Richard Hammond
Richard Hammond 5 February 2018

Everything you need to know about Google customer reviews

Having customer reviews on your website is a sure-fire way to build trust and improve conversion rates. Find out about Google Customer Reviews and how you can use them.

There are several ways you can improve conversions on your website but having customer reviews is one of the most powerful. If you have missed the seemingly endless onslaught of research pinpointing several reasons why every business, regardless of its size, should take a proactive approach to both obtaining and managing online reviews, your customers could well be easy pickings for competitors.

On the back of this growing significance, Google has launched Customer Reviews. The new program has been designed as a replacement to Google Trusted Stores – which the search engine confirmed it was shuttering last March.

Transition from Trusted Stores to Customer Reviews

If you’re a long-time online retailer, you may well have previously joined or considered joining the Trusted Stores certification.

While Trusted Stores allowed shoppers to leave reviews and merchants to gather ratings, merchants needed to receive a minimum of 200 orders per month on average to earn the Trusted Stores certification and adhere to specific guidelines such as a one working day customer service response.

Previously, Consumer Surveys were used to generate the data needed to display accurate AdWords Customer Ratings extensions. The Customer Reviews program is a much more streamlined version of this program. As the name suggests, it’s dedicated exclusively to seller ratings and facilitates collection of reviews and seller ratings.

In essence, Google says it is a free program which helps sellers to collect feedback from shoppers who make a purchase on site. The reviews are used in Seller Ratings, which can be displayed in Search and Shopping ads on Google. Sellers are also given the option of displaying a badge on their site.

Ratings are calculated using information from a number of sources. They include:

  • Google Customer Reviews
  • Stella Service – a customer service analysis firm
  • Performance metrics from Google Shopping
  • Google Consumer Surveys
  • Reviews from third party sources

Getting Started

Like its predecessor, The Google Customer Reviews program is accessed from the Google Merchant Centre. If you previously participated in the Trusted Stores program, your account will be automatically migrated. If not, it’s easy to set up:

  • Log in to Google Merchant Centre with an Admin level username
  • Click on the three dot icon and navigate to the Merchant Centre Programmes menu option
  • Click to enable Google Customer Reviews. The wizard will then walk you through the steps needed to add Google Customer Reviews to your site.

How it works

After setting up Google Customer Reviews on your site, all shoppers buying from your e-commerce store will automatically be asked if they wish to receive an email from Google following their purchase to give their feedback. The email will invite the buyer to share their experience of shopping with you. The ratings provided from shoppers opting-in to give feedback will be used for seller ratings, will be displayed on the Google Customer Reviews badge (if added to a website) and shown in the Merchant Centre.

There are four core components of Google Customer Reviews:

  1. The opt-in: This gives shoppers the chance to opt-in or out of giving feedback concerning their shopping experience.
  2. The badge: Retailers can choose to display a Google Customer Reviews badge on their online store. The badge will give a one to five star rating, based on customer feedback.
  3. The survey: Shoppers opting-in to receive an email from Google will be sent a Customer Reviews Survey, allowing them to rate their shopping experience.
  4. The ratings: Seller ratings are calculated as an aggregate. This rating then appears on Search ads and Shopping ads, in addition to the Google Customer Reviews badge. Sellers need to have at least 150 reviews, collected in the last 12 months, for the seller rating stars to show.

Why should your store participate?

Reviews are an increasingly vital part of doing business online, helping you to win consumer trust, make more sales and achieve better organic search rankings.

If you aren’t convinced, consider these statistics from the latest consumer review survey. Carried out annually by BrightLocal, this is a comprehensive barometer of consumer sentiment and year on year, shows more online shoppers than ever before look at reviews and seller ratings before parting with their cash and completing the checkout process. It follows that participating in the Google Customer Reviews program could therefore improve your AdWords and Shopping ads performance.

  • 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation

This means more than eight out of ten shoppers put as much faith in feedback and ratings they find online as they do from a word of mouth recommendation from a friend or family member. This single statistic perfectly encapsulates why, if you’re an online retailer, opting in to Google Customer Reviews should be a no-brainer.

  • 49% of shoppers need to see a minimum of a four-star rating before they will do business with you

Reviews aren’t just a way to make more sales by harnessing the power of the recommendation, they’re actually vital to getting shoppers to your site in the first place. If you operate in an industry where other AdWords advertisers have embraced Google Customer Reviews ahead of you, it’s very likely you’re not even in the running for the sale. Shoppers need to see strong ratings before they’ll buy from you.

  • 68% of consumers are more likely to use a business if they find positive reviews

If you struggle to differentiate yourself from competitors – perhaps because you can’t afford to outbid them on AdWords or are not able to undercut on price- having a positive review profile can help you stand out. In 2016, only 50% of consumers were likely to use a business after seeing a positive review. The leap to 68% in 2017 once again underlines the growing relevance and importance of reviews to online shoppers.

  • 93% of shoppers use reviews to decide if a business is good or not

When you’re selling online and struggling to log conversions through your AdWords or Shopping campaign, having Google Customer Reviews in place can positively influence how 93% of shoppers view you. To put that into context, just 7% of consumers don’t use reviews to determine how good or bad a business is.

Bottom line? Almost all shoppers use reviews as part of the decision making process.

Building reviews and ratings

Google’s customer ratings program requires merchants to have acquired 150 reviews in the last 12 months for star ratings to show. As we’ve already seen, business ratings play a huge role in buyer behaviour and can make it much easier for your business to stand out and win trust.

Building a positive reputation and acquiring reviews can be tricky however and, in order to enable star ratings on your Google Customer Reviews badge and ad extensions, you’ll need an effective strategy in place.

Google Customer Reviews aggregate data from several review sources, meaning you aren’t necessarily dependent on shoppers opting in to receive a Google Consumer Survey post-purchase on your site. This is however something you should encourage. You can do this easily by adding a note to your checkout page which states that reviews help you to improve and you value customer feedback – almost seven in ten consumers will leave a review if asked, so make sure you’re speaking up and encouraging consumers to participate before the Google opt-in is actually triggered.

Set up a profile on other review sites

Review extensions will be triggered when your store reaches 150 reviews, collected within the last 12 months and with a minimum of a 3.5 star rating. When calculating ratings, Google will reference data from its own sources and 23 other independent review sites including TrustPilot, Shopper Approved, Power Reviews and Feedback Company. You can find the full list of review sites referenced here.

You’ll need a continual influx of reviews for your Google star rating to display. To help you reach the 150 threshold and to ensure a regular supply of reviews into the Google algorithm, create a profile for your business on at least one or two of the sites Google references. Having a presence on a site like TrustPilot, which is heavily referenced by consumers, also ensures you’re really harnessing the power of reviews to drive traffic and sales across your online store.

Embed review requests into your marketing and transactional email processes

As you start to build your review profile, you’ll want to ensure you’re taking every available opportunity to request reviews from your customers. That means embedding review requests into all of your marketing and transactional email processes.

Having a page on your website which links into your review platforms adds a level of convenience for visitors but don’t leave it at that. Add a link to leave a review in your email footer and actively solicit reviews as part of your transactional email chain including on order confirmation messages and shipping notices. You should also have an email set to automatically send to those shoppers who haven’t left a review a few days after their purchase.

Reply to reviews

In addition to actively working to build your review profile, you should also have a process in place to reply to all reviews you receive. The second annual LocalSEO Guide local ranking factors study found reviews to be the single most important ranking factor, with considerations such as number of reviews responded to,  number of reviews not responded to and number of negative reviews not responded bearing a strong correlation with Google My Business search results. While Google hasn’t confirmed if it uses review factors such as these in its Google Customer Reviews considerations, it is good practise to respond to all reviews (both good and bad) promptly.

Share your thoughts

Have you recently set up Google Customer Reviews? Has it had an impact on traffic or conversions generated from AdWords? We’d love to hear your experiences and tips so leave a comment below.

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