For a while now, local businesses have been able to increase their average star ratings from reviews about their businesses to their organic search results with review schema markup on their websites but Google is changing all of that.
Last month, Google announced on their webmasters’ blog that they will no longer display star ratings as Rich results from the schema types of local business and organization in cases where the subject of the reviews and the website on which they appear are the same.
The official blog announcing the changes reads:
“While technically you can attach review mark up to any schema type, for many types displaying star reviews does not add much value for the user. With this change, we’re limiting the pool of schema types that can potentially trigger review Rich results and search. Specifically will only display reviews with those types and their respective subtypes.”
The list of schema types that they will allow reviews for:
The announcement goes on to say:
“ Reviews that can be perceived as self-serving aren’t in the best interest of users. We call reviews self-serving when a review about entity A is placed on the website of entity A either directly in their markup or via embedded third-party widget. That’s why, with this change, we are not going to display Rich review results anymore for local business and organization and subtypes of those schemas in situations when the entity being reviewed controls the reviews themselves.”
An update a couple of days later goes on to explain:
“To explain more, in the past, and an entity like a business or an organization could add review markup about themselves to their homepage or another page and often cause a review Snippets a show. That markup could have been directly added by the end of Z or embedded through the use of a third-party widget. We consider this “self-serving” because the entity website has chosen to add the mark-up to its own pages about its own business or organization.”
No, you do not. This action simply means that Google is ignoring schema markup attached to reviews for the business on the Business website. It is not an action against reviews themselves.
It’s still a great idea to collect and display reviews on your website because it is a form of social proof that helps build trust with your business. All that’s changing here is that the average star rating that you may have seen next to your link in the organic search results will disappear.
While that in itself is disappointing for many, when you consider that this will theoretically happen for all local businesses, it is just a removal of competitive advantage. The people who really need to take action to communicate the change are the local SEO whose clients may have already spotted their search engine results pages and are suddenly less star-studded.
Google says no. The reviews themselves may live on a different authoritative and trusted domain such as Trustpilot, Yelp or TripAdvisor, Google’s statements strongly suggest that the markup will be ignored too.
Regardless of where the reviews are live and where the widgets are from, if the entity being reviewed is the same entity that the website is about, Google will ignore the review schema markup for local business and organization.
Using the review schema markup on LocalBusiness and Organization schema types will not negatively affect your rankings or cause penalties. The change only positive review Rich result or the star rating to no longer appear in the search results.
The initial announcement was made on Monday, September 16th. MozCast tracking data indicates that within the first two days after the announcement was made there was a two-day relative drop of 13.8% in the number of review Snippets from page 1 search results. Looking at specific categories, the apparel industry saw a 20% drop while the finance industry saw a 46% drop and the home industry saw a 27% drop.
It’s important to remember that reviews are not dead. Beyond instilling trust in visitors and multiple phases of their consumer Journey, they help you create unique content for your store location landing pages while also helping you monitor your reputation. You can learn from and resolve customers cited complaints to improve your overall customer satisfaction and Foster continued customer loyalty.
Review spam and review gating are serious issues. Google is taking these steps to correct abusive customer sentiment tactics. However, many small businesses are concerned about Google’s increasing control of business reputation, particularly when their review corpus is inundated with spam. Any click-through-rate loss on Google’s new policy could rightly be seen as less traffic for brand controlled websites and more for Google.
It’s important to remember that you are in control of your meta title tag. You can change it to include your overall rating and review count. If you are off to missing this title tag for a page dedicated to reviews, you can also let the user know you’re displaying all of your reviews in a single location for efficiency purposes.
If you don’t want to include it in your title tag, you can still opt to include it in your meta description.
The marketing world is fast-paced and many marketing tactics come and go. As a business, don’t be distracted by the latest and greatest technique, buzzword, or hack. And don’t be disappointed or upset when you find a tactic no longer works. Instead, focus on building a better business that makes the customer the center of Your world. Then choose the tactics that help you get there.
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