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Google's Structured Data Update: A Boost for Merchant Sales

Google's Structured Data Update: A Boon for Merchant Sales

Google has updated its structured data guidelines, now supporting a sitewide return policy within the Organization structured data. This update streamlines the SEO process for online merchants by eliminating the need to include redundant return policy information for every product listing. While the old method remains unchanged, this new approach offers a more efficient alternative, potentially increasing traffic and sales for online merchants.


Improved Brand Knowledge Panels

Google's update to the Organization structured data will also enhance the brand panel displayed during brand name searches. The revised brand panel will now include a section highlighting the company's return policy, making this information more accessible to potential customers. This enhancement means that users searching for a brand will immediately see important policy details, which can instill confidence and trust in the brand.


For example, if a customer knows upfront that a company has an excellent return policy, they are more likely to make a purchase, knowing they have the option to return the product if it doesn't meet their expectations. Additionally, this visibility can differentiate a brand from competitors who may not have such transparent policies. By providing this information directly in the search results, Google helps brands showcase their commitment to customer satisfaction, which can lead to increased loyalty and repeat business. Notably, a clear return policy can reduce customer hesitation, streamline the decision-making process, and ultimately contribute to a smoother shopping experience.


Advantages of Organization-Level Return Policies

Advantages of Organization-Level Return Policies

This change means that merchants can now display their return policies in Knowledge Panels and Brand Panels, making their policies more visible in search results. This increased visibility can lead to higher click-through rates (CTR) from search engine results pages (SERPs) and improved conversion rates. According to a 2024 study by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), online shoppers are significantly influenced by a merchant’s return policy. An easily accessible and transparent return policy not only builds trust but also reduces purchase anxiety, making customers feel more confident about their buying decisions.

For instance, companies like Zappos, known for their excellent return policies, have seen notable success and customer loyalty. By clearly displaying return policies, merchants can differentiate themselves from competitors who may have less customer-friendly return procedures. This can be especially beneficial during peak shopping seasons, where customers are more likely to prioritize convenience and hassle-free returns. In addition, prominently featured return policies can improve brand reputation and customer satisfaction, leading to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth referrals.

A study carried out by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) in 2024 reveals that customers who buy online are significantly impacted by a seller's return policy. They discovered:

“82% of respondents said that when shopping online, return policies influence whether they decide to purchase from a retailer. … If retailers charged a fee to ship back purchases made online, nearly three-fourths (71%) of respondents said they’d likely stop shopping online from that company altogether, while 6 in 10 said they’d likely stop shopping online with retailers that shortened the free return window.”

Overall, Google's update empowers merchants to leverage their return policies as a strategic advantage in attracting and retaining customers.


Google's Official Announcement

Google has updated its organization structured data documentation to support this SEO new method of displaying return policies. The new documentation provides detailed guidelines on how merchants can implement these changes to optimize their visibility in search results. By including return policies at the organizational level, merchants can now ensure that their policies are uniformly presented across all product listings, leading to a more consistent user experience. This consistency not only enhances trust and transparency but also simplifies the implementation process for web developers, reducing the time and resources needed for updates.


 Additionally, Google’s emphasis on structured data helps search engines better understand and index these policies, which can lead to improved search rankings. For instance, merchants who adopt these guidelines may see their return policies highlighted directly in search snippets, making it easier for potential customers to access this information without additional clicks. This ease of access is particularly valuable in competitive markets where customer trust and convenience can significantly influence purchasing decisions. By staying up to date with Google's structured data updates, merchants can maintain a competitive edge and ensure their return policies are prominently featured in search results, ultimately driving more traffic and boosting sales. Google’s announcement explained:

“A return policy is a major factor considered by shoppers when buying products online, and so last year we enabled the extraction of structured data return policies for individual products. Today we’re adding support for return policies at the organization level as well, which means you’ll be able to specify a general return policy for your business instead of having to define one for each individual product you sell. Adding a return policy to your organization structured data is especially important if you don’t have a Merchant Center account and want the ability to provide a return policy for your business. Merchant Center already lets you provide a return policy for your business, so if you have a Merchant Center account we recommend defining your return policy there instead. …If your site is an online or local business, we recommend using one of the OnlineStore, or LocalBusiness subtypes of Organization. We hope this addition makes it easier for you to add return policies for your business, and enable them to be shown across Google shopping experiences.”


Maximizing Sales with Updated Structured Data

Google's enhancement of eCommerce structured data guidelines for sitewide return policies presents a significant opportunity for online merchants. By streamlining the process and making return policies more visible in search results, merchants can potentially boost traffic, improve click-through rates, and increase sales. Embracing these updates ensures that merchants can effectively communicate their return policies, ultimately influencing consumer purchasing decisions and fostering greater trust and satisfaction among shoppers.


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