A fascinating Google test has just started to show in the US. This test was first spotted by Brian Freiesleben who notified me on Twitter. If you’re not following Brian yet, I would highly recommend doing so: https://twitter.com/type_SEO
The new test is one that is pretty surprising for me to see. For some web pages, Google is taking the initiative to match these pages up with a Seller Rating, when a rating corresponds with the site and location. Very similar to what can happen with Paid Ads.
In March of this year, I wrote about another test that was also focused on eCommerce web pages. My research showed that Structured Data wasn’t influencing the product information within the category page snippets, with it instead more likely to be based on HTML.
The reason that I pinned this previous test down to HTML is because I figured it would be quite unlikely that product feeds via Merchant Center would be influencing the snippet. Because that’s not something I’ve seen happen before for web pages.
But I guess that is all changing now. And that test I wrote about in March could have very well been influenced by product feeds also, but I’d still put my money on HTML usage based on my research. The difference with this new test is that Google links right to the reviews source.
How the new eCommerce web page test works
The big difference among the two eCommerce web page tests that have now shown in 2021 is the data input. The one from March looked to be based purely off of information within the HTML, whereas this test is clearly based on product feeds via Merchant Center.
For the example search result below, here is the link for the Seller Rating source. As you can see, clicking the link takes you to a Google-hosted URL with reviews information for the merchants US-based reviews for the entire site (as opposed to a single product).
According to the official documentation for the Seller Rating, this data can be based off of the following sources:
- Google Customer Reviews: A free program that collects post-purchase reviews on behalf of merchants.
- Aggregated performance metrics from Google-led shopping research.
- Shopping reviews for your store domain, which include reviews from various third-party sources and users of Google Search.
For the example shared above, it looks like most of the reviews have been collected from the merchants site itself – being categorised under the 3rd option from the list above.
Google’s documentation related to the Seller Rating also adds that they want the rating to accurately represent the quality of a seller in the specific country (note how the seller rating URL specifies the country). And also how Google uses a variety of sources to ensure quality of the rating is maintained.
Other examples of the Seller Rating test
When researching other examples of this test, I looked back to my post from March to be able to do a comparison of what some of these pages now look like with the reviews attached to them.
From an outsiders perspective, the reviews snippet looks similar to how Structured Data rich results when using Product Structured Data with AggregateRating operate. With the difference of the underlining of review count and the ‘store reviews’ inclusion – making it more obvious of the click-through ability.
Each of the examples for the brands above all have a 4.6 rating. This makes sense, because you actually have to approve reviews in tools like Yotpo which are supported by Google within feeds. So you’re unlikely to get many 1 star ratings for sites overall when showing on web pages.
Another interesting component, and actually a key difference among this test and the test from March is that this test can apply to just about any page (not just eCommerce category pages). If there’s a page that Google thinks it’s relevant to show for, it can start appearing.
For example, I was able to track down examples where the Seller Rating was showing for some Wikipedia articles, which doesn’t really make that much sense. And also where the Seller Rating is showing for the homepage of a website, which isn’t currently possible in Search for Structured Data rich results.
The Seller Rating test that is appearing on mobile presents an interesting opportunity for site owners. But if you don’t have your own product feeds in order, you could end up losing control over Google algorithmically showing the rating on your pages, which could impact your clicks and revenue.
Over the past few years, I’ve been saying more often about how SEO professionals need to have a good grasp of Merchant Center and product feeds, especially if working with eCommerce clients. A key event that happened at the start of 2020 was the organic Shopping tab listings being exclusively powered by feeds.
Now that the Seller Rating is showing for various URL types on mobile for organic listings in a test, this is another reason for the importance of being across Merchant Center as a core tool for operating as an SEO, similar to how most should view Google Search Console.
Google is trying to make this mobile experience more rich by introducing a new dataset to go along with the standard web page organic snippets when Structured Data isn’t in use. From what I can see so far, this looks to be a promising experience that I imagine could roll out in some form or another.