Google Changes Schema Review Guidelines for Local Businesses

Posted by Mila Hose on Aug 30, 2016 12:06:00 PM



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With reviews accounting for over 10 percent of overall ranking factors, review moderation is an important part of understanding your audience and driving online-to-offline attribution. Customers communicate with your brand through reviews, and their feedback allows you to address problems and create long-term brand advocates.   

With the recent release of Critic Reviews for local businesses, Google has also updated the guidelines for using schema markup reviews.  Most notably, only reviews that have been produced directly from a brand’s own site can now utilize review markup. In other words, brands will no longer be allowed to mark up reviews from third-party review sites.

The new list of guidelines is as follows: 

Snippets must not be written or provided by the business or content provider unless they are genuine, independent, and unpaid editorial reviews.

Reviews must allow for customers to express both positive and negative sentiments. They may not be vetted by the business or restricted by the content provider based on the positive/negative sentiment of the review before submission to Google.

Reviews cannot be template sentences built from data or automated metrics. For example, the following is not acceptable: “Based on X number of responses, on average people experienced X with this business.”

Reviews for multiple-location businesses such as retail chains or franchises can only be submitted for the specific business location for which they were written. In other words, reviews for multiple-location businesses cannot be syndicated or applied to all business locations of the same company.

Aggregators or content providers must have no commercial agreements paid or otherwise with businesses to provide reviews.

Do not include reviews that are duplicate or similar reviews across many businesses or from different sources.

Only include reviews that have been directly produced by your site, not reviews from third- party sites or syndicated reviews.  

As Mike Blumenthal has pointed out, it may take several months for these changes to be strictly enforced by Google. However, as these new guidelines almost directly contradict the previous review markup guidelines, it is unclear how Google will proceed in penalizing brands who fail to adhere to the new set of rules.

Another important update to the reviews schema will force brands to give their customers the option to post both positive and negative reviews. While this may be a daunting reality to some, this update will better allow customers to engage with brands more authentically, giving brands the opportunity to accept constructive criticism publicly and win back customers who had a poor experience at a specific location.

Having a range of both positive and negative reviews helps build customer trust, as no one believes that a brand is perfect one hundred percent of the time. Prospects that see helpful resolutions and attentive responses to customer feedback are more likely to visit in person.

Yet, for brands with a majority of third-party reviews or suppressed negative reviews, the changing review markup could have a potentially damaging effect.  Brands should start working to implement a review moderation strategy and consider the ease of posting reviews on their location pages.

Learn how to form a review moderation strategy that encourages customers feedback and garners engagement with Brandify’s free whitepaper, The Engagement Stack. 

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Topics: Online Reviews