E-commerce retailers participating in the Google Trusted Stores program received some big news recently. Google Customer Reviews, a newer program that was previously only available in a few countries outside the U.S., will replace the Trusted Store designation this month.
For proud holders of the Google Trusted Store badge, this sudden announcement naturally sparked a few questions and some head scratching. Let’s review the change and explain exactly where to go from here.
Google Customer Reviews vs. Trusted Stores
It’s still early, and more details regarding Google Customer Reviews are sure to come. For now, though, Google Customer Reviews appear to differ from Trusted Stores in two key ways.
The first, which should be apparent only to participating retailers, is the consolidation of Trusted Store capabilities (seller ratings, customer reviews, etc.) into Google Merchant Center (GMC). The second difference, which will be obvious to shoppers, is the removal of purchase protection.
Courtesy of Google, here’s a handy chart comparing Google Customer Reviews and Google Trusted Stores.
Google is also killing the text ads review extensions that inform shoppers an advertiser is a Google Trusted Store. We’re still waiting to see how the change will affect the appearance of Google Shopping ads that formerly displayed the Trusted Stores badge.
Why the Change?
As Google Shopping experts, we were fans of Google Trusted Stores, and have recommended the program to many customers over the years.
The reason? Besides attesting to a merchant’s commitment to customer service and reliability, the Trusted Stores badge also displayed prominently in Google Shopping ads. These badges helped set their bearers apart from competitors, and we’ll be sad to see them go.
So what gives? In its update announcement, Google explained its decision to close the curtains on Google Trusted Stores:
“We’ve made this change 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.”
Fair enough. Long-term, securing more quality reviews and seller ratings sure sound like a favorable development for retailers selling on Google — even if the jury’s still out on exactly how these reviews will display on the SERP.
But what, exactly, does the news mean for existing Trusted Stores right this second?
Migrating to Google Customer Reviews
For existing Google Trusted Stores, there are three possible migration scenarios:
• You already have a Merchant Center account: No action needed. Google will automatically transfer all the reviews you’ve received over the last 365 days to your GMC account.
• You have more than one Merchant Center account: Decision time. You’ll need to determine which GMC account will be your central hub for Google Customer Reviews. Once you’ve settled, tell Google using this form.
• You don’t have a Merchant Center account: If you want to participate in Google Customer Reviews, you’ll need a Merchant Center Account. Luckily, setting one up is a breeze. First, sign up for an account here. Next, instruct Google to migrate your existing Google Trusted Store reviews and details to your newly-created GMC account using this form.
And that’s it. You can view your existing Google Trusted Stores account through June 2017. Come July, Google will cut off access. So be sure to complete any necessary migration activities by then.
The Good News
Any change Google makes is bound to cause some amount of grumbling. And in this case, retailers that earned Trusted Stores status could be particularly disappointed.
But the move is not without some upside. Here are the biggest potential benefits of the shift to Google Customer Reviews:
• More flexibility. Google Trusted Stores were required to display the Trusted Stores badge prominently on their sites. While the badges certainly helped Google Shopping ads stand out on the SERP, they may not have looked great on some retailers’ websites. Google Customer Reviews promise greater latitude when aligning them with your existing branding or site layout.
• Housed under Merchant Center. Instead of maintaining a separate Trusted Stores account, busy marketers can use good ol’ Merchant Center to manage Customer Reviews. It’s a small bit of consolidation, but this means one less extra browser tab cluttering your screen.
• More accessible. Let’s face it, signing up for Google Trusted Stores was no picnic. The process was lengthy and time-consuming. Though Customer Reviews is still a new program, it looks like the only requirement to participate is simply adding the opt-in module to your e-commerce site. For busy marketers, this could be a much-needed time saver.
• Reviews are always meaningful. We’re encouraged by Google’s promise to focus its efforts on getting more customer reviews and seller ratings for participating retailers. This could mean its team will apply Google’s famous knowledge of user behavior to build an experience that yields more reviews. And that’s a good thing.
Though eye-catching, the Google Trusted Stores badge didn’t say a whole lot to a shopper about what the program entailed. Reviews and seller ratings, however, are immediately understood by all customers as a powerful indication of quality and trustworthiness.
Trust the Process
As Google has already informed participating merchants, Trusted Stores will phase out this month. Google Customer Reviews will take over in the weeks and months that follow.
The Google Customer Reviews feature will soon be found under the three-dot drop-down menu in Merchant Center. We’ll keep an eye out and post updates as the program receives a wider rollout.
For now, make sure to review the migration steps listed above to ensure you’re compliant before the July deadline.