January 27, 2012

How Are Seller Ratings Affecting Your AdWords ROI?

What happens to your CTR and ROI when you allow your website’s seller ratings to be displayed as an ad extension on your Google AdWords ads?  While you might think it’s great that your seller ratings are now being displayed, you need to view the experience as your potential site visitors do.

Here is what happened when I searched for “silk turtleneck” on Google.com:
Two of the top three paid search ads have seller ratings of roughly 4.5/5.0 stars.  But, that’s not all.  Here are the remainder of the paid search ads that appeared in the right column (this is just the Page 1 search results):
Half of these ads have seller ratings of roughly 4.5/5.0 stars.  Two ads have seller ratings of 5.0/5.0 stars.  Can we say redundant?

At this point, the ads that stand out are the two ads that don’t display seller ratings.  Is that a good thing?  Not necessarily.  A larger brand with higher levels of recognition, such as Ralph Lauren, can easily get away without having their site’s seller ratings displayed with their AdWords ads without having web surfers question if the lack of the seller ratings means that the site is questionable to shop on.  A smaller, lesser-known brand may run into the issue of web surfers questioning the integrity of shopping on that sight and choosing to click on one of the paid search ads that displays a high seller rating (though they all have high seller ratings).

Before you rush to check if your AdWords ads are displaying your seller ratings, here are a few points to take into consideration:
  1. Google is automatically displaying seller ratings on AdWords accounts for those domains that have at least 30 unique user reviews and a seller rating of at least 4.0 stars on Google Product Search. (This is the point that doesn’t make sense to me.  Most people using Google to search for a product or service are not aware that only the 4.0 or higher ratings are being displayed.  Google really needs to eliminate the minimum 4.0 star rating and display all the ratings.  If a site has a seller rating of 2.0/5.0 stars, display that so anyone who clicks on that paid ad has an expectation that they might have a really bad customer experience if they decide to purchase from that site.)
  2. Google Product Search seller ratings are really an aggregate of ratings from third-party sites, such as BizRate and Epinions, and Google Checkout reviews.  SMBs that don’t want to pay for BizRate, etc., will need to add Google Checkout to their sites in order to build up to the minimum of 30 reviews.
  3. The seller ratings currently are only displayed for searches on the following Google domains: .com, .co.uk, .de, .fr, and .nl.
Going back to the Page 1 search results that displayed on Google.com for “silk turtleneck”, one organic search result demonstrates how to trump the paid search seller ratings:

The listing for Orvis.com displayed the product rating with the number of reviews for that specific product.  When I moused-over the right arrows, I could see in the page preview that the page is for a silk turtleneck (just what I searched for) and that it’s available in four colors.  While 27 product reviews doesn’t sound like very many reviews, do you think your site’s personas would be more likely to click on any link, paid or organic, based on your site’s overall seller ratings or on the product-specific ratings?

Here are the next steps to consider:
  1. If your AdWords ads are displaying your seller ratings, check your AdWords and site stats.  Have the ratings had a positive or negative impact on your conversions, ROI, and CTR?  If you’re seeing a decrease in conversions and ROI, fill out Google’s form to notify them you want the seller ratings removed from your AdWords ad extensions.  If your CTR has decreased but your conversions and ROI have not decreased, you probably want to look at the keywords you’re bidding on and your title and ad copy.  (Take a look at the first image in this post, neither the RalphLauren.com nor VictoriasSecret.com ads contains the keyword “silk” and the RalphLauren.com ad doesn’t even contain the keyword “turtleneck” yet both of those ads were triggered by my search for “silk turtleneck”.)
  2. If you’re not using the product extension option for your ad extensions, do so.  You just need to link your Google Merchant Center account (free to set up and upload your product info to) to your AdWords account. 
  3. Include product reviews on your product pages.  Look at the advantage Orvis has in the organic results for the search I performed.  Orvis’ product page isn’t first in the organic results, but their product page stands out because it’s the only organic result on this page with the product rating.
  4. Don’t forget SEO on your product and category pages.  No, you’re not going to get into the Page 1 search results overnight, but it’s worth the investment.  (Please use a better description tag than what Bluefly.com did.  Blatantly trying to get the keyword twice in your description tag by stating that the turtleneck is a turtleneck makes you look lazy and like you didn’t take the time to identify your primary personas.)

On that note, what do you think of Google displaying the seller ratings on AdWords ads?  Have you, or your clients, seen positive or negative changes to your AdWords account since the seller ratings went live?

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