Google Using CSE’s Content Against Them?

June 29, 2010

Digital Marketing ChannelAdvisor By ChannelAdvisor

I can see how CSE’s would be pleased when they first saw Google aggregating their merchant reviews and displaying them on Google Product Search. It justified their place in the shopping ecosystem as a relevant source for information about the trustworthiness of online retailers. It also acted and still acts as a motivating factor for merchants to use those CSE’s survey systems to collect more consumer reviews for display not only on the CSE sites, but on Google Product Search pages.

I’m not quite sure, though, if they will be equally pleased about Google’s “seller rating extensions” announcement which states those same aggregated merchant ratings shown on Product Search pages will be automatically integrated into merchant’s AdWords ads. Yes, it is an even stronger reason for merchants to embrace the CSE rating systems (which they should). But if you’ve ever run more than a handful of product oriented queries on Google, you know that CSEs are major AdWords advertisers.

This news seems like a plus for retailers who have more than 4 stars and at least 30 ratings (these are the requirements for display of this feature). Their ads will stand out more versus those without ratings, potentially resulting in a higher click through rate. Google also may give a quality boost to highly-rated merchant’s ads. And from a consumers perspective, Google is effectively calling out these merchants as trustworthy, meaning customers are not only more likely to click, but probably more likely to buy. Since CSEs aren’t merchants themselves and don’t have ratings, this could work against them in the AdWords game, driving more interest to “trusted” retailers directly and away from other advertisers.

Though the impact surely remains to be seen, the content facilitated and stored by CSEs is being used to highlight their own AdWords competitors. Then again, that competition is also their customer base.

A few other thoughts on this:

  • Why not charge extra? I guess Google expects the CTR increase to net out into increased spend overall, or maybe just yield a better experience that will grow/retain query volume.
  • Why not include ratings in the one box? Seems like it would make even more sense than the AdWords placement.
  • Why is the user experience a dead end? Click on where it says the merchant is rated and the user is taken to the ratings, but the only way out is to click back or search again.