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Google Adds Merchant Ratings to AdWords

Posted By Tal Halpern On June 30, 2010 @ 3:51 pm In Featured,SEM | 14 Comments

Yesterday, Google announced a new feature to AdWords that could have a big impact on both e-retail and brand advertisers.

Merchant star ratings from Google Products will now be displayed under the advertiser’s URL.  Here is an example:

[1]

Clicking on the link to the 1,967 reviews takes the user to the merchant’s page on Google Products:

[2]

Google has given Sierra Trading Post a merchant rating of 4.7 out of 5.  Google calculates a merchant’s rating based on an aggregated collection of reviews from a variety of sources including re-sellers, product comparison sites, review aggregators, and Google checkout.

Merchant ratings could become an important differentiator on non-brand keywords or searches for popular items.  For example, this search for [computers] puts Dell and HP at the top and both have a rating of four stars.  Could a consumer be influenced by the fact that Dell has 6,000 reviews compared to 760 for HP?:

[3]

Some important points about this new feature which Google is referring to as “seller rating extensions [4]” as outlined in the AdWords blog announcement:

  • Only online stores currently rated in Google product search will be included
  • Merchants must have an average rating of 4 stars or higher
  • And have at least 30 reviews
  • Merchants will only be charged when users click on the headlines.  Clicks to the reviews will not be charged.
  • Merchant ratings will only appear to English-language users searching on Google.com
  • Only ads that are targeted specifically to the U.S. will include the merchant ratings.
  • You do not need to opt into this product.  If you meet the requirements, the distribution is automatic.
  • Unlike other ad extensions, if you want to opt out of Merchant Ratings, there is a separate form that needs to be submitted.

This could be a great opportunity for online retailers to leverage their positive customer sentiment and stand out from the crowd.  Beyond what Google outlined in their blog post, there are some subtle nuances to be aware of:

  • Google can include the seller rating extensions on any type of search.  In other words, if Sierra Trading Post were to advertise on their own brand {Sierra Trading Post},  a brand they carry {Columbia sportswear}, or a general keyword like {men’s hiking boots}, Google would include their merchant rating below the ad copy.
  • From our research, we have not seen merchant ratings appear with any other ad extensions.  For example, if your ad includes sitelinks or product plus boxes, your merchant ratings will not appear (and vice versa).

Since this a very new product that we have little control over, we are still developing our best practices and, most importantly, we are monitoring our data to gauge the impact.  Here are some tips to consider in evaluating it for your campaigns:

  • Take a look at your reviews and your competitors’ reviews.  Are they positive? How many reviews do you have versus your competitors? What is your rating versus competitors?
  • Watch your metrics closely to see how this change impacts your performance.  How is this impacting your CTR and conversion rate?
  • Place a renewed focus on reputation management.  With this new feature, you need to focus not only on getting reviews on your site for the brands you carry, but on the web for your online store, itself.

While this is an exciting change with great potential, we do have some concerns:

  • Advertisers don’t get charged for the clicks on reviews/rating hyperlinks, but these links also take potential customers away from your landing page and out of your designated conversion path
  • If our initial observation that you can’t serve all extension types at once is correct, you’ll have to test which extension, including Merchant Ratings, will bring you better results.
  • Your competitors’ ratings are appearing right next to yours, even on your own brand terms.  How will it impact you if your competitors have a better rating, or more reviews?
  • There are so many ways for your paid ads to stand out now – product plus boxes, Google checkout, Sitelinks, one-line Sitelinks, vertical image listings, location, etc. – how much will Merchant Rating differentiate you?
  • What does this mean for comparison shopping engines?  They often supply many of the reviews that go into the merchant rating, but they are not eligible to show a merchant rating of their own.  This seems to put the comparison shopping sites at a disadvantage compared to direct retailers.
  • Will we see any reporting on clickthroughs to the reviews page though Google Analytics or AdWords?  This data would really help in measuring the impact of this new feature.

My first thought was that this new feature would improve CTR for retailers with high ratings and lots of reviews.  But it could end up reducing CTR by diverting traffic to the review page rather than our landing page.  Will those customers ever come back?

What effect do you think this will have on your accounts?  For online retailers with positive ratings, do you think this will improve CTR and conversion rate? Or just get lost in the even-more cluttered search results page.


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URL to article: http://www.thesearchagents.com/2010/06/google-adds-merchant-ratings-to-adwords/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.thesearchagents.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/sierra_trading_post_SERP1.png

[2] Image: http://www.thesearchagents.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/sierra_trading_post_reviews.png

[3] Image: http://www.thesearchagents.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/SERP_computers1.png

[4] seller rating extensions: http://adwords.blogspot.com/2010/06/introducing-seller-rating-extensions-on.html

[5] Is ‘Google Zebra’ the Next Major Algorithm Update?: http://www.thesearchagents.com/2013/07/is-google-zebra-the-next-major-algorithm-update/

[6] 3rd Party Product Tracking for Google Product Listing Ads and Product Extensions: http://www.thesearchagents.com/2012/05/3rd-party-product-tracking-for-google-product-listing-ads-and-product-extensions/

[7] Google Rich Snippets for Shopping Sites: A New Dilemma: http://www.thesearchagents.com/2010/11/google-rich-snippets-for-shopping-sites-a-new-dilemma/

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