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Elevate Social Proof with Customer Images in Google Shopping

Larry VanDenHandel on September 13, 2019

Google, in an October 2019 announcement, introduced user-generated images in product reviews on Google Shopping:

“To help shoppers feel more confident in their purchases, we’re introducing user-generated images in product reviews on Google Shopping. You can now include review images in your product review feeds, allowing customers to visually connect with what you sell through pictures of previous customers wearing or using your products.”

What does this mean?

Google’s new feature allows customer-submitted photos to be shown on Google Shopping product review feeds when using mobile currently available in the US (though they have plans to expand to more countries in the coming months). This feature enables prospective customers to see what the product looks like in a non-promotional way.

Here’s an example of how it looks:

user-generated content photo on google review
Source: Google Ads Help

In addition, the same images can also be shown on the shopping ad that includes a review from a customer to boost the social proof of the said product or business.

Why is this important for your business?

First off, let’s talk about Google. You probably know this but Google is the biggest search engine in the world with more than 63 thousand searches per second. In terms of product searches, 35% of them start on Google.

Google has a service called “Google Shopping”, where users — your prospective customers — search products and compare prices from different merchants.

You should take searches on Google Shopping seriously since it’s the largest growth opportunity for most online retailers in 2019 and it will only continue to grow. In terms of ad share, it’s been noticed that there’s a steady increase in the share of Google Shopping traffic.

showcase shopping ad share of phone google shopping clicks from search engine land
Source: Search Engine Land

Now that we’ve established facts and reasons why Google Shopping is important, let’s talk briefly about customer reviews, especially ones with photos, and why they’re important.

According to research by Podium, 93% of customers are positive that online reviews affect their purchasing decisions. How much more would it affect their decision if those reviews have photos? Visuals are major marketing assets that make your product more envisionable.

In short, customer photos on reviews featured on Google Shopping will affect the purchasing decision of prospective customers, which in turn will affect your conversion and revenue. At the same time, those reviews featuring powerful social proof will help turn these prospects into buyers.

How does it work?

There are three methods to submit product reviews for your products:

  1. Setup your own Google Customer Reviews
  2. Upload your review feed to Merchant Center in XML format
  3. With the use of review platforms like TrustSpot

Once you set it up, photos are automatically fed into Google.

1. Setup your own Google Customer Reviews

If you’re familiar with javascript and you have GTIN attributes for your products, you can add snippets to your checkout page or thank you page. If your customers have opted in to your store, they would receive an email from Google to rate and review their experience with your store.

Here’s an illustrative example from Google of the email your customers would receive:

google customer reviews illustrative example
Source: Google

To start, you’ll have to create an account on Google’s Merchant Center. After that, you’ll have to enable customer reviews from your account and approve to Google Customer Reviews Program Agreement.

Then, simply follow the instructions given on the integration guide to enable Customer Reviews for your store. The code to gather product reviews on your site is found on the product rating instruction.

2. Upload your review feed

Another thing you can do is to feed the product reviews yourself. If you’re not a developer, you can hire one or use a third-party plugin for your site.

The first thing you have to do is sign up for Google’s Product Ratings Interest Form. Make sure you have at least 50 product reviews before submitting the form. Google will contact you for more details.

If you get accepted, Google will enable Google Shopping Reviews for your Merchant Center and you can submit your feed in the format Google specified. If you need help, Google has an informative article about how to upload your product ratings feed to the merchant center.

3. Using review platforms like TrustSpot

Out of the methods listed here, this is by far the easiest way to submit product ratings and reviews to Google.

For example, with TrustSpot, you can set your site to automatically feed reviews and ratings into Google within 20 seconds. Once you’re in a certain paid plan, all you have to do is enable the Google Shopping feature within your Google Merchant Center account and add the feed from TrustSpot and voila!

search optimization feature from trustspot
Source: TrustSpot

After that, all product reviews are automatically pushed into Google Shopping. However, if you’re not on TrustSpot and your review platform doesn’t support such a feature, you can ask your platform to fill the Product Ratings Partnership Request form. This may take some time to get approved.

Will all user-generated images get featured in product reviews?

Here’s a short answer — NO.

Customer-submitted images on reviews are part of product reviews as a whole. The reviews, including the images submitted by your customers, must strictly be in accordance with the content policies set by Google as well as the formatting criteria.

Google laid out a clear formatting criteria as shown in this screenshot:

image style formatting criteria from google
Source: Google Merchant Center Help

In short, for the images to be featured in product reviews:

  • High-quality resolution (no blurry photos)
  • Taken by the customer himself
  • Relevant to the product (no promotion of other products)
  • Little to no filters (no art renderings)
  • If there’s an overlay, it should be relevant and shouldn’t be distracting

In addition, Google made it clear that photos shot in private locations that are identifiable should not be published without the owner’s permission.

You have to make sure that these are followed since users can report images that violate the policies. The reviews will then be deleted by Google and depending on the violation, Google may have to shut down your product reviews feed.

What to do now?

As you’ve read, product reviews, especially those with images, greatly affect your revenue.

If you haven’t started now, better be quick and get online reviews for your business. If you don’t know how, we published a guide that has 9 effective ways to increase your customer reviews.

Interested in TrustSpot?

Schedule a demo with one of our team members to learn more.

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