A Guide to Google’s Safety Measures for Online Shoppers

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By Boris Dzhingarov

Google has always said that the safety of its users is paramount. With an increase in online shopping activity and the number of ecommerce platforms, Google wants to ensure that all websites shown when users search for a product are legitimate. They also want to ensure that customers receive exactly what they ask for and that the website has safety checks. To this end, Google has implemented various ways of ensuring this. They have numerous tools and features in place to ensure the safety of users and shoppers so that they always know who to trust and buy from. Let’s look at the measures they have in place.

Vetting Merchants Quickly and Accurately Using Automation

All merchants and products undergo thorough safety checks and reviews before they are listed on Google. Google does this to ensure they meet set standards, which are very high considering how many people trust the company’s recommendations when shopping online.

To do this quickly and accurately, the company uses its Shopping Graph, a large database and data set of sellers and products worldwide. Using the Shopping Graph, the search engine giant can check whether a business is legitimate, whether its content meets the company’s guidelines and standards, and whether the products listed are accurate.

Google uses this automated system for these checks because millions of merchants want to list their products on search result pages, and doing these checks manually is impossible. The system ensures a safe, fast, and efficient vetting process for the millions of products and merchants who want to be listed.

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This vetting process also applies to products obtained through crawling. Using the system ensures all crawled, indexed and ranked products do not violate their rules. These rules prohibit listing dangerous products like violent products, hateful content and business misrepresentation by merchants.

Store Badges and Other Visual Cues

Google also has a list of online merchants who provide a quality service. It issues them with a store badge that users can use to verify that they are dealing with a quality merchant and can expect a positive shopping experience with them.

The criteria the company uses to judge the quality of merchants include good user ratings, high-quality websites and website experiences, easy returns, and fast shipping. Google also compares similar businesses in the same category and market to judge where a company meets the expected threshold for providing an excellent service.

Google shows the “Trusted Badge” for both items and individual merchants so users can learn what to expect at a glance if they decide to engage the services of a business or buy its products. Since product listings link directly to a merchant’s website, Google makes it easier to visit and do additional research on them.

On the website, Google advises that you look for other indicators of a high-quality merchant, such as having their address displayed on their contact page, and ratings and reviews if available.

Automated and Human Reviews for Monitoring Listings and Merchants

Google says that ensuring a customer is safe, listings are correct, and merchants are not misrepresenting themselves goes on even after a product or merchant has been listed on their search result pages.

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Google uses both automated systems and human reviewers to keep an eye on merchants and their listings. The automated system can kick out merchants who violate rules, while the team of human reviewers always stands by to check issues requiring a nuanced approach.

Some issues Google keeps an eye on are companies that lower their prices by a lot once they are listed, presumably to undercut their competition, and companies that start selling different products once they are listed. Doing so could signal that the company misled Google when it was listed and is now trying to mislead consumers.

Google takes different measures depending on the severity of the violation. They may remove suspicious listings in case of massive price drops or misleading behavior, or they can even ban merchants from listing on Google if they see serious violations. All of these measures help protect consumers and ensure merchants remain honest.

Google also wants users to be involved in making their shopping listings safe for all users. They do this by allowing customers to report suspicious products and merchants. Customers can use the “report a listing” link at the bottom of a product page to alert Google that something doesn’t look right, or a merchant is violating the company’s rules.

Individual Safety Measures

In addition to the official safety measures Google has in place to protect consumers, the company also provides guidelines that users should apply when shopping online.

Avoid Public Networks and Computers

Although it does not happen as much these days due to better Wi-Fi security, man-in-the-middle attacks can occur when using a public Wi-Fi connection. It happens when a third party intercepts your connection and siphons data, such as your name and credit card data. You would not realize this was happening because you are connected to their connection and do not know how the router is configured.

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Public computers also do not have the best security, putting you and your data at risk whenever you use them.

Check for an HTTPS Connection

Google does not list websites that do not use HTTPS on their shopping pages. The reason is that connections to these websites are not encrypted, thus making it much easier for someone to intercept the data sent between a server and a browser.

The easiest way to check that a website is safe is to check for the green padlock or “https” in the address bar. Some websites only use SSL certificates on their payment pages and not the rest of the site. This means some of their pages will be insecure while the payment page will be secure. Although providing these websites with your information can be safe, it is best to avoid them.

Google has put several measures in place to help protect its users from unscrupulous merchants and bad product listings. Their vetting process ensures only high-quality merchants and listings on their result pages, and their human vetting team also checks reported listings. The company also provides advice for individuals to protect themselves further when shopping online.