Google has updated how search ranks product reviews
On April 8th, Google released a new algorithm update that aims to better reward high quality product reviews in its search results. Currently, this update only applies to English language reviews, but has the potential to be rolled out worldwide.
The update is designed to reward product reviews that share in depth research and insightful analysis rather than thin content that simply summarises a handful of products. Google stated that this new update would particularly reward ‘content written by experts or enthusiasts who know the topic well.’ Google was keen to reassure people that this is not a core update, but advice provided by Google about producing high quality content for core updates is also relevant here.
Google published questions that should be considered by creators when writing product reviews in order to continue to rank well, does your review…
- Express expert knowledge about products where appropriate?
- Show what the product is like physically, or how it is used, with unique content beyond what’s provided by the manufacturer?
- Provide quantitative measurements about how a product measures up in various categories of performance?
- Explain what sets a product apart from its competitors?
- Cover comparable products to consider, or explain which products might be best for certain uses or circumstances?
- Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a particular product, based on research into it?
- Describe how a product has evolved from previous models or releases to provide improvements, address issues, or otherwise help users in making a purchase decision?
- Identify key decision-making factors for the product’s category and how the product performs in those areas? For example, a car review might determine that fuel economy, safety, and handling are key decision-making factors and rate performance in those areas.
- Describe key choices in how a product has been designed and their effect on the users beyond what the manufacturer says?
This update changes what Google considers a good product review, and therefore what the end user will see in SERPs when looking up products. This is just another reason to prioritise creating high quality content for a great user experience.
Some time has passed now since this update was released, and there has been much industry chatter regarding its impact. Sometimes the impact of a Google update can take a few weeks to be visible, however some SEOs reported noticing an impact just one day after the update was announced.
Since the announcement, sites containing product reviews have been reporting a mix of either huge gains, or huge losses. SEO Round Table collated forum comments that demonstrated these vast contrasts, such as; ‘’Looks like we’ve been hit hard. Down 20 to 40%’’, ‘’One of my sites has jumped up considerably!’’ Overall there appeared to be huge volatility within the search results, with many creators reporting similar drops and surges to that of a core update. Additionally, it has also been confirmed that user generated content is unlikely to rank well for product reviews anymore. Google’s John Mueller implied that it would be highly unlikely for user generated content to continue to rank well after this update due to the lack of control of the quality of content.
Although an impact has been noticed, the update is continuing to be rolled out for another week, so keep your eyes peeled!