But it isn't a business rating service. It's a site or page rating service, if you prefer the term "rating service" to "search engine."
Wrong again. Its whole dynamic of the last few years has been pointed towards being a business rating service. Its purchases and even its efforts in Local Search have been geared towards rating businesses.
I've never heard anyone seriously suggest that the 200+ factors in the Google organic-search algorithm include shipping speed, returns policies, restocking fees, customer-service hours, and similar "retail factors."
A few years ago, someone used a lot of negative commentary on these subjects to get to their site to the top of Google. Even Google and its FUD buddies (the cargo-cult SEOs that believe every rumour and speculation) have been going on about Trust Rank and this looks very like an attempt to implement a business rating service.
Matt Cutts & Co. have been telling us to focus on building great content for users if we want to do well in Google Search. They haven't said anything about keeping merchandise in stock, providing tracking numbers, or being quick to ship.
Whatever happened to Google Merchant?
If you want to do well in Google organic search, you need to publish original content of intrinsic value to users and attract freely-given links that Google can count as "votes."
People don't link the way they used to link. They assume that search engines will find their sites without links. Without link data from new websites (either from bugged browsers, Analytics or Adsense) Google is missing a lot of new websites, especially ccTLD sites, because they have no inbound links.
This is where most small e-commerce sites are at a disadvantage compared to megasites like Amazon.com or Booking.com.
More cargo-cult SEO and noise from Google's FUD buddies? :) Links to Amazon.com and Booking.com at an index page level are rare. The most common sites with links from index pages now are likely to be to Social Media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Linkedin.
The latter are big enough to attract a critical mass of user-written reviews.
Amazon is a kind of walled garden when it comes to reviews and content. Amazon associate links, with articles on various products or books, rather than laudatory reviews of Amazon are far more common.
The bottom line is pretty simple: If you want to rank well in a search engine that cares about page content, then write pages with content of intrinsic value--or pay someone to write those pages for you.
Search engines do not care about content. They are typically a set of algorithms working together to produce a result and often a result that can be monetised. The whole Page Rank model worked well but it was, like any simple system, exploitable. Rather than fixing the basic problems, it would seem that Google has merely tried to patch a very large string bag one hole at a time. Now it has an accretion of patches masquerading as an "algorithm". The instability in the SERPs seems to be due to the way that these patches are tweaked and the unexpected effects on existing patches when new ones are applied.
What a lot of SEOs have missed is the way that Social Media has changed Search. The web is no longer a situation where Search is purely algorithmically driven. A recommendation on Facebook is becoming far more important. A mention on Twitter by a poster with a lot of followers may drive more traffic than good position in SERPs. Google's Google+ isn't even a serious player in the Social Media scene compared to Facebook or Twitter. Simply concentrating on creating "pages with content of intrinsic value" is the kind of FUD that Amit Singhal came out with in that post about what constitutes a "good" website where Google is concerned. The web is far richer and more complex that that. It has sites that are complete rubbish and sites that are diamonds. The problem for Google is that it is the user that decides the value of a site rather than an algorithm. And Social Media is playing a more important role in that valuation.
Rather than jumping over backwards for Google, site owners should really be developing their site's social network. This involves a bit more than creating "pages with content of intrinsic value" and using meat bots to spam blogs with backlinks. If it was simply down to creating "pages with content of intrinsic value" then spinning services and meat bot backlinks services would not be successful.