Another day and another change: Google has once again updated its ever-evolving Shopping channel. The engine recently announced the addition of product ratings to PLAs within search results and Google Shopping pages. The new rating system — which appears in the form of stars and review counts similar to other retailers like Amazon and Zappos — will provide searchers with additional information to help inform and drive purchase decisions.
Previous updates to the Google Shopping channel (such as the introduction of Shopping campaigns) directly benefited advertisers; however, this move focuses on consumer experience. Of course, if product ratings prove to help differentiate advertisers and inventory, then the net result will be a higher volume of qualified PLA traffic.
The introduction of a ratings system to Google Shopping represents a natural evolution for the platform – especially since nearly 80 percent of Americans say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. Thus far, the approach appears to be working as Google’s initial tests report improved click-through-rates.
Product ratings are compiled from multiple sources, including merchants, third-party aggregators, editorial sites and users. From now until October, Google will allow product ratings to be shown across all PLAs where the engine already has product review data. However, after this “grace period,” Google will only show ratings from merchants that proactively choose to share reviews. Advertisers seeking to opt out should go here for more information.
If you are already providing review data and do not see product ratings in PLAs– don’t fret! Google requires at least three reviews for a product to be eligible, and will only show the extension when it is determined to be “relevant and accurate for the searcher.” Also of note is that this feature is available only in the United States and on desktop computers. Product ratings will be rolled out to other countries in the coming months, but there is no word yet on other devices, which is somewhat surprising given Google’s increasing focus on local-mobile shoppers.
What Product Ratings Mean for Advertisers
When seller ratings launched in search ads, the extension boosted click-through upwards of 15 percent. Although product ratings are subtly different — only for products and PLAs, not merchants or text ads — the same results could happen here.
An advertiser’s success with product ratings will likely come down to the quality of the reviews themselves. While seller ratings only appear with a score of 3.5 or above, product ratings in PLAs will show the entire spectrum, which of course includes negative reviews. Advertisers with a solid track record of quality and customer service will benefit from this feature more than others.
Product ratings present a great opportunity for marketers to leverage existing, available data from past customers to convert new buyers. Merchants with product review feeds can take advantage of Google’s “grace period” to see immediate results, while those without a feed may finally be motivated to create one and get in as early adopters. As an immediate next step, we recommend that advertisers begin (or continue) to collect data now to be better informed come the October deadline and before the Q4 holiday push.
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