Over recent years, the rise of Google’s ‘snippet reviews’ has grown more and more. What are snippet reviews? Those little star ratings that you see below a website result in Google search. Google introduced this feature a few years back to help websites show reviews for things like products, recipes and services. The last in that list is the one of most importance to this change.
For any of my clients who supply specific services; be it gym classes, removals, garden design or plumbing – I have always recommended that those businesses gather Google (or other reputable third party) reviews. These are one of the most important things you can do as a service providing business. Once those reviews are in place, I use a specific bit of code (called ‘schema markup’) to embed those reviews into client websites and display the review rating on Google’s search results.
Well, those glory days are now over! In the last week, Google has announced that what it calls ‘self serving reviews’, eg; those businesses that report their own reviews to Google, are no longer allowed. They believe their results are being manipulated by businesses who are reporting their own gathered testimonials to look to be more impressive than they really are. Here is what they’ve said:
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 an embedded 3rd party widget. That’s why, with this change, we’re not going to display review rich results anymore for the schema types LocalBusiness and Organization (and their subtypes) in cases when the entity being reviewed controls the reviews themselves.
But surely Google’s own reviews are not ‘self serving’?
Well, that is what I thought as well. When I read this update on Google’s blog, I thought my clients were safe. As I never recommend anything other than gathering real life reviews from genuine customers and as I only embed Google’s own review systems into my client’s websites, I assumed all would stay the same. But a recent check of each of my client websites has shown me those little stars are gone! I will be investigating this further and will endeavour to see if there is another way to legitimately inform Google that these are third party reviews and not ones just copied and pasted into a website – but for now the party is over.
What does this mean for your local business?
The good news right now is there’s nothing for you to do. The even better news is according to Google, there is no penalisation for using the old review setup on your website, they have just chosen to no longer use it in their search results. Last off, all local businesses are in the same boat right now, so your competitors will not be gaining an advantage over your business. It remains unclear at this point whether or not Google will develop their own system of displaying verified independent reviews (this could possibly happen via the Google My Business system) or whether some form of action or intervention will be needed by web developers to display verified reviews.
I will of course be keeping my eyes on the situation as it develops and if I am able to reinstate the review snippets by verifying my client sites use Google reviews, I will do so. This in no way means that you should stop collecting online reviews as they are invaluable to your business and Google will still be using them as a ranking factor for their search results.
If you would like to chat to me about your business’s review collection system or about the SEO of your website, contact me today and I will get back to you.