Google’s Product Reviews update – what does it mean for Search?
On Thursday 8th April 2021, Google announced the rollout of a new Product Reviews update which only involves English language reviews currently. Danny Sullivan, Google’s public search liaison, has confirmed it will mostly be complete in rollout within two weeks:
Previously, we looked at the impact product reviews had on the unpaid shopping listings following the rollout in November and found a strong correlation between product reviews and the unpaid ranking position. And with Google continuously striving for better quality content across the web, it shouldn’t be a surprise that product reviews are getting more of a focus.
A lot of product reviews are thin – they don’t provide expert opinion, in-depth knowledge, or research – and just summarise a product or selection of products. This is exactly what Google is hoping to target as part of this update, looking to reward better content (i.e. better quality reviews) in an effort to help those producing rich content in the product reviews area.
What can we expect to see?
With a focus on improving the quality of reviews, and rewarding those that offer the most valuable information, we’re hoping to see a lot more detail come through about products both on the pages and in the search results.
But, with consumers 21% more likely to leave a review after a negative experience than a positive one, this could prove to be quite troublesome for businesses, especially if they aren’t on top of their responses. Negative reviews tend to include more information about the issues and what the problems were, with positive reviews often being shorter and not as descriptive. So, if Google is placing an emphasis on the information being included in a review then the likelihood is negative reviews will feature more information and could end up being rewarded as richer content.
On the flip side, we’d also expect to see more verified reviews appearing – those where the reviewer is a proven consumer – to reduce the level of fake reviews reaching the results. Google is on a mission to provide the best quality content, from experts and trusted sources – for this, that means reviews should need to be verified as well. Even with a negative review, if it is verified it is more useful to other consumers because it adds an element of trust. We’d expect to see an increase in brands pushing for reviews from their customers to support this, rather than ad hoc review management.
Finally, we’d also expect to see a lot more review-style content coming through. Product reviews and unboxings are huge for influencers and social, but with the rollout of this update we’d anticipate that will also roll into Search. Things like comparison articles, “top X” roundups with more detailed information, richer product description content on pages, reviews pulling through to product pages rather than a centralised third party website, and written specified product review articles from trusted sources.
Where else could it go?
According to Danny Sullivan, it could be applicable to service reviews as well:
This isn’t specifically mentioned in the blog post Google released, so many have missed it, but the possibility that this update will also apply to service reviews is certainly something to keep in mind. B2B businesses tend to struggle with getting reviews from their clients, so it’s important that when these do come through they are reviewed internally and responded to, whether negative or positive.
When it comes to structured data, Review markup has always been a big feature of Product markup so we’d expect more of a focus to be put here as well to help ensure these reviews and ratings are pulling through to the search results. With changes and improvements being made to markup options all the time, it’s likely we’ll see developments here over coming months as well.
What do you need to do?
Directly from Google’s blog post on the update, content creators need to maintain a focus on the quality of content being served to consumers. For product reviews, that means:
- Expressing knowledge about products where appropriate
- Showing what the product is like physically, or how it is used, beyond just the standard information provided by manufacturers
- Quantitative measurements about how a product performs against various categories
- Comparisons to other products, or explanations of which products are suited for different uses
- Benefits and drawbacks
- Product evolution information, discussing improvements or changes vs. previous models
- Decision-making factors and how the product performs against them, e.g. cost, comfort, safety
- Key design choices that impact the consumer, e.g. ergonomic factors or how they have been designed with the consumer in mind
Product reviews are a fantastic source of information for consumers, and can greatly improve chances of someone buying (or not buying) your product. Maintaining a focus on ensuring reviews are high quality and offer valuable, relevant information for consumers will be the key to benefitting from this update.