your concern). Man this was cool stuff. But now let me move on to you, (begrudgingly - I am narcissistic afterall). What this means is that by following some of the steps we lay out for you when you sign up on MerchantCircle, you too may be the most famous Kevin Leu....errrr, I mean the most popular business in local search results. Be on all the different sites that we list for you on your dashboard and link them together. Write blogs and fill in the keywords. And keep tabs on where you show up on Google. It's fun. Believe me - I do it several times a day.

Until next time, sincerely,

Kevin Leu
(The More Famous One)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Celebrate Good Times.... C'mon!

After hitting our One Year Anniversary since we launched, it's time to take a look back. When MerchantCircle launched in June of 2006, we had 5,000 business owners signed-on. Today, that number stands at 145,000!

We've added a number of new features over the course of this year to help you find more customers and have a more rewarding web experiences. Features that enable you to track what customers are saying about you on the web, features that allow you to engage and communicate with business owners all around the country, features that let you customize your MerchantCircle listing, and features that let you network across the web.

We've added a number of partners to enhance your listings and make sure that the content you create, including coupons and ads, are seen all across the web - not just on MerchantCircle. Those partners include Jingle, Judy's Book, Oodle, Edgeio,, Topix and yes, Google.

For our efforts and yours, we've been recognized by BusinessWeek, Entrepreneur, CNet, ZDNet, AlwaysOn, and TV among others. It's merchants like European Esthetics and Wellness, Wedding Supplies Unlimited and Higgy's Pizzeria that make us proud that we can give hundreds and thousands of customers a month access to these business owners.

Does all this activity make us less motivated for our second year? Not at all. We've got a ton in store for you this next year, much of which we're excited to unveil, because we know this will help you maximize your web potential on the web. Also look for us to pass a quarter of a million merchants signed-on this summer!

Many of our local merchants and partners will be joining us this Thursday evening as we celebrate a successful first year. Send me your email and I'll send you details. In the meantime, thanks - for everything.

Community Relations

Friday, June 22, 2007

Merchant Love.... Platonic of Course

"Too many of us aren't able to practice their love with merchants all across this country."

With 140,000 merchants signed-on to our network, fortunately I'm able to practice my 'love' all the time. A few days ago, Lidia, from Lidia's Skin Care in Palo Alto, dropped by the office. While we don't normally have very many merchants showing up on our doorstep, it was a pleasure to meet with Lidia and talk about her MerchantCircle account. Lidia has almost no computer experience - which means we got along just fine. After several hours, I helped her include a link to her other website on her MerchantCircle page. At that point, I collapsed in exhaustion.

I think Lidia has a sense now of how to customize her page and create some cool content.

And today, Ryan helped out AJ from Hypnotic Salon & Spa in Las Vegas who called up and asked to find out more about how our pay packages can help bring him more customers. You get a heck of a deal for free, being able to customize a search engine optimized page, track all the reviews about your business on the web, communicate with business owners all across the country, but more importantly, connect with customers on the web. Our pay packages on the other hand, essentially take the pain out of figuring out how to advertise on Google and Yahoo and a number of different venues - we do it for you.

Feel free to contact us, I got plenty of 'love' for you all. (Non-creepy love that is).

Kevin L.
Community Relations

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Little Man Part 2

As MerchantCircle expects to cross 140,000 merchants signed on this week, we realize we may not be so little anymore. At 140,000, we are no longer one small business; we are a united group of business owners with one powerful voice.

One of our first blog posts ever was titled "The Little Man" and quoted Alan Jackson's song of the same name. At 140,000, something is being done for the 'little man'. Alan Jackson says it best in his beginning monologue - we couldn't agree more.

Here's to the LITTLE MAN.

Community Relations

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Keepin it Real..... Estate

We've always been huge fans of our Real Estate Merchants. They routinely do everything they should to make sure they're everywhere on the web - and that customers are finding them. Merchants like Mission Grove Realty, Pam Westman and Steve Mun are great examples with great MerchantCircle listings, complete with constantly updated content (blogs, pics, coupons).

Recently, Joel Burslem wrote about us on his popular website and blog - Future of Real Estate Marketing. You can read the blog here. It's filled with information and technology that helps real estate professionals. Joel also recently invited us to join a panel of experts at this year's Real Estate Connect Conference being held in San Francisco.

We look forward to the discussion topic: "Social Networking: New Ways to Participate and Prospect". Our Co-Founder and Chairman Ben Smith will engage with reps from Zillow, PropertyQube and Fatdoor. We're excited, not only to be representing MerchantCircle, but to represent what MerchantCircle has become - you, our merchant base. We, as a group, are the largest online network of small business owners in the country. More than 130,000 strong! We will continue to look out for your best interest.


Monday, June 11, 2007

PayPerPost, ReviewMe and CreamAid.... What the Fuss is All About

Alright, I admit it.... I used PayPerPost recently to advertise MerchantCircle. OK, OK.... I used ReviewMe and CreamAid as well. And while I'm at it, I may have used a Swedish-made "pump" from time to time - but I swear it's not mine.

If you don't know, PayPerPost, ReviewMe and CreamAid are all pay for blog sites. You can check out the controversy on TechCrunch and ValleyWag. I decided to check out these sites on behalf of you, our merchants, who have asked whether paid blogs are a viable avenue in online marketing. We realize as the largest online network of business owners with over 130,000 signed-on in just one year, that we have a huge responsibility to take proactive steps to see what could work and what couldn't work for you in online marketing. It's a responsibility that we take very seriously.

I simply went to each of these sights mentioned and entered a campaign requiring a blogger to include a link to and their favorite businesses in their area. Two of those chosen were Wedding Supplies Unlimited and Small Wonders Imaging. Average cost? About $10 a post.
First of all, let me critique these sites. PayPerPost, while the most popular and written about service, was by far, the most frustrating. I had several of my campaigns rejected because of the regimented nature of creating a campaign. Not only that, some of my queries took two or more days to be answered - some I'm still waiting for. (One e-mail question went like this: "Is anyone there?" - No answer.) The best part about PPP was that you could actually choose the minimum page rank of a blogger, how long the blog had to post for and even an Alexa rank. Of course, all of this raises the minimum suggested price. And believe me, I tried to lowball the heck out of them. Once I got going though, the quality of the blog posts were pretty good and consistent. They had depth and you could tell some research was done.
ReviewMe took a little while to approve my campaign, but the cool thing was you could rate and review the blogger who took you up on the offer. They even made it easy to flag a blogger who didn't follow directions. No word on what actually happens to these bloggers though. Overall, I saw some of the best blogs posts from ReviewMe and some of the worst. Although an e-mail about not having to pay these bad bloggers was quickly answered. One drawback, I get the feeling that ReviewMe does not have a large stable of bloggers since they took the longest to reach the maximum number of posts.
CreamAid was one of the easiest to get started. I don't even remember having to be approved - my campaign started almost immediately. And CreamAid had my number one favorite feature by far - you chose whether or not to purchase a blog after reading it! (How great would that be for dating? "Um, I don't think this is going to work out. I'm not paying for this dinner.") This feature was extremely relevant for this site though, a number of blogger were just flat-out awful. Broken English, grammatical errors, and sometimes a complete copy of another offered blog. I would say 70% of the bloggers on this site don't reside in the U.S. But hey, you don't have to pay them if it's not what you're looking for.

My results were inconclusive. I didn't see an immediate change in the businesses that bloggers chose to write about. Many of the MerchantCircle business pages they chose were already well-placed on search engines. I didn't ask the bloggers to write favorably about businesses, but almost all of them did - at least proving that customer service is not a lost art. Now if only those Swedes would take a cue or two and allow international returns.

Community Relations

P.S. This blog post was paid for by ValleyWag - with fierce competition from TechCrunch who ultimately refused to meet my $3 demands.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

I like linking to you, you like linking to me?

OK, at this point you're probably a little tired of all the Borat impersonations. I just saw this cool Borat spoof on the web. Check it out below:

It's so true though. The Borat routine is getting to be a tired one amongst inebriated friends. I don't even feel the need for a courtesy laugh anymore. Nonetheless, Borat would "like" our new features.

For instance, we added the option to include more links on your MerchantCircle page. We realize a lot of you are on a number of different networks - and you should be. Now a customer finding you on MerchantCircle can find you every other place you're at. (Just watch your back when you're in the John. And don't drop the soap!)
Don't Drop the Soap
Another new feature is our 'Local Plus' meaning you can now find customers outside of your business area. So if you're located in Fort Worth, you can add an extra city to your search parameters. In this case, you'd almost certainly want to add Dallas so that customers can find you in search engines while looking for businesses in Dallas.

And widget mania is not over. Thanks to an overwhelming response to the original release, we're adding a coupon widget as well as a blog widget. That is freakin neat! I can't wait to see what cool things you guys and gals will do with these new tools. Now you can have sexytime all over the web!

Kevin Leu
Community Relations

Friday, June 1, 2007

Dear Everyone....

We love you too! After giving everyone the ability to use MerchantCircle content, including logo and review on other websites, a phenomenal number of merchants have taken advantage of the cool tools we offer. In the tech world, they call this code you can use to transfer content - widgets. In the tech world, they call me - idiot.

I decided to put a widget on this blog linking to our MerchantCircle page, where you can see all the cool reviews you've been leaving us over the last year. Those nice reviews make what we do worthwhile. You can put that same widget from your MerchantCircle page on any other website. Cheers to your business success.

Click on this logo below - see what it does. It's like a magic trick! The internet is amazing. It'll be around much longer than Tickle-Me-Elmo, or Beanie Babies - I really feel those Google boys are onto something.

Kevin Leu
Community Relations