In April Google announced its intention to shut down the Trusted Store system and replace it with its new Customer Reviews program.
Read on to find out what the new system has in store for your business.
Google Trusted Stores has seen its fair share of changes over the years.
And recently, it unveiled its biggest yet.
First, What is Google Trusted Store?
Initially rolled out in 2012, Google Trusted Stores was a certification program that allowed online merchants to display a badge signifying their status as a “Trusted Store.”
The badge — Google’s seal of approval — appeared as a small check-marked icon shown on the lower right of retailer websites.
The basis of the badge was to give customers more confidence when shopping by providing certain stores a direct endorsement from Google.
To qualify for Trusted Store status, online retailers were required to apply and provide a range of data to Google.
Initially, that data included sensitive information on shipping and cancellation feeds, which Google later did away with.
Another big change came with its integration with Google AdWords.
As of 2013, Google Trusted Stores became one of the services that helped supply seller ratings, which show on AdWords ads and Product Listing Ads.
Benefits of Google Trusted Store
There were quite a few benefits in earning the badge, and not only for pay per click marketing.
First of all, it’s a free certification designed to boost businesses credibility.
According to Google, the badge is only assigned to retailers that “offer a consistently great shopping experience.”
In theory, the endorsement from Google should lead to a boost in sales.
Because of the high competition in today’s market, the badge served as a way to let customers know that your store was trustworthy and give you a leg up on the competition.
To show how seriously Google took its approval system, the site essentially insured its Trusted Stores sales up to $1,000.
That meant If customers made a purchase of less than $1,000 and the product didn’t arrive, they could go straight to Google. If your store didn’t take care of it, Google would.
Naturally, stores stood to lose their status as a Trusted Store if that happened.
But it still showed a high level of approval from Google.
And if Google approved, why wouldn’t customers too?
Why is it Shutting Down?
While that all sounds well and good, in April Google retired Trusted Stores in favor of its new Customer Reviews process.
Due to the characteristics of the new program, we can guess that the new system has to do with an increasing reliance on shopper’s feedback.
Rather than Google’s seal of approval, online merchants will have to earn that approval from their customers.
It’s important to note that with the change, the consumer protection aspect (insurance on up to $1,000 worth of goods) of Trusted Store no longer exists, nor does the Trusted Store badge.
According to Google, it’s done away with the protection to “help us better focus our support on getting you quality reviews and seller ratings, the two major keys to driving more traffic to your site.”
Introducing Google Customer Reviews
Like Trusted Stores, Google’s new Customer Reviews signals a positive buying experience for potential customers.
Unlike Trusted Stores, it relies on customers to do it.
Google Customer Reviews is a free service that allows online retailers to collect feedback from those who have made a purchase on their site.
To enable the reviews, sellers must have a Google Merchant account.
Google also notes that the feedback will be applied to merchant’s seller rating, which appears on search ads and in Google Shopping.
The program is powered by surveys collected on the purchase confirmation page.
How Does it Work?
The Customer Reviews process is entirely based on customer’s own discretion.
After customers have made a purchase on your site, they will be presented with an option to opt-in to a receive an email from Google requesting feedback on their experience with your site.
Google notes that the survey cannot be placed directly on the confirmation page; rather it’s only available by email after a product has been received to ensure the most accurate feedback.
To enable, merchants must place a specific code that triggers the survey on their completed transaction page.
Once collected, the reviews will:
- Appear on your Merchant Center dashboard
- Be used for seller ratings
- Displayed in an optional Customer Review badge
Customer Reviews are also available on mobile sites, with the same opt-in option.
As a side note, it’s important to differentiate Customer Reviews from Google Reviews.
While users have been able to leave reviews on Google business listings (Google Reviews), the new process is designed to verify that reviews have been left by customers who have actually made a purchase from that store.
As such, Customer Reviews are only available to businesses with an online store.
Key Differences Between Google Trusted Store and Google Customer Reviews
Among the differences between the two services, Google notes that “Customer Reviews offers more ways to customize the Google badge and opt-in on your site, better account management tools that save your time, and new insights into your seller ratings.”
Additionally, users will notice the following:
- Google no longer offers consumer protection
- The Trusted Store badge is replaced with the Google Consumer Rating icon
- The process is more streamlined for merchants, requiring only a brief sign up in Google Merchant Center
While the differences are significant, it’s important to keep in mind that many features including the Seller Ratings on Google and badge display will remain the same.
Four Main Features of Google Customer Reviews
According to Google, Customer Reviews focus on the following four features:
- Google Customer Reviews Opt-In: An offer that appears to all customers after checkout. Users who opt-in may receive an email from Google Customer Reviews asking them to rate their experience with your store.
- Google Customers Review Badge: A badge on your site that helps users easily identify your site with the Google brand. The badge displays the seller rating score of 1-5 stars can be placed on any page of your site.
- Google Customers Reviews Survey: The survey is an optional, brief questionnaire that enables customers to rate their purchase experience with your site.
- Seller Ratings: An aggregate score that appears on search ads and Google Shopping, as well as on Google Customer Review badges.
Seller Rating Overview
A new, significant factor of Customer Reviews is its impact on Seller Ratings.
Seller Ratings are an automated extension that highlight which sellers have high ratings. They are designed to reflect customers’ overall experience with your brand.
They appear below text ads and help customers find reliable brands while potentially increasing those brands’ ad performance.
Generally, they only show when a brand has 150 unique reviews and an average rating of 3.5 or higher.
Seller ratings are marked on a scale of 1-5 with green stars (not the yellow stars, which refer to the product rating).
Ratings come from seller rating websites and other third-party sources.
Now, the new Customer Reviews also contribute to the seller ratings.
(Note: If you do not have the required 150 reviews, your Google Customers Reviews badge will state “Rating not available” until you establish a rating.)
How to Set Up Customer Reviews for Your Site
First, the great news: Those that have an existing Google Trusted Store will be automatically will be migrated to Merchant Center.
For those that don’t, it’s a simple signup process. And as mentioned before, it’s one of the biggest advantages of the new program.
Before signing up, make sure your site:
- Has a separate order confirmation page
- Directs customers back to an order confirmation page on your store’s domain if using an e-commerce platform that redirects customers to a third-party domain
- Has an encrypted order confirmation page (uses HTTPS)
If your site meets all of the requirements, you’re free to set up Customer Reviews.
To get started, you’ll need a Google Merchant Account (accessed and set up through your Google account).
Once you’ve created and accessed the Merchant Account, follow these steps:
1. Click the three-dot icon drop-down in the upper right corner
2. Select Merchant Center programs
3. Navigate to the Google Customer Reviews card
4. Click “Enable”
5. Add the survey opt-in code to your website
6. Add the badge code to your site wherever you’d like (optional)
Before adding the code, you’ll be prompted to read and sign the Google Customer Reviews agreement.
Once you’ve successfully agreed and signed up, the Customer Reviews should appear as a program in your Merchant Center.
That’s it. No bells and whistles or a long list of requirements. Complete the above steps, and you’re in.
As of now, Google Customer Reviews is available in 23 countries, including the United States, Germany, The United Kingdom, Canada, and China.
Google Customer Reviews Dashboard
Another advantage of the Review system is its insight into seller analytics.
Accessed through Merchant Center, your Customer Reviews dashboard contains information collected by Google.
The four main metrics you’ll be able to monitor are:
- Opt-ins received: the number of customers in a given week that opted-in to the survey
- Surveys sent: the number of surveys emailed to customers in a given week
- Responses received: the number of survey responses customers have submitted in a given week
- Seller rating: shows your seller rating during the time period shown
Tracking these metrics will give you a better understanding of how your customers are responding to your products and process.
For example, if you notice a significantly bigger amount of opt-ins than responses received, it may mean that your customers were happy with their shopping experience, but not the delivery speed or product received.
Why Do I Need Google Customer Reviews?
The overall benefits of Customer Reviews are similar to what Google Trusted Stores provided.
Mainly, increased exposure and customer trust.
Much like the Trusted Store badge, the Customer Review icon signals to customers that your business has earned the Google seal of approval.
Again, the badge is optional, and you’re free to choose if or where you’d like to display it on your page.
For example, if you don’t have enough reviews to earn a Seller Rating, you can choose to wait to display the badge until you do.
When customers click on the badge, they’ll be taken to a page that breaks down your rating and shows customer reviews.
The ease of the simple survey (only one question) will also likely result in more submitted.
Do keep in mind that the text that appears in the opt-in and the survey is currently not customizable, though Google has noted that it may be an option in the future.
Perhaps most importantly, the collection of reviews is becoming increasingly important in today’s e-commerce world.
Unfortunately, collecting (good) reviews can be a chore.
But it doesn’t have to be. Google streamlines the process and makes it easily available to customers with its new review system.
Other benefits include:
- The ability to collect valuable feedback from customers (and show it off)
- Collection of reviews from all sites into one
- Increased brand trustworthiness
- Better collection of reviews
- Better account management tools
- Boost PPC campaigns with better seller rating extensions
Of course, with the good comes some bad.
Most notably, the ability for negative reviews to be collected and displayed.
While some negatives are inevitable, remember that the best way to combat an unfavorable review is a quick reply that apologizes and acknowledges the customer’s complaint.
Get Started With Google Customer Reviews
One of the biggest barriers to entry with Google Trusted Stores was the oftentimes lengthy sign-up and review process.
With the new Customer Reviews, Google has eliminated that barrier.
And with so little standing in your way, there’s little reason not to get started with Customer Reviews.