What Will Google Trusted Stores Mean for WordPress Users?

Just a few months ago, Google launched a new program call “Google Trusted Stores.”

As a WordPress user selling products and services online and trying to gain rankings and traffic, you might assume this has nothing to do with the future of your business.

As long as you keep on creating great content, building back links and climbing up the search engine rankings you’re in good shape right?

Not really, and if you’ve got five minutes, I’ll tell you why this new Google program is yet another thread in the social tapestry which will soon cover over the traditional practices of SEO and online marketing as we know it.

Understanding the principles behind the creation of Google Trusted Stores could also help you increase conversions and repeat business for your WordPress site and possibly offer some insight into how Google will be ranking websites in the near future:

How the Google Trusted Stores Program Works

The following list was taken directly from Google’s description of the Trusted Store program requirements. I’ve underlined the places which I believe WordPress users need to pay attention to, whether they’re interested in the Trusted Store Program or not:

**********START OF GOOGLE TRUSTED STORE DETAILS**********

Qualifications

  • US Merchants only, English as the primary language on the website
  • Clearly Visible Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, Returns, and Shipping policies
  • No selling of Google Prohibited Items.
  • Drop shippers are allowed, but not through ready-made drop shipping sites. Merchants must charge the card and cause an item to be shipped.
  • Accurate inventory availability at all times

Performance Requirements  

  • On-time shipping > 90%
  • More than 100 orders on a rolling 28 day basis
  • > 50% trackable shipments
  • 90% of orders must have an actual ship date within 3 days of estimated ship date
  • Average time to shipments less than or equal to 14 days
  • < 2.5% cancellation rate
  • < 10% of orders are pre-orders or backorders
  • Merchant must respond to the customer questions within 2 business days 99% of the time
  • 99% resolution rate to customer questions within 2 business days
  • 100% of refunds  within 2 days if product does not have to be returned by customers, or within 6 days of receipt of a returned item.
  • Google code on every page to track shoppers, and code to pass data back to Google on the receipt/thank-you page.
  • Code, Manual entry, or a data feed to pass tracking numbers, cancellations, and refunds back to Google for measurement.

Steps to Become Member of Google Trusted Stores

1.      Place the Google Trusted Stores code on your website

2.      Google monitors your shipping and customer service for 28 days

3.      If your store meets the Trusted Store requirements, your site becomes a Google Trusted Store

**********END OF GOOGLE TRUSTED STORE DETAILS**********

Okay, big deal.

You get a nice Google Trusted Store badge on your WordPress site and maybe you’ll make a few more sales right? Actually, there’s a bit more to it than that.

When your site visitors hover over the Trusted Store badge, they’ll be able to see your site’s performance. Google will also mediate between the Trusted Store Merchants and their customers and offer the option for customers to purchase protection on eligible purchases.

Essentially, being a member of Google Trusted Store will be much like being a member of the Better Business Bureau. Their objective is to protect consumers from bogus businesses, or even businesses with poor customer service performance, and to provide trusted businesses with an opportunity to earn more market share.

But Why Should You Care?

So how is this new Google Program relevant to you as a WordPress user? You can find other ways to increase conversions. You can build back links and post keyword rich content on your WordPress blog.

Who needs a nifty “Trusted Store” badge?

Okay, so maybe you don’t care about becoming a member, but if you care about your search engine rankings you need to take a closer look at how Google is determining which stores are trusted. Can you spot the common thread in the qualifications and performance requirements listed above?

The common treads are: responsiveness, great customer service and a commitment to delivering exactly what the customer wants. But undergirding all these principles is the principle of trust.

Google isn’t in the business of counting back links and indexing meta tags, keywords and keyword rich content. Google is in the trust business, and programs like the Trusted Store program are designed to help consumers connect with trusted businesses.

It’s the same thing with everything Google does, including their organic search rankings…and THAT is where WordPress users need to pay attention. How well will Google be able to measure the social value and customer service performance of your WordPress site within the next two years?

What kind of technology will they develop to track how responsive you are to your customers and whether your WordPress store is selling products based on questionable or credible claims? Once again, the Google Trusted Store requirements suggest that it’s only a matter of time before such things impact your search engine rankings.

Many of them are already. For example, naturally, the Google Trusted Store program cannot be used by sites selling illegal items or pornography, but the qualifications don’t stop there. According to Google, any site selling “unsubstantiated cures, remedies, or other products marketed as quick health fixes,” will not qualify.

Again, this ^ requirement is undergirded by the principle of trust and you can bet that Google’s search algorithms are also being refined in order to weed out such sites. So there are a few key questions to ask yourself as you’re doing your ranking analysis for your WordPress site, some of which might appear to have nothing to do with SEO.

How trustworthy are you in delivering exactly what your customers want, responding promptly to concerns, questions and complaints?

Can the claims on your products be backed up with rock solid evidence or by authentic customer reviews?

Do you have a clearly stated privacy policy and terms of service on your WordPress site?

If your customers could see into your business practices and monitor how much integrity you were demonstrating in every transaction, would they still want to do business with you?

Would they feel comfortable sharing your products and services with their Facebook friends?

Are you still putting the majority of your effort into building back links and optimizing your site content to gain rankings?

If these questions raise any doubts, it’s probably time to consider the moves Google has made over the past year:

  1. They released the Penguin update to weed out over-optimized sites.
  2. They began requiring anyone posting a review on Google places to have a Google + account.
  3. They launched Google trusted stores, which will reward sites that perform well in customer service.

Once again, the undergirding principle in all of these strategies is trust and authentic customer service. In his recent book “No BS Trust Based Marketing,” Dan Kennedy said that no matter what business you’re in, you need to get out of it and get into the business of selling trust.

Trust is the currency of the new economy, and if you can earn it, earning money and growing your business will be easy. Plenty of WordPress plugins have been created for collecting and posting customer reviews, building customer support systems and Q & A environments for your WordPress site and making it a trust rich environment.

So you have all the tools you need to get out of your current business and to get into the trust business alongside Goode, and it’s time to make it happen.

Best,

Seth C

10 Responses

  • This is terrifying.

    In order to get this enhanced visibility from Google, you need only sacrifice your customers’ privacy, and be willing to have Google “mediate” on their behalf.

    Google doesn’t even answer their own customers’ support requests. And Google doesn’t exactly have a crystal clear privacy record.

    Mark my words, this is going to get ugly. I can already imagine lawsuits from customers of sites that sell media, for Google violating their viewing history (a federal offense in the USA). And lawsuits from stores being excluded for selling legal products which Google doesn’t approve of – such as ammunition. Sigh.

  • Hey Shawn,

    Some interesting points here. I’m with you on Google’s lack of responsiveness to their own customer service calls, they’re horrendous. But if there’s one thing Google does damn well it’s holding other companies accountable for the things they don’t practice themselves.

    As for the lawsuits, I’m sure Google will have a 26 page disclaimer for customers to click the checkbox on (which no one will read of course) that will give them the permission to monitor purchases and buying records. The Trusted store documentation doesn’t say how much access Google will have either, but my God…just think about what they can already get access to if you have the Google desktop tools and/or Chrome installed.

    As for the exclusion of certain businesses, hard to believe that anyone could make a legal case out of that, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they tried. Frankly, I think companies have the right to decide who to do business with. Like many other online marketers, I would like to see some more competition from Bing and Yahoo. Google has way to much power over the internet…then again, they have a much superior search engine.

    Time will tell, but regardless of what happens people need to pay attention to what Google is doing and why they’re doing it…even if the outcome ends up being less than desirable.

    Thanks for the comment

    • Hulu has already been sued for the video history functionality, and Netflix has refused to allow history sharing for fear of reprisal. Unless the law is changed, this will definitely be a way for the govt to get a few $billion from Google.

      As for the exclusionary products – under US law a public company can only refuse to do business with others based on certain limits, and there are several protected classes, of which I guarantee there will be some marketers who can spin the refusal to do business with a company because they sell ammunition into a violation of the 2nd amendment or the refusal to allow porn to be a violation of the 1st.

      Since Google has a near monopoly in this regard, they are under far more scrutiny and *any* exclusions they make like this are going to be evaluated for any possible offense. Something like this will definitely draw out those looking to cash in on Google’s success. Surely we’ll find out about it with those nifty little “class action” letters we get from random lawyers sometime next year.

  • I’ve had nothing but good experiences with google customer support, and from a privacy standpoint…sure they have the ability to monitor what we do online if we allow it, but they’re one of the only companies not giving into government and private concern requests for that info – even in the face of lawsuits. I can appreciate that.

    I also believe if you don’t know how to control your online settings you shouldn’t be mad at how your information is treated.

    Ok, now I’m climbing down from my soap box to comment on the actual post:

    it seems seth is one of the few people out there writing about how these little movements tell a larger picture about SEO, and I do think they’re important. I don’t know why, but it always surprises me when the SEO ‘experts’ refuse to move off what they know or understand to even try to conceive the bigger picture.

    And to make my comment even longer – I suggest reading ZMOT – by the global head of marketing for google. It’s a free ebook, but it was a huge research initiative for google last year about the web and customer service, and how the internet is changing the way products are sold-how people shop – research, confirm, review, talk to friends, then buy.
    And from a business standpoint – it talks alot about the companies which prosper are the ones who take social customer support seriously. I think that book ties in directly with what I’m seeing here iwth the google stores.

  • Great comment, and ZMOT is a damn good read to for anyone who really wants to know where online commerce is going and why.

    I suspect ZMOT’s lack of lasting popularity, as well as the other clues being alluded to by things like Google Trusted stores, probably has a lot to do with fear and good old garden variety laziness.

    Building backlinks is certainly easier than building relationships and trying to decode an algorithm is easier than trying to understand the human needs which drive economics (offline and on). That’s why so few marketers get in the game and stay in the game and why even fewer are thriving.

    Anyone reading and who is interested should also consider Dan Kennedy’s new book “Trust Based Marketing,” where he talks about trust being the currency of the new economy. Brilliant, and very timely.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • New Recruit

    For prior posters, the OP was highlighting a current trending change in SEO practices for tracking certain user provided metrics. No more or less “invasive” than some similar ways in which Ebay tracks seller activity.

    Moreover I hardly think the methods and resultant conclusions that tracking this data afford should be considered unscrupulous in any regard. These analytics are taught to your children through University and even further initiate in grade school as the future business they want to be involved in. Disgraceful how any one would stand in the way of business and progress.

    In any event plugin vendors had better get moving with integration here. This is much more than simply using product and shipping feeds. There currently exist several methods of data tracking that other carts like Magento and universal asp scripts already have a leap on. Not surprised that WP vendors are lagging behind But with such popular back end software used in ecommerce applications Woo for example needs more attention to extensability when it comes to Google Trusted Store integration. Here is hoping this becomes more mainstream and soon.

  • New Recruit

    I wanted to followup with one more mention /advice. For ecommerce apps and plugin or widget users where your develop has not yet setup feeds regarding the data pull, Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty!

    Especially lower volume sites can jump into their template and theme files for some quick code as the OP advises.

    Get away from manual entry but be proactive with what your developers should set up. Just done this recently.

    If you go the extra mile to integrate feeds yourself you’ll probably feel stupid when an upgrade does this for you.

    But for any packages where this isn’t integrated knowing some basic PHP for example can get tracking setup!

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