You may not be seeing as many star ratings for local businesses appear on Google SERPs in the near future. According to Google’s Webmaster blog, Google has recently updated their algorithm to significantly limit the schema types that will trigger review rich results in a search.
While goods like movies and books will still show star ratings alongside their Google Reviews, any first-party ratings for businesses and organizations will likely be removed. This is because Google believes there are too many “self-serving” first-party reviews created by businesses to artificially boost their own ratings.
The Google Webmaster further explains, “in the past, an entity like a business or an organization could add review markup about themselves to their home page or another page and often cause a review snippet to show for that page. That markup could have been added directly by the entity or embedded through the use of a third-party widget. We consider this ‘self-serving’ because the entity itself has chosen to add the markup to its own pages, about its own business or organization.”
Although first-party reviews will not be displayed on a company’s organic SERP, third-party review sites like Healthgrades or Apartments.com will continue to be allowed to display star ratings for that business.
Here’s how this will look for businesses
The star ratings listed for this company are being drawn directly from the company website. Google does not see these ratings as trustworthy or valid, as it would be coming from an unbiased source, so they will not appear.
However, the data that is being used in this next example is being pulled directly from Google Reviews. Google trusts the validity of its own product, so these ratings will remain.
Likewise, the star ratings for this store are being pulled from data on a third-party social media platform, which Google trusts to regulate and provide valid results.
What does this mean for my search strategy?
Although this is a change that businesses and organizations must recognize and make adjustments for, the algorithm update is not expected to have a drastic impact on their overall search strategy.
Listings and reputation management experts from Binary Fountain have identified a few areas of concern once these changes are fully implemented:
- Search Visibility – First-party reviews often represent a low effort way to provide a constant flow of fresh, localized content for each specific business listing. Removing these ratings could diminish this benefit.
- Click-Thru Rates (CTR) – The biggest advantage of review rich snippets is the impact on CTR from SERPs. Without the star ratings from rich snippets, companies may see a decline in click-thrus and will have to find other drivers to meet their goals.
- Conversion Rates – On-page review content has been shown to increase conversion rates due to increased trust. The absence of the review snippet may negatively impact how a business builds trust online.
Despite these potential hiccups for Google SERPs, there are a few things that businesses should keep in mind:
- Content is (Still) King – Content, especially when localized with landmarks and attractions frequently mentioned in reviews, can be an excellent way to improve a company’s ranking in organic search results. This benefit remains regardless of Google’s changes to rich snippets.
- Visibility of Rich Results Doesn’t Change Rankings – Though the information within a company’s SERP may change, that ultimately does not affect where a company is ranking on Google. Businesses must still put in the same amount of time and effort on SEO and developing high-ranking content to improve search visibility. Likewise, even though first-party ratings will not be displayed, the content helps SEO overall.
- Conversions are Influenced By Many Review Factors – In theory, businesses are already benefiting from higher conversion rates from customers that see and interact with reviews hosted on third-party widgets. But regardless of whether a review is from a first-party host or third-party host, if the content of the reviews is primarily negative, the conversion rate will still decrease. Ideally, brands would be responding to any negative reviews on all platforms anyways to demonstrate their concern for the customer experience and their willingness to improve based on constructive feedback.
While people are often quick to panic once Google announces a sweeping change to their policies, there is no need for alarm with the implementation of this new update. Many of the things that companies are already doing, like investing in listings solutions and optimizing content for the web, are things that will continue to work and avoid any pitfalls this new update may bring.
Binary Fountain is committed to monitoring this update as it is rolled out to ensure it doesn’t negatively impact our customers, and we will provide service and support if something changes for our clients.
Please submit any questions or concerns you may have about these changes to your Binary Fountain account manager and we will be happy to assist however we can.
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