July 1, 2010, 3:14 PM

Google looks more closely at reviews

The search engine giant is giving merchant reviews more weight.

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Retailers need to pay more attention to ratings and reviews as search engine giant Google Inc. tests giving merchant reviews more prominence in paid search results, says Scot Wingo, president of ChannelAdvisor Corp.“Google is taking merchant ratings out of comparison shopping engines, rolling them up and putting them into the ads,” Wingo says. “They’ve done this before, but it was buried in Google Product Search. You could find it if you really wanted to. Now it’s kind of front and center. It’s gone from the back of the bus to driving the bus.”

Retailers typically spend a lot of time creating ad copy that will get their ads placed through Google AdWords high rankings on search pages, Wingo says. But consumers likely will skip ads from lower-rated merchants in favor of those with higher ratings, affecting click through rates.

 “This is definitely going to change the (return on investment) of paid search campaigns,” he says. “Clearly, if you have higher ratings, it’s going to help you.”

Google says the service launched Monday. “If your online store is rated in Google Product Search, you have four or more stars, and you have at least 30 reviews, you’ll automatically get seller ratings with your ads,” a Google spokesman wrote in a blog post this week. “What’s more, you’ll only be charged if someone clicks on the headline of your ad. Clicks on the review link are free.”

While retailers largely may have ignored reviews in the past, that attitude will have to change, Wingo says. “We think this is a top priority to look at right now—especially during the summer months,” he says. “You don’t want to roll into the holidays without having your best foot forward on these reviews.”

Google also is testing variance in search results for consumer electronics, for example, listing the same model of camera by color, Wingo says.

“If you sell pink cameras and didn’t specify you have the pink, Google’s going to assume you only have silver and you’re going to miss out on that shopper who is looking for a pink camera,” he says.

That means retailers must send high-quality data feeds to Google Product Search, Wingo says.

“A lot of retailers get kind of lazy about this because Google didn’t have this before,” he says. “They have to be sure they’re sending all the right attributes, like color and size and those kinds of thing.”

 

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