There was a time, not too long ago when the only stars of concern shone in the sky, not in a search engine browser. During this same time period, families were packing up their belongings and heading to a land that gave promise for better opportunities and success: the west.
Whatever their surroundings, pioneers had to depend on themselves and on the land. The stars they saw guided their way across the plains and to the west. Self-reliance was a frontier requirement. Unlike the pioneers however, the stars that will be guiding us along our way are on this very screen, and we will be helping you along the way as your trusted wagon leader to get a full lay of the land and acquire a memorable way to understand exactly what you need, why you need it and most importantly, how to get it.
So have no fear, there will be no threats of dysentery as we make our way from the top of this page to the bottom.So load up your wagon and get ready for our cross-country journey, onward to your brand’s manifest destiny - yeehaw!
II. Seller ratings & stars unshucked
Unlike the pioneers who didn’t know what the journey ahead of them would hold, let’s outline the basics before we get ‘on the road’ to a complete understanding. Below, you will find screenshots of each of the various ratings and stars available. These serve to highlight where you can find them and what they look like. We will go into further detail in the coming sections.
BING & YAHOO ADS
Drag orange bar below to view both examples
So you have a business? Great! But how do you get people to find you through search and how do you earn ratings for your services and products? Well, before you can begin to see any of the ratings above let’s explain what processes are at work to allow them to appear. Onward down the trail!
What is schema/schema.org?
On June 2nd 2011, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo announced the joint alliance of schema.org. This alliance allowed for, “a common foundation of support for a set of microdata types.” (Vanessa Fox)
In English please?
Essentially, schema is a type of data that makes it easier for search engines to interpret information on your web pages effectively, so search results are more relevant. In essence, schema is the blueprint of your website, and the architect (search engine) uses it to build the structure of a search.
The schema.org code then provides for the next step in our cross-country travels: rich snippets.
Rich Snippets (No, it’s not a singer from the 80’s)
Rich Snippets is the term used to describe structured data markup that developers can add to existing HTML. In turn, it allows for search engines to better understand the data on your site so it can be presented with more appeal and in ever-changing new ways. Major search engines have taken this initial step and progressed a bit further by allowing these markups to present better search results, enabling anyone who searches to find the information they are looking for easier - whether it’s with a picture, ratings or custom displays like this:
What is Googlebot, Crawling, and Indexing?
According to Google, “Googlebot is Google's web crawling program (sometimes also called a "spider"). Crawling is the process by which Googlebot discovers new and updated content.
Google uses a huge set of computers to crawl billions of pages on the internet. Googlebot uses an algorithmic process: computer programs determine which sites to crawl, how often, and how many pages to fetch from each site.
Explain it like I'm five years old please?
So now we’re getting somewhere! Now that we have an understanding of how content is found on the internet by search engines and what they create, let’s delve a bit deeper into what can be added in order for your site to be found quicker and easier, in turn allowing more traffic to reach your site.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PAID & ORGANIC?
Paid search is, well to put it simply, advertising on your behalf that you can set up through a variety of sites to place featured posts of your site at the top and side bar of search results.
Organic search are all the other results that appear when you type in a query into a search engine, all ranked from top to bottom by how often they’re clicked and the value of their content as determined by crawlers.
What are review/ad extensions?
Ad extensions are extra pieces of relevant information within text ads. There are different types of ad extensions, some which are more ideal for certain business types than others.
One example is a location extension.
Location extensions display an address and phone number, sometimes also with a link to directions to help searchers get exactly what they’re looking for in one click, rather than having to dig through a website or other searches.
- A. Google Adwords is an online advertising program that lets you reach new customers and grow your business. With AdWords, you choose where your ad appears, set a budget you're comfortable with, and measure the impact of your ad.
B. Google Rich snippets for products
If you're a merchant, you provide Google detailed product information to be used to display rich snippets, as we discussed earlier, directly onto search pages.
Using markup to enable rich snippets lets you:
- Attract potential buyers by taking up more ‘real estate’ on the webpage with stars that appear flashy to the eye, and you can constantly update the accuracy and any updates to your product for any potential buyers to see upon search.
C. Google Rich snippets for reviews
Reviews and ratings are two ways to express a personal evaluation about a range of items or services. A review is the evaluation described as text, and a rating is an evaluation described on a numeric scale (such as 1 to 5). How Google describes what they do regarding reviews and ratings is as follows: “We support reviews and ratings for a wide range of schema.org types, including businesses, products, and different creative works such as books or movies. When Google finds valid reviews or ratings markup, we may show a rich snippet that includes stars and other summary info from reviews or ratings.” (Enabling Rich Snippets for Reviews & Ratings)
D. Bing & Yahoo ads
We all talk so much about Google, but how do Bing and Yahoo factor into the search equation? Well, Bing Ads will help you reach 33 Percent of U.S. consumers! People searching on Bing and Yahoo sites are shown advertisements powered by Bing Ads. That’s 1 in 3 people in the U.S. who you can reach when they are searching for products, answers and solutions online. According to ComScore, Bing receives 6.2 billion searches a month. So don’t miss out on potential business by using search engines other than Google! In addition, Bing powers search for Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s Siri and is the default search engine on all PCs. (smallbiztrends)
What are seller ratings?
Seller ratings are an automated extension that let people know which advertisers are highly rated for quality service.
Google gathers seller ratings from reputable sources like Trustpilot that aggregate business reviews. This information helps people make more informed browsing and purchasing decisions. Seller ratings can also help you earn more qualified leads and increase your ad performance. (Google)
These allow for users to click through to the reviews, in turn, increasing engagement and spreading brand awareness of your reputation.
To achieve Google Seller Ratings you need at least 150 unique reviews in the past 12 months, with an average rating of 3.5 stars. Best get collecting reviews it seems.
What are product ratings?
As opposed to seller ratings, product ratings are specific to reviews of certain items, rather than let’s say an experience with an online site. Let’s say that, (theoretically) along our trail one of our wagon wheels broke. By the miracle of the internet, we were able to quickly order and receive the perfect replacement with excellent customer service. We might be considerate enough to write them a lovely review for their services. This is where these product ratings would stem from. They would provide the merchant some great feedback, and in addition, let others know that they have a quality service. Win, win!
What are local ratings?
Lastly, there are local ratings. What is Google Plus Local? Google Plus Local is a reviews and ratings site that allows people to rate hotels, nightlife, shopping locations, zoos, music, movies, theatres, golf courses, and even airlines. In September 2011, Zagat was acquired by Google to flesh out Google’s Local service. It has since become tightly integrated with Google Plus to become Google Plus Local. (wishpond) All scores for local search results are rated on a scale from 1 to 5 stars. You can understand the score like this:
View the place on Google Maps or on the business' local Google+ page. On Google Maps, you can see the Google Score, top reviews, and the total number of reviews for the business. On Google+, get quick descriptions of the place, curated automatically from user reviews, and see recent activity from your circles. (Google)
We’ve done it! You now have everything you need to know about star ratings, reviews and the full background behind what is happening to get things to work. But a journey wouldn’t be complete without a quick story to recap the adventure, right? So here it is. Get your marshmallows out, we’re making Smorz.
You! The time is now to take what you’ve learned and start seeing your brand rise to the top of search rankings.
What? Well, you understand ratings and reviews fully now, so get out there and spread the knowledge to your team.
Start with some paid ads and see your brand at the top of searches. It feels good, and trust us, you’ll love the added traffic.
Stars won’t show up every time, this isn’t an evil trick being played on you, so don’t go blasting off your six-shooter in rage. Google has secret algorithms at work here that display ads in various shapes and forms at different types. Question: BUT WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT? Answer: No need to worry. Just because your ad is appearing on the sidebar and then 10 minutes later it’s somewhere else, it doesn’t mean you screwed anything up. You’re doing great, and now your brand’s reach has grown!
See everything above this section.
Because your brand deserves to become a household name for what they excel in. Let your customers spread the word about you and reap the benefits.
Not enough? How about these two tables from anicca for more quick summaries?
Welcome to the west coast!
We hope you’ve enjoyed the journey from the ‘east to the west’ and have a complete understanding as to what all these stars and search items mean now. For more information on what you can do to boost your traffic, click here to learn about how much Trustpilot can help out your search engine optimization efforts and getting more traffic to your brand. From sea(rch) to shining sea(rch).