Some big news from Google has been announced that changes certain aspects of Review Rich Snippets for company reviews. Review rich snippets are the organic stars that you've been seeing across Google for certain results in the SERPS.
In Google's Webmaster Central Blog announcement, they've asked businesses to "focus on schema types that lend themselves to reviews". The list is as follows:
Here's the critical part of what Google is saying:
Self-serving reviews aren't allowed for LocalBusiness and Organization Reviews that can be perceived as “self-serving” aren't in the best interest of users. We call reviews “self-serving” when a review about entity A is placed on the website of entity A - either directly in their markup or via an embedded 3rd party widget. That’s why, with this change, we’re not going to display review rich results anymore for the schema types LocalBusiness and Organization (and their subtypes) in cases when the entity being reviewed controls the reviews themselves.
To differentiate between the item types in this list, the "name" parameter is now required in structured markup:
Add the name of the item that's being reviewed With this update, the name property is now required, so you'll want to make sure that you specify the name of the item that's being reviewed.
Google have an FAQ availble on their blog post:
What if I'm using a third-party widget to display reviews about my business?
Google Search won't display review snippets for those pages. Embedding a third-party widget is seen as controlling the process of linking reviews.
Do I need to remove self-serving reviews from LocalBusiness or Organization?
No, you don't need to remove them. Google Search just won't display review snippets for those pages anymore.
Will I get a manual action for having self-serving reviews on my site?
You won’t get a manual action just for this. However, we recommend making sure that your structured data matches our guidelines.
Does this update affect my Google My Business listing/profile?
No, Google My Business is not affected as this update only relates to organic Search.
Will sites that gather reviews about other organizations be affected?
No, that’s unchanged. Sites that gather reviews can show up with review snippets (for their reviews of other organizations) in search results.
Does this update apply to AggregateRating too?
Yes. It applies to Review and AggregateRating.
So how does this affect businesses displaying review widgets on their site. Well, it means that less weight is being placed on company reviews in the organic search results (although of course these changes do not affect Seller Ratings in paid results), but far more weight is going to be placed on product reviews in the search results.
This means that all companies who are not currently collecting product reviews should now switch their strategy to do so. It also means that from a search point of view, the playing field has become a bit more level. There'll be fewer stars in organic results, but those that remain will have more value.
If any Reviews.io client is concerned about these changes, please just get in contact with us and we'll talk you through it.