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Google Lowers Local Pack Review Star Threshold to 3

Update: Google Drops Review Star Threshold to 1 or 2 Reviews AND Stops Using Bayesian Average

A post at the Local Search Forum noted that a storage unit in Idaho showing review stars with only 3 reviews instead of the typical five required. It piqued my curiosity.

Was it a fluke or is it generally the case that Google is now showing stars for businesses with as few as 3 reviews?

It appears to be the new normal that only three reviews are needed to get the star treatment. Google has been using five reviews as the minimum to receive star treatment since abandoning the Zagat system during the summer of 2013.

Examples Of New Google Reviews Threshold

Here are a number of searches today that show stars for a number of such businesses with only 3 reviews.

This is true in both the 3 Pack and in the Local Finder

Businesses with three Google reviews will also see a boost to their local Knowledge Panel as well.  Our CMO’s wife is a realtor who is now rewarded with stars for her three Google reviews in addition to her GetFiveStars’s testimonial widget reviews in the Reviews from the web section.

Google review stars

What Does The Move To 3 Reviews For Stars Mean?

Obviously this will make reviews more obvious for businesses with less than five reviews. It will help those with a good batch of reviews and will impact severely those with only one bad review.

A recent study indicated that over 90% of businesses lack online customer reviews. This new change means that your reputation will suffer more with as few as three reviews and one bad one.

Time to get ahead of the curve.

About The Author

Mike Blumenthal is a co-founder of GatherUp and helps oversee our research, industry insight and agency offering. Mike has long been regarded as the foremost expert on local search and Google Maps, earning the nickname “Professor Maps”. Mike also co-founded Local University, which provides small business and agency training in sustainable local search marketing. His motto: All Local All the Time.  He writes at his blog and does a twice a week LocalU podcast about Local marketing. 

13 Replies to “Google Lowers Local Pack Review Star Threshold to 3”

  1. Very interesting. I am assuming Google is just trying to get more of these in play as getting 5 reviews can be tough unless a business has someone like yourself helping them reach out to customers for feedback.

    1. @Jeffrey
      We really don’t know why Google is doing this. That’s a great question and we can only speculate.

      Perhaps they wanted more of their businesses to attract users review scrutiny than other review sites? Perhaps they wanted to get the attention of and signal to small businesses how important reviews are on Google? Perhaps users stayed on Google longer looking at reviews if more had the star treatment?

      Who knows?

  2. I saw the same thing as Peter Troast, and am just finishing up a blog post (in Dutch) about this. Interesting detail: not everything is always being rolled out internationally directly by Google. This though, seems to be.

  3. I saw it on our client’s knowledge panel today for only 1 review here (Melb, Aus). That was the first i’d even noticed this change! So there you go. Pity that 1 review is a 1 star!! Need to hustle more reviews now more than ever.

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