No-one can accuse Google of being complacent.

With Penguin and Panda now lurking behind every keyword, most site owners have to be more vigilant than ever before when it comes to improving rankings whilst providing a quality online experience for visitors.

Prominent search commentator Danny Sullivan reported on Search Engine Land at the start of the month, though, that Panda and Penguin are just the beginning…

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, recently gave merchants cause for concern

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, recently gave merchants cause for concern by saying:

“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.”

Understandably that’s had webmasters everywhere running for the hills, with the search community speculating long and hard on the factors Google may target. ‘Bad merchants beware’ is the message, but how can Google separate the wheat from the chaff?

Bad reviews are an indicator, but Cutts is looking for other signals, too:

“We are trying to ask ourselves, are there other signals that we can use to spot whether someone is not a great merchant, and if we can find those, and we think that they are not all that spammable, then we’re more than happy to use those.”

Overall Google is looking for merchants to give online shoppers the best experience possible. Here are five tips to improve the quality of your site, improve its reputation and – hopefully – dilute the impacts of any future merchant-targeted algorithm update.

1: Honest Reviews And Google Seller Ratings

Anybody can leave a fake review online, which is a worry. There’s not much to stop competitors leaving a negative review of your site to try and gain an advantage across the thousands of review portals out there.

It’s worth directing your on-site visitors to a trusted, independent social commerce site such as Reevoo and other review sites with a similar reputation.

Positive Google Seller ratings can also provide a measure of trust as it gives merchants seller ratings based on third-party customer reviews and feedback from Google Checkout.

Make sure to locate the most reliable places for people to leave reviews for your services and direct them to those sites through yours with clear calls to action.

2: Complete Google Shopping Data Feeds

Having complete and well-optimised Google Shopping data feeds for your products is a key way for letting people know about the condition of specific items, their availability and more.

Making sure each product is described in intricate detail, and giving potential customers as much information as possible, is crucial to merchants building trust with both Google and potential customers.

Make sure that your data feeds are as clear as they can be, that your products stand out with high-definition visuals, well-written descriptions, competitive prices and more.

3: A Prominent Social Presence

Create A Prominent Social Presence For Your Brand

Rumour has it that the merchant update may very well favour how well-known the brand is and how active it is over social media.

Brands that communicate with their followers, answer their questions and are a positive presence are more likely to find favour with the new update when it rolls out.

Being active with consumers over a number of social media channels in a positive manner is its own reward, and will help spread word of your brand over time and help gain consumers’ trust.

But also think of your social media presence in an all-encompassing manner and how it can benefit the rest of your brand. Those customer reviews we mentioned earlier – a sustained and positive social media presence will keep you in people’s minds, and encourage them to spread word of how far you go to provide a quality service to others.

4: Create A Quality Shopping Cart

We’ve mentioned before about how important it is to make the shopping experience as easy as possible for visitors through clear and creative web design. We’re positive that it’s a factor Google will keep a close eye on when releasing the merchant algorithm update.

So, how easy is it for new and return visitors to buy products on your website? Do shoppers have the ability to sign into your website, with a profile that stores all their payment options if they’ve bought from you before?

How easy is it for people browsing your site to add items to their shopping cart, and are they able to view what they’ve added and easily remove items if a mistake’s been made? Are total prices also listed, including how much people have to pay in VAT and shipping expenses?

Do you also clearly state which forms of payment your business accepts, and provide visitors with clear directions if they request a refund? Make the shopping experience as easy as possible as people, which will help generate a core userbase of long-term, loyal customers.

5: The Trust Factor

Create A Quality Online Shopping Cart For Your Site

All-in-all it all boils down to building a positive, trusting relationship with your visitors. Google will likely be looking at how much information you provide for customers to help build that trust online and beyond.

For example, do your site pages have visible, prominent phone numbers on them for customers to contact if they have an urgent enquiry? How visible is your privacy policy and the terms and conditions for each sale? Are they easy to read?

Having a service available for people to track their orders is also a great way to build trust. Going as far to show them the status of their order and how far along it is on its route is a fantastic way to go above and beyond for your customers.

The reality is that, like most Google updates, nobody’s going to know exactly how they’ll affect a site or a merchant until it’s been released into the wild. The above tips should be the right starting point though into safeguarding your site when Google’s roving eye lands on merchants of all types, shapes and sizes.


If you’d like to know more about the services we can offer to improve your rankings, your online reputation and more, contact Webpresence today!