Google has just announced new rules for how local businesses should use review schema and rich snippets on their websites.
Unfortunately, while the new rules appear to have significant differences with those they replace, they are not at all clear. As a result, they have caused widespread confusion for website managers and SEO agencies alike.
There are three main changes that are causing confusion as to what reviews can be marked up with schema for Rich Snippets. Google now says that:
But which sites does Google count as an aggregator or content provider? Surely, not the independent review sites that Google has accredited and previously recommended site owners work with? And what do multi-location and franchise businesses need to do now to ensure that customers leave reviews to Google’s new requirements?
In comparison, the remainder of Google’s new guidelines appear obvious enough:
So, what does constitute an aggregator or content provider?
Around the web, people are asking if review-gathering tools such as Trust Pilot and Five Stars are paid content providers (because business owners pay for their services. Consensus seems to be that these are simply tools (not paid content providers) that businesses can utilise to solicit feedback and reviews from their customer base — but Google has yet to contribute an answer to this question.
Another question that’s being asked: Can we still publish reviews from the likes of Trip Advisor on our websites?
The confusion here seems to be in distinguishing between publishing third party reviews on websites as opposed to marking those reviews up with schema so they can be displayed in Google search results. And the answer is “yes” — you can collate and publish those reviews on your site but you cannot mark them up as rich snippets. Here it seems that Google’s intent is to avoid duplicating reviews.
And what does this mean if you have a multi-location business or franchises? You risk being penalised or not having ratings displayed if the aggregated reviews on your site actually apply to multiple locations but are shown as applying to the business as a whole. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to spend more time in making sure individual ratings are applied to each of your locations.
Why should you care?
Reviews can help build trust and increase the likelihood of your converting visitors into paying clients. That’s why they’ve become increasingly important for every business. However, consumers’ faith that the reviews they read are a true representation of business merit and customer satisfaction has been undermined by the prevalence of fake reviews and judiciously curated feedback.
Google is implementing these changes to mitigate abuse and create a better experience for those searching for your products or services. It’s just a pity that, in doing so, Google has not been entirely clear as to what is and is not allowed — and the company needs to take immediate steps to clarify the confusion.
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Glenn is a Partner and Senior Consultant who has had a very successful career building growth companies in the private equity arena. He has a wealth of experience in both the digital space and strategy development. Prior to becoming a partner in SureFire Glenn built one of the largest digital teams in New Zealand for a NASDAQ listed global online marketing company & Google's largest premium partner.