On August 29th, 2016, Google significantly updated their requirements for adding review rich snippets to local business schema markup. The updated guidelines make it much more difficult for local businesses to use review rich snippets since all reviews must be directly produced by the website and can’t use a templated sentence from automated data.
If you’re using a 3rd party service like Shopper Approved, which can sometimes use local business schema markup for reviews, you might find yourself with a handful of now-illicit reviews—which could spell trouble for you.
Here is a solution you can use to get around Google’s new local business review guidelines. This is a perfectly legitimate method, so don’t worry about Google getting after you for using it.
How To Get Around Google’s New Guidelines
The new guidelines for local business reviews take a firm stance on who can post reviews, as well as what the reviews actually say about your site. You can read them all here, but here are some of the big, important ones:
- Review snippets can’t be written by the business/site provider unless they’re genuine, independent, and/or unpaid
- Reviews must allow both positive and negative sentiments
- Only include reviews directly produced by your site (no reviews from third-party sites/syndicated reviews)
Google’s new guidelines only affect local business markup, so the obvious solution is to use alternative structured data such as Store, Service, or Product schema since the new guidelines are not yet targeting these schema types. Here’s how you do it:
<span itemprop=”name”>Service Name</span>
<span itemprop=”ratingValue”>5.0</span>/<span itemprop=”bestRating”>5</span>
based on <span itemprop=”ratingCount”>10</span> ratings and reviews
“name”: “Service Name”,
So rather than a rich card showing the review for the site itself, you can get the card to show a specific service or product you offer along with the reviews. It’s important that your Service or Product schema stay separate of the scope of any local business markup for address or business information, otherwise you may still be affected by the new guidelines.
Why Does This Matter?
It’s possible that Google will ignore review rich snippets within local business markup, so you likely wouldn’t benefit from any markup violating their guidelines in the future.
On the other hand, it’s also possible that if Google catches you violating their structured data guidelines for local business reviews that you could get a manual Structured Data penalty. Since we don’t know how harshly Google will treat offenders, it’s best to play it safe for now and not do anything that will violate their guidelines.
The whole reason for the update is to improve user experience. Google wants your reviews to provide an honest impression of your site, so that when users visit they enter with a clear, impartial outlook. A rich card that shows both positive and negative reviews from actual users will set their expectations accordingly.
Give the Service or Product schema a shot, and make sure your site obeys Google’s new guidelines.
* Adapted lead image: Public Domain, pixabay.com via getstencil.com