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Google Updates Schema Review Guidelines – Again

With the rollout of the Reviews from Around the web feature showing aggregate review summaries on non-Google reviews in the Knowledge Panel, Google has once again updated their Schema Review Guidelines.

Google schema updated

The New Google Schema Review Guidelines

The new guidelines essentially split the previous single guideline that covered both critic and on-site reviews into two more detailed set of rules, one for critic reviews and one for use of review snippets on your site.

They define each as follows:

Google displays the following types of reviews in search results:

  • Critic reviews: A snippet from a longer review article that a single editor has created, curated, or compiled for a publisher. 
  • Review snippets: A rich snippet of a review or rating markup from a review website, usually an average of the combined rating scores from reviewers. Review snippets appear in Google Search results either under the search result or in the Google Knowledge Cards.

For the most part the critic review section used the previously released  rules with minor updates for clarity. But Google, in new critic review schema guidance, makes it clear that critic review snippets must be generated by humans and not machine generated:

  • Authoritative human editor(s) must create, curate, or compile content for critic reviews.

More importantly for most of us, Google created additional guidance for the use of Review Snippets and, as with critic reviews, provided general guidelines that cover all of types of review content(products, books, movies, music and local business) as well as an addendum with additional guidance for the use of schema specifically for local business reviews.

Using Review Schema Requires Reviews Original To Your Site

One thing that is still clear in the Review snippets guidelines for local buisnesses is that if you want to use Schema markup, the reviews need to be original and generated by your site. This obviously precludes marking up reviews from Yelp or Google for use. They say:

Google may display information from aggregate ratings markup in the Google Knowledge Cards. The following guidelines apply to review snippets in knowledge cards for local businesses:

  • Ratings must be sourced directly from users.
  • Don’t rely on human editors to create, curate or compile ratings information for local businesses. These types of reviews are critic reviews.
  • Sites must collect ratings information directly from users and not from other sites.

As always with Google guidelines there is a degree of ambiguity, poor writing and a fair bit left open to interpretation as to what is acceptable and what Google will ignore or even punish.

Although this update does provide some additional specificity that is helpful, the reality is that there is still room for confusion. What else is new?

For now, we see the use of on-site schema for feedback and review content that you have captured directly from your clients as a valuable tool for both understanding consumer sentiment and creating great on site content.

P.S. I am including a PDF of copies of the Google’s previous guidance as well as the current guidance so that you can compare the two sets of rules yourself more easily:

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. 

11 Replies to “Google Updates Schema Review Guidelines – Again”

  1. Thanks for the update on this. A few questions remain unanswered, though. Is this the end of all “aggregating” rating services? After all many of them allow for manually filtering customer reviews.

  2. From what I could see from a number of sites, this was badly abused. I especially saw a lot of this happening on affiliate sites. My question is: How is Google going to police this without manual reviews of offending sites?

    1. @Cary
      Obviously Google scales everything with some sort of programatic approach and that includes enforcement. With rich snippets, like with Penguin and Panda, they started out manually, gradually the enforcement process runs as a separate task on some periodic basis and then finally it gets integrated into the on-going process that is Google quality/enforcement. They test and iterate, test and iterated until it achieves whatever level of abuse enforcement they feel is adequate. That doesn’t mean all abusers will be caught but the noise will be reduced to a dull roar.

      I believe that is happening now. I think, but obviously can’t confirm, that they have moved beyond the manual mode into the periodic run “the separate process” mode and have started to automate whatever level of enforcement they are able to achieve. This is usually happening concurrently with the release of guidelines.

      In the case of this review rich snippet abuse enforcement for misuse I believe it to be a situation where the stars are just not shown rather than any proactive penalty pushing a site down in rankings.

    1. @Mike
      I agree with you that there are abuses.

      But it is not difficult to “do it right”… we are hoping that Google rewards the do it right strategy and punishes the abusers… but who knows.

  3. I did a fairly thorough read through of the schema.org library when building templates. Regardless, there’s so much information there, and so many considerations. People in my network have been experiencing some manual penalties as a result of schema us, even in cases where there was no “gaming the system”.

    Can never be too educated on best-practices.

    Thanks!

  4. It’s really annoying when you see website’s who implement the review schema who are clearly not following Google’s guideline’s properly. As Cary (comment above) said, I’m not really sure how Google will be able to police this – unless someone reports the site & a manual review is done.

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