16 September 2019: Google says no more to testimonials.
Boy oh boy, did Google cause some havoc on Monday! On the 16 September 2019, Google announced an algorithmic update to what they’ll show as a review rich result.
“Search results that are enhanced by review rich results can be extremely helpful when searching for products or services[.] To make them more helpful and meaningful, we are now introducing algorithmic updates to reviews in rich results. This also addresses some of the invalid or misleading implementations webmasters have flagged to us.” (Making Review Rich Results More Helpful, 2019).
This may have blown up Twitter and SEO blogs but for the average business owner, it means a whole lot of nothing—but you should care. And here is why.
What is a review rich result?
When you indicate to Google you have reviews on a page of your website by using structured data markup, they may add your aggregated star rating to your Google search result for that page (see image). So, why are Google saying this isn’t helpful for users?
The problem is that many DIY search engine optimisation (SEO) enthusiasts and sneaky SEO specialists weren’t following best protocols to do this. One of the biggest problems was businesses publishing testimonials they created for themselves and indicating these are legitimate customer reviews.
So, Google took matters into their own hands. However, there is still a way for businesses to ensure they have review rich results on Google.
How do I get a review rich result?
Remember, nothing with SEO is ever guaranteed and techniques for achieving review rich snippets will need to be tested in the next few months as Google rolls out the update across the board. However, our own search engine optimisation specialists have already been at work testing the changes already rolled out.
Here are our top tips for the first week of the new Google review rich snippet algorithm.
What to do:
Google has advised self-serving reviews will not be considered via 3rd party widgets or directly in markup on the website. A self-serving review will be one Google won’t be able to authenticate as legitimate or can tell is not legitimate. This can be through markup on a page with testimonials or submissions by the business on behalf of a customer.
However, reviews on your website are still a must as they’re good for user experience. By installing a 3rd party widget (like Localsearch or Google) on your website to stream your reviews, you’re using a top-quality review platform. Google trusts these platforms are hard to fake reviews on, so will note they are legitimate.
Most platforms will have a widget or API you can use to stream your reviews on your website. If you need help adding the Localsearch widget to your website, we’re happy to help.
As for being listed on high-authority directory sites, these platforms will often have reviews, and as they’re not on your review website, may be able to achieve a rich result for your profile.
What not to do:
- Do not use testimonials with markup.
- Do not fake your reviews or submit them on behalf of customers.
- Do not use LocalBusiness and Organisation schema for reviews.
Like we mentioned above, review rich snippets cannot be achieved with self-serving reviews. So, if you’re posting testimonials, fake reviews or on behalf of customers, Google will know, and you won’t benefit from it anyway.
Also, ensure you’re using the correct structured data markup for the correct usage and page. For example, review schema should not be added to a homepage. Again, if this is something you’re not one hundred per cent certain of, our SEO specialists are here to help.