Ecommerce & the Bad Merchant Update | 9xb Digital Agency

Bad Merchant Update

With many sites still dealing with the repercussions of the Panda and Penguin updates, the last thing anyone wants to worry about is another change to Google’s algorithm. Yet there is another big change just around the corner, with the ‘Merchant Quality Update’ expected to be rolled out soon. The update was first revealed by Matt Cutts in April 2013 at the SXSW in Austin, Texas:  

“We have a potential launch later this year, maybe a little bit sooner, looking at the quality of  merchants and whether we can do a better job on that, because we don’t want low quality experience merchants to be ranking in the search results.”

The news is of course most worrying for businesses with Ecommerce sites and many will fear the impact that the ‘Merchant Quality Update’ will have.  So what can you do to prevent your site from being penalised when the new update goes live?

Raise Your Game

There has been much discussion in recent months over whether Google can and will use reviews as part of how they differentiate between good and bad merchants. 

Considering the fact that they already display seller ratings in the form of stars in AdWords adverts, it is highly likely that reviews will be utilised as part of the organic search algorithm.  

These reviews are collected by Google Product Search, which collates reviews from numerous sources, before calculating an average rating out of 5. If you have poor quality online reviews, you need to pay attention to what those reviews say and make the required changes.  Whilst we can only speculate as to the exact details, we’d hope that Google gives more weight to the most recent reviews, as not to penalise businesses that have had poor reviews in the past, but have since made improvements to how they operate. 

So listen to your customers and make the improvements to ensure that you receive better reviews moving forwards. 

Then sit tight and hope that they begin to filter through before the ‘Merchant Quality Update’ hits.

Listen to Google

Having been traditionally guarded about how search works, in 2013 Google published their Search Quality Guidelines.  Under the section titled ‘Recognising true merchants’ we are given a clear list of what Google consider to be key indicators that an Ecommerce site can be trusted:

  • a “view your shopping cart” link that stays on the same site.
  • a shopping cart that updates when you add items to it.
  • a return policy with a physical address.
  • a shipping charge calculator that works.
  • a “wish list” link, or a link to postpone the purchase of an item until later.
  • a way to track FedEx orders.
  • a user forum that works.
  • the ability to register or login.
  • a gift registry that works.

Although the document states that a site does not have to meet every criterion in order to be considered a trusted merchant, it is a good idea to try and comply with as many of them as you can, as soon as you can.

Get Affiliated

Google’s Trusted Stores is a badging program used to identify merchants that are considered to be reliable.  In order to be accepted, your business must meet a series of conditions, including:

  • At least 500 orders per month
  • 90% of deliveries arriving on time
  • High levels of customer service

The minimum number of orders per month may be prohibitive for smaller merchants.  However, any medium to large merchant that meets the requirements is advised to look into getting affiliated with the Google’s Trusted Stores program. 

Not only will the badge indicate to your customers that they can buy from your site with confidence; you can also be sure that Google will use it as a quick and easy way of measuring the quality of your site when it comes to ordering search results.