Google shows apparent contempt to SMEs

August 2016

Up until very recently, I’d always seen Google as a champion for the SME. For one, both organic and paid search were a relatively level playing field against a corporate giant – provided of course that your website was optimised to the maximum for the former and you had the money to compete on the latter. But for paid search – or PPC (pay per click) – Google has just made an extraordinary decision which pulls the rug from under most SMEs, and in so doing has demonstrated a blatant preference for big business. This is what they’ve done . . .

Google Seller Ratings are the number and stars that appear in certain PPC results – or to be more specific Google Ad Words results – as you can see here for a wine company.


The rating figure is taken from a number of third party review sites and its own Google Checkout. Previously, all you needed was 30 reviews for your rating to appear in your ad, with research and analysis showing that the feature could improve click-through rates from the ad by up to 17%. So very worth having.

The minimum threshold of 30 reviews suited SMEs, because for most markets operated in and with most product categories, it was a relatively easy figure to achieve – though the figure is a rolling one for the last 12 months. But now Google has changed the figure and increased it to a whopping 150. Which is probably okay if you’re selling wine like the company above and therefore are processing a very large number of orders, but how about if you’re selling high value bespoke kitchens at a rate of one a week from each of your small chain of showrooms? Not a chance, and the highest percentage of reviews versus sales that are likely to be achieved is apparently 17% – but 5% is the norm. But one thing is for sure: if you’re a very big business and regardless of your product categories and markets, 150 reviews should be a doddle.

This seemingly inexplicable change by Google has caused me a fair degree of grief, because I do have a client which sells relatively high value bespoke kitchens, operates from a handful of showrooms, and just three months ago I convinced them that we should sign-up with Trust Pilot (probably the best of the third party shopping review platforms and a Google partner). And part of my rationale for spending the £7,000 plus on the annual Trust Pilot fee, was to increase our click-through rate on PPC – with PPC being critical within our mix of marketing tactics.

At the time of writing I’m still in negotiations with Trust Pilot on behalf of my client to reach some sort of settlement, because, clearly, if you’re sold a product based on a set of figures (in this case a threshold of 30 reviews) and the figures are then radically changed after you’ve paid your money, then you’d want some sort of recompense. Of course it isn’t Trust Pilot’s fault – and I don’t doubt they’re as unhappy with the change as I am and indeed my client is – but they are a Google partner and use Googles stats to sell their own product.

Right now it’s all an unhappy mess and there will be countless SMEs across the globe as grumpy about it as I am, with the only possible light at the end of the tunnel being a) a possible U-turn by Google, or b) they launch a new type of seller rating which is specifically aimed at SMEs. We’ll wait and see.

Contact us now to find out more about how we could help and support your business.

T: 01463 871988

or complete this form and we will be in contact very soon