Honestly, I was a little negative about the idea of ratings extensions when they first started being syndicated. How will we manage the bad feedback? Will the swamp of reviews associated to aggregators ruin small-to-mid level advertisers' chances to benefit from this extension?
Consumer Driven Call to Action
After a little introspection and some peer debate, my attitude toward the product flipped. If anything this extension allows brands the ability to take over more space on the page while introducing a more dynamic call to action.
As mentioned in "Image Ads in Search - Yep, They Help" around Google's other extension products, we've seen an average increase in CTR of 13 percent while conversion followed at more than 14 percent. Should we expect to see similar increases for advertisers? If Google eventually picks up more onsite review content...you bet.
Onsite Review Partnerships
A majority of the ratings have been scraped from sources like Epinions, ResellerRatings.com, Viewpoints, and Bizrate. I traditionally skim these aggregators during research mode, however I prefer onsite consumer feedback.
Google's partnership with Bazaarvoice on the product search side of the business should tie in well with paid "ratings" enhancements. Will Google eventually allow advertisers the ability to filter onsite vs. comparison sites? Will advertisers be able to manage certain aspects of these ratings? Will ratings ever be involved in quality score?
Visual search will continue to evolve. Google's platform truly gives them the momentum to try anything. Their ability to stack extensions within the results is creating a better user experience through informative visual cues.
One of the better extensions is anything related to their plus box product (e.g., product plus box, local map extensions, form extensions, etc.). What about stacking ratings within the plus box extensions? Would it benefit retailers to have product plus box extensions that include product specific ratings under each product? What about hoteliers using the map extension to show property location plus associated ratings?
As more results shift to real-time search, expect the engines to also try integrating the same results into paid search. Could Microsoft leverage their Facebook investment by incorporating the "Like" functionality within their paid results (i.e., 15 People Like this product).
Pandora has already taken a step in that direction with their "Joe Smith Likes this artist" setting within the music interface. Your Facebook friends with similar musical taste are then pictured below the live artist. What if Microsoft uses their profile (and opt-in) information to match you with ratings created by your friends with congruent profiles?
Reviews are viral -- good or bad. As advertisers do a better job incorporating such feedback within all digital channels, I believe we'll have the benefit of scale.
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