People are writing books about the increasing importance of the way you interact with your customers and the power of social media. There's a different, more democratized sort of voting going on. Social blogging platforms that aren't Twitter are exploding. Google is pushing more and more personalization and socialization into their SERPs.
The first real introduction of social signals outside of click-through rate in AdWords SERPs are contained within rich snippets, and specifically product reviews.
What's the Status of Rich Snippets in AdWords?
Google updated their data requirements for Google Product Feeds. Product feeds are a great way to get some additional real estate for your ads in many cases:
Note the confidence-inspiring five stars: good stuff for the advertiser! If we click through the rated button we see more information about the advertiser:
Again, for this advertiser, this is great press! And of course, the query that set off this whole search was a very specific product search (in this case we used "Canon PowerShot S95 10" which was an example from the AdWords blog) so it's logical we would get a rating from Google's product search. But what if we hadn't?
Can Google Product Search Ratings Scare off Buyers?
Google announced merchant ratings back in June, but the interesting thing to think about here is less that there's simply a rating attached, and more about specific queries, the search results, and what it means to you as an advertiser and/or search marketer.
Make no mistake: while they may not always be the most adept at helping you to optimize for conversions, Google wants your ads to be clicked. As a result you have to have an advertiser rating of over four for your rating to show. But there are some important things to note here:
Your seller rating offers searchers an opportunity to click through to a page with itemized reviews.
Many advertisers don't realize they're opting into this behavior simply by "qualifying" -- this is an extension, but the distribution of the feature can be automatic.
Google controls the criteria for firing this additional line in your ad.
Why is it important that an advertiser be aware of this? After all, their rating will only show if you have a four or higher, right? What about the first case where the rating is a four, but the product page has some bad reviews featured prominently? This could potentially cost you a sale.
And what if Google decided to tweak the criteria here? If they looked at a wide array of SERPs, and saw that there were a lot of instances where product merchants were side-by-side with a 4-star advertiser next to a 2-star advertiser, what's to prevent them from showing both of those reviews to drive up CTR on the 4-star merchant? Their primary concern, after all, is on the aggregate CTR of their ads. If seeing the good review juxtaposed against a bad review led to more clicks on the paid side of the SERP, why not display your relatively poor 2-star rating?
Should I Kill Product Feeds?
Absolutely not. The idea here is more just to understand how Google is using your data. When you mark up your pages to provide rich snippets, create a product feed and become a merchant, or tag a page as being canonical you're giving Google information. This is often good, as Google drives a lot of traffic to websites, but Google isn't your business partner, and in all likelihood they're completely agnostic as to whether you get their traffic or someone else does. I wouldn't advocate jumping on every new AdWords feature, but you should keep an eye on some of the great PPC blogs out there to be sure that you understand what Google is doing with your data. As Google and Bing integrate more and more social signals and layer social factors into the SERPs, there will be a number of things you can't control about your listings: make sure you're in command of the things you can!