Google to start making review results ‘more helpful’

In mid-September 2019, Google published an update on its blog indicating that there are new restrictions to the types of search results which feature rich review results (e.g. the nice ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ underneath a site listing).

Any instances of ‘self-serving’ reviews have been stripped from search results in order to make results ‘more meaningful’, and clean up some of the invalid and misleading reviews webmasters might have put up in the past. Google defines a self-serving review like this:

“When a review about entity A is placed on the website of entity A – either directly in their markup or via an embedded 3rd party widget.”

An example of a rich review result

You can use schema markup to highlight a number of different things with reviews to trigger a rich result. Previously you could make up some schema, put it on a site, give yourself any rating you liked and it would typically appear in search results. It’s understandable then that the target of this change is only instances of LocalBusiness and Organisation schema.

Common uses for the remaining types of schema are for rating books, TV episodes, films, recipes – and of course products like the delicious example below:

What will this actually impact?

This will almost exclusively have an impact on sites that use Organisation Schema to display their own ratings. So if you’re really proud of that Glass Door rating or award you’ve been given, it’s no longer allowed to trigger a rich result. You can still display it on your site as a trust earner for potential customers, but if you want people to know how good your brand is in a Google result it’s now up to someone else to do that for you.

Using a local estate agent as an example, we can see that their site doesn’t display a rich result, despite having the schema for it on their home page. Instead, it’s the reviewing body which features second that gets the stars:

If you’re a smaller business this might have an impact on your click-through rate, because it’s now harder to compete (visually) with the likes of Trip Advisor, Yelp and even Facebook pages which can all display rich results:

Pay to win

As ever with Google, you can just pay to increase the odds of a click coming through to your site. And why stop there when you can take advantage of the situation and bid on a competitor? The screenshot below shows a competitor to Basecamp bidding on the Basecamp brand name with a bigger and richer looking advert:

So in summary, we think this should be seen as a positive step towards cleaning up the search results a little, as well as an opportunity for anyone to better encroach on competitor search results with PPC ads…

Written by:

Alex Darwin Senior SEO Analyst

Category:

What we think

Date:

24/09/2019

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