Monday, 30 September 2019

Important - Google drops 'self-serving' stars in search

As we have been predicting for some time now, Google has finally decided that 'self-generated' review content is no longer to be shown in search. The whole article is here on Google's Webmaster blog. We recommend you read it in its entirety, meanwhile, we will focus on the most important aspects here.



And...




Here are some of the FAQs...




Implications for our clients

There was never any proof that 'stars in search' drove clicks and/or calls (nice as they were to have, especially if a competitor didn't have them). We met with a client last week that monitors these very closely and they confirmed that there is a correlation between their Google score and inbounds but that they have never observed any change as their stars have dropped in and out of organic search. They did, however, ascribe significant value to the reviews hosted on their own website - both per se and, most importantly, for the moderation aspect of the process. The key indicator is, and remains, your Google reviews, your Google score and the flow of those reviews.

Update 10 October




Clients that have properly/fully implemented our API have retained their 'stars in search' - so far. The logic behind this, from Google's point-of-view, is as follows:

  1. The reviews are positively identified as being verified by a third party
  2. There is a direct link to a page on our website explaining our role ('What is HelpHound?')
  3. There is a click through to all the business's own reviews (plus the running total)


Implications for reviews sites

Google has yet to address this issue, but if we follow their very simple logic any review mechanism that gives the business any degree of control over their reviews - for example: the issuing of the invitation (Feefo) or quarantine (Trustpilot) would fail Google's new 'test'. Sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor are less likely to be affected as the business has no 'control' over the reviews process.

We have also consistently questioned the value of such content (you can be sure if there was any statistical evidence for the schema working in terms of adding value the reviews sites would be trumpeting it to the heavens). 



Implications for Google

As we have said many times before here (this article contains a 'to-do list' for Google), Google still has a way to go before its own review offering is anywhere near perfect. An example? Today's Times carried this story...





...but the business has managed to avoid having a Google My Business panel altogether (that yawning white space on the right would normally contain the business's Google Knowledge Panel)...




...whilst making hay with a reviews site...





...where, strangely enough, very few of its mostly glowing reviews mention the flaws that led to the Times investigation (or the fact that, according to the Times, one of the directors is on the sex offenders register - something that parents of daughters wishing to rent unlockable shared accommodation might be reasonably interested to hear).

It's the same with our old friend PurpleBricks - they even employ two reviews sites, where they look like this...





...and this...






But if you are sophisticated - or persistent - enough to find them on Google they look like this...





...and this...




We think Google needs to ensure that consumers see Google reviews for every business it lists, first. Without needing to mine the site for hours, and certainly before encouraging consumers to rely on paid-for reviews sites. 


Watch this space!

We felt it important to post this as quickly as possible. We will be updating it as Google's policy becomes clearer, but the message so far is loud and clear: focus on Google reviews, get a great Google score and keep the flow coming. Call us if you have any immediate questions.

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