How rich snippets are changing Google reviews

Today, when we are looking for information, a quick online search is all we have to do. Google makes it quite convenient for everyone searching for something. With only a few clicks we can get an answer to almost any question. Chances are, most people can probably recognize rich snippets which are part of these search results. For example, those stars that we are looking at when searching for certain products. They are visual representations of the overall rating. And, with all additional information included, it allows various businesses to stand out. However, with recent changes by Google, rich snippets are changing Google reviews, the way these reviews are displayed, and for whom.

The way rich snippets are changing Google reviews

Recently, the changes Google is rolling out are already showing a lot of impact on the organic search results. For now, they are not affecting rankings but they are definitely affecting the reviews and rating display. While you can still see stars and additional info for products, they are gone for local businesses and organizations. This is all because Google starts ignoring Schema markups for their websites. All in an effort to improve the user experience. So, let’s see how and if it affects you and your business, and if you should even care.

What exactly are rich snippets?

Simply put, it’s a set of additional data that Google displays in its organic search results. Normally, most of that data is extracted from the website itself. Including, customer reviews from structured data of the websites. Overall, this gives that specific and appealing look you that shows more information than before. Whether it’s a small preview thumbnail, URL, title, star rating, date, number of votes, etc.

A man pointing a finger and giving a 5-star rating.
Everyone can assume what star ratings mean.

What are the changes?

The recent changes are affecting local businesses and organizations. Since Google is not including reviews from local business websites any longer, you will not be able to see star ratings that come from those reviews. They are considered as “self-serving” first-party reviews and therefore deemed “unreliable”. This means, they are probably not in the best interest of users and will not be displayed anymore.

However, you can still have ratings for the next types and their subcategories:

  • Books
  • Movie
  • Courses
  • Products
  • Events
  • Software Apps
  • How-to
  • Recipes

They also support reviews for the following schema.org types:

  • CreativeWorkSeason
  • CreativeWorkSeries
  • MusicRecording
  • MusicPlaylist
  • Episode
  • Game
  • MediaObject

Is there a penalty for those who are still displaying reviews with Schema markup?

Essentially, no. No one is asking business owners to remove already implemented structured data from their reviews. They will simply not display them in the organic search results. Bear in mind, this will not affect ratings on Yelp, Tripadvisor, and others that gather unbiased reviews about businesses. But, even if you use them on your website, you are still not going to get them in Google search results.

What does it mean for local businesses?

In short, every review that is coming from businesses’ websites will not appear. Other reviews, like product reviews, will remain. Those that Google assumes trustworthy, like Google reviews, will also remain. For example, ratings of a product from the platform that Google trusts, will definitely be displayed.

There is also something called the “name” property. With recent updates, rich snippets will require this property. This is important for those who are using plugins. Obviously, you should recheck if the “name” property exists. If not, you should contact the plugin developers. However, it’s not clear what happens if the “name” is missing. It’ only clear that it’s now mandatory.

Should you remove reviews from your website?

No, there is no actual need to remove reviews from your website. On the contrary, you need to keep them. They are an excellent element of marketing and serve as social proof to your clients, and potential customers. In the long-term, that can only benefit your reputation. Also, there should be no drastic influence on your website SEO. Since both you and your competitors are facing the same rules, there should be no change in overall search ranking. Generally, keep everything as it is, monitor your WordPress website, continue to upgrade SEO, and follow updates.

Mockup of reviews on mobile devices.
Reviews are a great way to improve your reputation and build trust.

Does this have anything to do with Google Seller Ratings?

In a word, this has nothing to do with them. Google Seller Ratings look very similar to Google Rich snippets, but there is a huge difference. While “rich snippets” are showing as organic search results, “seller ratings” are for paid results. And, these changes are not affecting seller ratings. Moreover, you should make use of Google Seller Ratings since they improve clickthrough rate.

Does this affect Google My Business listing?

Again, no. GMB listings will look the same. Continue to focus on your GMB review strategy to improve your brand ranking. In fact, this is one of the most beneficial strategies you can use for local businesses. Why? Have you noticed that top-GMB results are showing before organic search results? That’s right. You can beat the competition by adding your GMB to your marketing campaign.

A woman preparing to search for a company on Google.
You can benefit from GMB if you are aiming at better ranking.

Overall, the main focus of these changes is to improve user experience and the relevance of information. There is no room for panic because rich snippets are changing Google reviews. While it might seem that it’s somehow hurtful for your local business, in reality, it shouldn’t be like that. Actually, those who have a quality business, provide good services and products, will even benefit from them. Of course, the advantages will not show immediately. But in the long term, this might even be good to de-rank those who were exploiting the system. Surely, this means that users and potential clients will have better results when looking for something. Just make sure you are following best practices, and always keep one eye on changes and updates.

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