Deep Dive Into Local series from Feb 6, 2017. In our Deep Dive series, we take a closer look at one thing in local that caught our attention and deserves a longer discussion.
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Mike: Welcome to our Deep Dive with Mike and Mary. We've decided to talk about getting review rich snippets and the benefit of those and getting them on single location websites. I've been doing a lot of research through GetFiveStars. I have access to a number of clients that generate their own reviews, and I've been working with those clients to help them configure their websites, so those reviews show both in the general search results with stars, as well as in the knowledge panels.
First thing I learned, is that you've got to follow Google's rules about review rich snippets. One is, they have to be original content. They can no longer be reviews from Google or Yelp. Two, they actually have to be visible on a page with the reviews clearly visible. The page has to be fundamentally about reviews, so you need to, step one, create -- you have to generate your own reviews from your clients, and two, you have to create a page on your site that you then markup either with JSON or just regular microdata, in schema on a reviews page. That's step one, I found, is to have a reviews page. Well, follow the rules and have a reviews page.
Step two is to test and test and test again because Google keeps changing some of the rules as to what's acceptable. Also, it's a somewhat technical enterprise and you want to be sure to always go over to the Google Rich Snippet Testing Tool and make sure that your rich snippets, whether you're using the GetFiveStars review widget or your own code, complies. I see a lot of websites that have multiple rich snippets on them that conflict with each other. Or in WordPress you may have plugins that conflict with the code, or possibly WordPress is munching the codes, so it's important that you test. One is to get a review page, marked up in rich snippets, test it.
Two is, that page needs to have a certain prominence to show the stars in Google search results, so just having it and linking to it through your menus is not enough. You also, like we talked about earlier with the location links, you need to do links from your site, or a page on your site, to that page, preferably using branded link phrases. You want this review page to eventually show up when you type in your brand. In other words, if you type in "Cadillac Jack's Ellicotville, or "Dr. Besso in Stow, Ohio," you want this to show up. You'd want the review page optimized internally for the brand. That's the second thing: build out some strength to that page.
Thirdly is, to get it to show in the knowledge panel, you need to have review snippets show on the branded search. Sometimes you can't get the reviews page to show on the branded search because Google has certain pages they like to show on the branded search. Sometimes, they'll show site links. If they do that, they're never going to show rich snippets. But oftentimes, when you do a branded search, you will see the About Us page, usually for a business, or a menu page if it's a restaurant.
The next step to making this all happen is to put the aggregate review rating on those pages which show up in that branded search result. The aggregate review rating, by the rules, has to link over to your review page. In other words, you have the aggregate review summary, you can see all the reviews by linking over; it's another way of adding some additional prominence to your reviews page, but it's also a way of adding review snippets to the pages that are likely to show up on the branded search. And again, test, test, test.
Mary: Is there any reason why you would not want to put the aggregate review rating on all pages?
Mike: There's a couple. Yes. One is, if you put it on your homepage, Google is not going to show it, they perceive it as spammy. Two is, it's not relevant on some pages. Is the aggregate review rating really relevant in the contact us page? We're talking about what's best for the customer here, and I would contend that it isn't. And I think that, three, you want to be sure not to soil the bed in which we sleep. What we see with Google is that they periodically raise the prominence bar to purge excess rich snippets from the search results. There's a number, whatever that number is, they don't want more than x number of search results showing rich snippets, so they're going to raise the bar, make it harder and harder. I think you really should be judicious about where you're putting the aggregate reviews and not put it on every page. Nobody's going to listen to me, they're going to do it anyway, but I think that you don't need to put it everywhere to get real benefit from it.
Finally, one of the other things I discovered -- there may be other pages you want to put it on besides the about us page and menu page. If, for example, I have a situation with Barbara Oliver. I talk about her a lot, but she used to dominate jewelry appraisals in Buffalo, even though she was in the far eastern suburbs of Williamsville. With Possum, she lost that positioning in the local pack, but she's always done well organically with two pages -- her homepage and her appraisals page always showed in the first spot organically. In that situation, we did put three aggregate review snippets on the jewelry appraisal page, so now you see three local results, then you see her page. So, it still gives her some fair bit of exposure on those local pages that are doing well in organic. Again, targeted -- we didn't do it on necessarily on every page to achieve that result. So in summary ... go ahead.
Mary: I was going to ask about Google's newest guidelines on review snippets, tell us about having to publish negative reviews as well as positive reviews.
Mike: Right, Google says that you should not be curating and picking which reviews to show. They aren't very explicit about that, but they said you shouldn't be curating reviews, which to me, implies that you should be showing positive and negative. What we see at GetFiveStars is, on average, it only reduces star ratings by about a half of a point, showing all. The other thing we see at GetFiveStars is a lot of research that indicates having less than five stars is more trustworthy by consumers, and also more likely to reflect reality. The other advantage to showing negative feedback is it's more likely to reflect your average consumer experience. A lot of times, those negative reviews help filter out people that shouldn't be coming to you in the first place. I wrote up an example last week about a Japanese restaurant in Santa Fe that doesn't sell sushi because they think they can't do good sushi. And so the best one star review they get is this review that says, "You don't sell sushi, how come? I'm only going to give you one star." Well, they don't sell it because it's a quality issue, and so that helps filter out [customers who want sushi]. At GetFiveStars, while we allow you to take some time before you publish negative reviews, we think in the end you should.
That also means you should have a review policy in place, where certain reviews are taken down because they violate your policy. Google has it, Facebook has it, Yelp has it, and we think that every business should have a similar review policy so they can feel free to take down a review and still be in compliance with what the FTC requires, which is that your review should reflect the average user experience.
Mary: And how do you think that Google can determine if you're curating reviews?
Mike: I don't think they can. That being said, I think it's like anything in our industry. If you abuse it, sooner or later, you're going to lose it.
Mike: That's a corollary; if you abuse it, lose it. So, anyways, unless you have any other questions, that's our Deep Dive Into local, looking at review rich snippets in February, 2017.
Mary: Thanks, Mike.
Mike: All right, take care. Bye-bye.