Google Takes Its Amazon-Style Starred Product Ratings To Europe To Boost Shopping Searches

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While Amazon is expanding its logistics and delivery business to complement its e-commerce portal, Google is working on ways to make its search experience online more like Amazon’s to grow the number of people who use Google to look for and buy products. Today Google announced that it is turning on Product Ratings in the UK, France and Germany.

Product ratings, first launched in the U.S. last year, are essentially Google’s play at making its search results look less static, and more like Amazon’s, to the average consumer.

To do this, Google appends user reviews to products that are surfaced in basic Google search results or those that come up through Google Shopping searches. The reviews appear in the form of stars (up to five gold stars) plus a number aggregating specific pieces of feedback.

To some extent, Google can claim to be a more inclusive experience when it comes to ratings. As with the U.S. rollout, Google is aggregating data in Europe from different sources “including merchants, third-party aggregators, editorial sites and users,” writes Archana Kannan, a product manager for Google Shopping. Third-party aggregators include BazaarvoiceeKomiFeefoPowerReviewsReevooTurnToVerified ReviewsYotpo, and Trustpilot.

There is definitely some push and pull in this space.

On the one hand, Google claims that these product reviews work: since the product ratings were launched in the U.S. last July, it notes that the click-through rate on Product Listing Ads has gone up by 5%. Part of this can be attributed to those product reviews: users can click through to get more information about a product, but also to see more details about specific feedback.

On the side of brands and merchants, adding product reviews is a way for Google to sweeten the deal when it comes to decisions about where to advertise and product. “Customers look for product validation through reviews and ratings. Providing this info is valuable to our customers and provides The Home Depot with a competitive advantage on Google,” Dave Abbott, Vice President of Online Marketing for The Home Depot, noted in Google’s blog post.

But it’s not always an easy play for Google: by doing this, the search giant, and not the business selling the product, essentially becomes the central repository for all that aggregated customer data. That will also probably alarm some consumers who already feel like Google has too much power over their data.

The new feature also brings to mind another bigger issue for Google in Europe. Currently the search giant is under investigation by regulators over antitrust violations.

Specifically, regulators are looking at how Google handles vertical searches on its site and whether its approach is anticompetitive because of how it surfaces results from competitors in specific fields like travel, maps, restaurants and more alongside Google’s own results. Higher click-throughs for Google, after all, mean more revenue for Google, so it behooves the company to put these at the top and make them more attractive.

So it will be interesting to see how and if the new product reviews feature figures in that ongoing debate.

So far, in my attempts to find starred reviews, I’ve had mixed success. Some categories I can’t find any at all, so I think it is still early days for the service.

Google says that merchants interested in adding reviews should fill out this product ratings form.