Third Party Reviews No Longer Allowed As Google Updates Reviews Markup Guidelines
If you are a webmaster who uses third party reviews of your products and services which have been taken from other websites – then you need to be aware of a new update to the local reviews guidelines which has just been introduced. The purpose of the update is to stop webmasters from using 3rd party reviews which have been used elsewhere and marking them up as their own – by disallowing them all together.
The official guidelines are as follows:
- You must not use reviews which are similar to, or duplicated from, other reviews which appear on websites owned by similar businesses or any other source.
- You should only add reviews to your site which have been produced directly by your own content providers or users and NOT from third party websites – which also includes syndicated reviews.
The fact that you are now only allowed to markup reviews that have been specifically left by your own users serves as a complete overhaul to the guidelines and this is something that you must take into account if you wish to avoid a ranking penalty.
In addition to this, you will also need to provide a mixture of both good and bad reviews – which means the displaying the positive reviews along with the negative ones – in order to give your visitors an unbiased picture of the products and services you are trying to promote.
This has been outlined in the following updated guideline:
- 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.
On top of this, there are a number of other updates to the guidelines which you will also need to adhere to if you wish to retain your organic search listing positions, which are as follows:
- Reviews cannot be constructed algorithmically – using automatically generated sentences which are put together using metrics or data. This is illustrated with the following sentence: “Based on X number of responses, on average people experienced X with this business.”
- Reviews for businesses which have multiple locations – such as franchises or popular retail chains – can only be provided for a single / particular branch or store location. This means that you cannot provide syndicated reviews which have been provided from users who are reviewing different branches or outlets of the same business.
- Users must have no commercial agreements with the company they are providing reviews for – whether they are paid for or supplied in exchange for other incentives.
- Any snippets of content that appear in the reviews cannot be provided by the business or site owner themselves – unless they are genuinely independent, unpaid editorials which are completely unbiased.