Google Shakes up Shopping with Product Ratings

Google Shakes up Shopping with Product Ratings

9th April 2015

It’s been years in the making, but Google have finally introduced Product Ratings to Shopping campaigns. I’m here to tell you why it should strike terror into your heart if you’re a PPC marketer a bit about how they work and how you can set them up to your advantage.

First off, Product Ratings are rather different to Seller Ratings, which have been a feature of Adwords since 2010. Let’s recap Seller Ratings for a moment. Seller Ratings will only show as an extension to your ads if your average rating for at least 30 reviews over the last 12 months is 3.5 out of 5 stars, or higher. While the system can use fewer than 30 reviews in some instances, that’s generally the benchmark.

Google aggregates these reviews from independent third-party review sites such as Bazaarvoice, Reevoo, Trustpilot, PriceGrabber and many more (check out a list here). It also uses its own Google Certified Shops data. While the lack of Seller Ratings may simply be an indication of a brand or merchant not being set up with any independent review site, it’s likely to be viewed by customers as an indication of reviews so poor you don’t even merit a rating of 3.5 stars. Not good.

seller ratings

The key thing to remember is that Seller Ratings are designed to rate my experience with the brand. If I bought a product from a company that turned out to be faulty, but they offered great customer service and were really nice to me in store, then a high rating would be indicative of that high level of care and quality. It shouldn’t be indicative of my feelings about the product. If I am happy with the product but it arrived late and I felt that the customer service team were rude when I dealt with them, that should be reflected by a low seller ratings score.

Product Ratings are about to add another layer of complexity to this. They ARE designed to showcase my feelings about the product specifically. They were introduced in the US back in July last year but as of this week have made it to the UK, France and Germany. Here’s what you need to know.

Why Bother?

While I always like to take Google’s enhancement figures with a rather large pinch of salt, they still bear repeating just in case they are grounded in reality! In the US test, Google estimate that the inclusion of Product Ratings drove an aggregated CTR increase of 5% on Shopping Ads – that’s not an insignificant number in a game where we’re looking to add up all of the marginal improvements we can find.

product ratings

The Ratings help the relevant product ads stand out more – particularly if the product is 4 or 5 star rated. The orange clashes so much with the green and blue that you can’t help but notice it. And of course, more information is always a good thing. If I’m shown a selection of different products during my search I am naturally more likely to click on the higher rated product if there isn’t much variance in price. I may even be willing to pay more for a “better” model.

How Does It Work?

These ratings are going to be compiled in two ways. First off, the good old-fashioned way of using a third-party site that collects product reviews. Here’s some examples of the sites Google include on their submission form:

  • Bazaarvoice
  • eKomi
  • Feefo
  • Reevoo
  • ResellerRatings
  • ShopperApproved
  • TrustPilot
  • TurnTo
  • Verified Reviews
  • ViewPoints

So far, so good. The lovely thing about this method is that it’s a great leveller. If three or four different places all sell the same product, in theory the product rating I see for all of the ads should be the same – leaving the vendors to compete on price and/or service. It may make it easier for customers to shop around.

The second way that Google will compile data is from reviews that you collect yourself on your site. Whether you manage them yourself or use a third-party to assist with this, you should now be able to include your own review data. You’ll be able to upload this via an XML feed to appear with your Shopping Products. In this case, it is possible that one merchant’s rating for a given product might be different to another as they will have different ratings within their own review platforms – meaning that the playing field is no longer level. We will have to wait and see how Google manage this.

Unlike Seller Ratings, there doesn’t appear to be a minimum star rating that you need to reach for the extension to show. In the example above, you can see a 3 star review – below the 3.5 you need for Seller Ratings. This does mean that if you sell a product that has been poorly reviewed by customers, this could begin to hurt your activity within Shopping Campaigns. We’re going to need to watch results very closely, particularly for key products to see whether or not this becomes an influencing factor.

If you’re uploading your own reviews from your website, you will in theory have the option to exclude products with a low rating – the risk here is that ratings may still appear should the product be reviewed on third-party websites and a poor review could show anyway. This could lead us to the situation where you may want to exclude from your Shopping campaigns altogether products that have poor ratings.

Top Tip: If you’re able to, try and get average star rating added to your product feed as a Custom Label – this will then give you the ability to easily exclude any such products from campaigns entirely and eliminate any chance of poor reviews showing, together with wasted clicks – should this become a problem for the brands you manage. You will need to evaluate whether dumping the product entirely is worth it and I suspect we’ll all be monitoring our campaigns and specific SKUs very closely over the coming months as this feature rolls out more fully.

As always, because Product Ratings are one of many extensions available to us, they may not always show. We don’t yet know if/when they’re going to make an appearance within mobile search.

What Should You Do?

If you sell any sort of product in your business online and either or the products or business itself can be reviewed, find out who is responsible within the company for customer reviews. I find this varies – sometimes it’s Customer Service teams, sometimes it’s Ecommerce. Chances are, it might be a mix of both. The Seller Review information is more likely to be related to Customer Service teams while it would make sense for Ecommerce and Merchandising to own the Product Review data.

review sites

Find out what there is and where it is. Is it on a third party platform? Is any of it hosted on your own site? If so, can you get an export of it? Can you combine ratings with your Shopping feed as per my tip above? This is definitely an area where you can stand out versus your competition if you master it early. You don’t want to be fielding questions from the Board about why your product has appeared with only 1 star against it on Google (I bet I’m not the only person who’s worked at companies where senior staff Google the business, the products and themselves all day long 🙂 ). Engage the right stakeholders, educate them if needed and hit up your Google rep for answers to any other questions you might have as information is still a bit scarce at the moment.

If you’re interested in trying out Product Ratings, submit all of your details to Google here. The more merchants who sign up, hopefully the sooner we’ll see Product Ratings appear in the wild. I’ve not stumbled across any myself yet, so if you’ve seen them, let me know in the comments!


Written By
Arianne Donoghue is the Paid Media Development Manager at Epiphany. Having started off her digital career client side over a decade ago, Arianne has worked for both agencies and brands in-house, specialising in all things paid search. She is now back agency side supporting on biddable media digital strategy. You...
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