Optimising Google seller star ratings

A little more than a year ago, Google introduced the seller rating product extension for AdWords. The tool’s main function has been to serve as a way of telling the user how reliable and trusted the advertising merchant is – simply by displaying an average star rating based on at least 30 user ratings.

The seller stars are generally a useful tool for advertisers: they are free, add a visual dimension to ads and, most crucially, enhance the advertisers’ reputations and increase users’ trust in them. At the time of introduction, brands were excited about it: higher star rating generally meant a higher CTR and more sales.


The problem: how do you get the seller stars to show?

Recently, a client asked us why the Google seller stars weren’t showing across all their targeted keywords, even though they had met all the prerequisites necessary to use them (more than 30 unique four out of five user reviews, the relevant Google merchant centre setup and settings in Google AdWords). We researched this issue but found no information on it, so we investigated ourselves and tried to find out how to make sure the sellerstars show up across the client’s account.

The solution: By modifying the display URL subdomain

We found that by having the keyword in the subdomain of the ad, we could ‘hide’ the seller stars. For example, Official.Brandxyz.co.uk does not show the stars whilst Brandxyz.co.uk/Official does show the stars (see screengrabs below). Thus, removing the keyword from the subdomain will make sure the seller stars show up.

Ad without the seller stars showing:

The same ad with the seller stars enabled:

What else do I need to know about optimising for conversion?

Another of our clients raised the additional issue of outdated seller star ratings showing up in their ads. Users’ ratings often take a long time to be processed and, as a result, are often out of date by the time they appear – which reflects negatively on the brand’s reputation. Our client asked us to remove them, which we did.

This in turn led us to the interesting question as to whether to enable seller stars across campaigns which had already been optimised for CTR. These campaigns would have short tail keywords in the subdomain and, as a result, would not have the seller stars showing.

Because having a short tail keyword in the subdomain has been proven to be conducive to a higher CTR, an interesting conundrum arises: Would it be better to optimise a campaign for CTR or should brands try to get their seller stars (which also have a positive impact on CTR and conversion) to show?

The answer to this question will differ on a case-by-case basis. It’s very difficult to make a general assumption about this, so individual brands would do well to test both approaches against each other to see whether, for them, the benefits of having seller stars showing outweighs those of CTR optimisation.
For brands who encounter a high number of outdated seller star ratings, the solution is straightforward – put the keywords in the subdomain or opt out of the seller rating product extension altogether.

Net Media Planet at the a4uexpo (Slideshare presentation)

Thanks to everyone for coming to hear me speak on ‘New Ways to Drive Revenue from PPC’ at the a4uexpo in London last week. I talked about leveraging mobile search, video search and going global with your business. Lots of data and, even more importantly, useful insights. Please find the presentation below. Enjoy!



Using Paid Search to build your International Business

Thanks to everyone who attended our Net Media Planet Invites seminar yesterday – Driving international business through paid search marketing – it was a great turnout and a real pleasure to see so many new faces, and to catch up with one or two familiar ones.

In a nutshell; we looked at how we can meet the challenges facing the UK economy by expanding into more fertile markets internationally, how to drive incremental revenue using paid search and how to use paid search to gather insights to build the wider international expansion business case.
Whatever your business, you cannot ignore the fact that the UK economy is only 2.98% of the world economy, 97.02% opportunity lies outside our fine shores.
Some the key takeaways from the session:
• If looking to test Paid Search in new markets, Google, with 90% global share, is the first port of call
• Take an incremental approach – learn from one market and apply that knowledge elsewhere. Perhaps start by expanding into culturally similar markets first
• Localisation – making sure that your marketing efforts are in synergy with the specific geographic territory. Understanding the local culture is key.
• Call on experts to support your strategy. Use professionals who can help you with local market understanding and expertise in key marketing areas.
You can find the presentation inserted below so you can take a look through…

Will the Apple iPhone 4S take Search from Google?

According to Business Insider, the launch of the updated iPhone – the 4S – has been a direct retaliation by Apple over Google’s continued foray into the smartphone market. That’s because one of its key features is designed to coax iPhone users away from using Google search.

The iPhone 4S comes with an inbuilt ‘personal assistant’, called Siri; an in-built voice recognition app that lets you search for stuff like the weather, local businesses, and other services without the need to go a search engine such as Google.
I’ve tested voice recognition tools on mobile in the past (including Google’s) and I’ve found that they don’t work well, particularly in noisy environments. However, if Apple has got its new Siri app working perfectly then I think that this will impact on Google.
With Apple’s 18.3% of the smartphone market able to find products and services just by speaking into their iPhone, it could be enough to dent Google’s mobile search traffic. And personally I think that it will be a lot easier to search for things on the go using a voice recognition tool like this one.
The one big concern for Apple is that Google continues to increase its share of the smartphone market through Android and the acquisition of Motorolla. Apple, on the otherhand, is seeing its own share drop.
Whatever the outcome there is nothing like a bit of healthy competition in business and it doesn’t get bigger than watching these two giants fight it out.