Making Your Company’s Reviews Stand Out
Today we’re going to talk about getting aggregate reviews and rating stars to show up on search engine results pages for your local business.
One of my clients was approached by another digital marketing agency for Facebook ads but they later brought up SEO services and he was shown that they got some of their clients to show up on search results pages with review stars.
And they told him they could do that for him too. In fact, they even guaranteed it.
Today, we’re going to talk about what they’re really doing and why they’re putting their client’s sites at risk of being penalized by Google and disappearing from search results entirely.
So if your company has an agency that is getting you those aggregate rating stars for your local business, or you’re talking to one that’s saying they can do that for you, then you might want to listen up carefully, or you may find yourself at the risk of vanishing from Google and losing a ton of business.
In September of 2019, Google announced they would no longer support review snippets or aggregate rating stars in search results for Local Businesses or Organizations.
The reason was that people cheated by creating fake reviews and putting them in the structured data code of the website or page, which got them those precious rating stars on search results pages.
Their motive was simple, listings with stars in the search results get more clicks than those without.
So they cheated to get them and it worked until Google had enough, changed the rules in 2019, and then it wasn’t available anymore.
Now, Google calls those “self-serving” reviews and they no longer qualify for rich results like review snippets or aggregate ratings and stars.
Here’s the quote is taken directly from Google’s Search Central:
“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 third-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.
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.
Self-serving reviews are no longer displayed for businesses and organizations (the LocalBusiness and Organization schema types).”
In their Q&A, it asks, “Does this update apply to AggregateRating too?”
And then answers, “Yes. It applies to Review and AggregateRating.”
But wait… that agency that spoke with my client said they could get them and even gave him a few examples.
And you’ve probably also seen companies in your local area who have aggregate ratings and review stars showing up for their business in the search results.
Well, if you take their website URL and put it into Google’s Schema Markup Validator Tool, you’ll see they’re cheating by using “Product” Schema markup and listing their company name as the Product and using “Thing” as the product type.
This is an inappropriate use of Product schema and a violation of Google’s policies.
So now let’s look at what Google says on this same page that speaks about Review and Aggregate Review rich results for Local Business and Organization Schema:
Image credit: Google Search Central
What is a Manual Action from Google mean, you ask
Here’s the quote from Google itself:
“Google issues a manual action against a site when a human reviewer at Google has determined that pages on the site are not compliant with Google’s webmaster quality guidelines. Most manual actions address attempts to manipulate our search index… If a site has a manual action, some or all of that site will not be shown in Google search results.”
So here’s this marketing agency misinforming my client and placing the clients that they have in danger of being penalized by Google and vanishing from the search engine altogether, just to try and get their business.
I cannot say if this agency knows what they’re doing and are lying to people or if they’re just misinformed, uninformed, and putting their clients in danger as a result.
But since you have to manually code this onto a page and insert a bunch of reviews into the code, I’m guessing they know they’re violating Google’s policies.
Any way you slice it, you have to ask yourself, is getting a better click-through rate for a short while worth the risk of being hit with a manual action from Google and disappearing from the search results altogether?
There are a ton of companies using this tactic to cheat and get aggregate ratings and stars in the search results. So you can bet Google sees them too.
It took a while for Google to remove Aggregate ratings and review snippets from the search results for Local Businesses and Organizations because of cheaters, but remove them they did.
How long will it take before Google decides to penalize those who are now abusing and misusing Product schema as a result?
As Clint Eastwood said in Dirty Harry, “How lucky are you feeling?”
Google says on that same page in Search Central that they’re considering adding a page to report abusers. But as far as I can tell, they haven’t done so yet.
I’ve sent feedback to Google asking where we can report abusers. So if they get back to me with anything useful, I will place that info and a link in the blog post transcription of this podcast on our website.
In the meantime, if your agency has gotten those stars in the search results for your Local Business, you should test it using Google’s free Schema Markup Validator tool and see if they’re using “Product” Schema.
And if they are, I’d recommend you ask them to remove it asap and ask them why they put your website in danger like that.
If your competitors are using it, then I’d suggest you log into Google Search Central, search for a page entitled “Making Review Rich Results More Helpful,” and message them at the bottom of the page to report any abuses.
The good news is there are still many legitimate ways your local services website can take advantage of other Rich Snippets and Schema Markup so you can own more real estate on search results pages.
See our article on “Adding rich snippets to your website & growing traffic.“