Google has announced an update to its ranking algorithm in relation to product reviews, in an effort to highlight more in-depth, informative overviews within search results.
As explained by Google:
"We know that people appreciate product reviews that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products. That’s why we’re sharing an improvement to our ranking systems, which we call the product reviews update, that’s designed to better reward such content."
The focus of the update is to provide increased SERP placement to product reviews that include 'insightful analysis and original research', which has been written by experts or enthusiasts who know the topic well.
That could change the way brands look to prompt reviews from users and publications, with a view to improving ranking based on this new, more in-depth review ranking approach.
To help with this, Google has also provided specific advice on what, exactly, it's looking to better surface with this update, saying that it will put increased focus on review content which:
- Expresses expert knowledge about products
- Shows what the product is like physically, and/or how it's used, with unique content beyond what’s provided by the manufacturer
- Provides quantitative measurements about how the product measures up in various categories of performance
- Covers comparable products to consider, or explains which products might be best for certain uses or circumstances
- Discusses the benefits and drawbacks of a particular product, based on research
- Describes how a product has evolved from previous models or releases to provide improvements
- Identifies key decision-making factors for the product's category, and how the product performs in those areas
As noted, that could put increased onus on brands to seek out more professional reviews from publications, as opposed to relying on user-submitted comments on Amazon or similar platforms.
In fact, that could be what Google's looking to filter out - over the past year, there have been several examples of people using reviews as a means to punish businesses that they don't agree with, or in other illegitimate forms.
TikTok, for example, got massively downranked in India last year amid a stoush between local YouTubers and creators on the upstart platform. Google eventually had to remove millions of disingenuous reviews as a result.
In China, students who were taking part in online learning, as a result of COVID-19 school closures, worked out that they may be able to get an app banned from the Google Play store if it got enough downvotes. They used that knowledge to mass-downvote homework app DingTalk, in an effort to avoid additional school work.
This type of misuse maybe part of Google's motivation here, while the increased take-up of eCommerce has also put more onus on Google to uncover more in-depth product review results, in order to meet user requirements.
Either way, it's another consideration for your SEO process.
Google's product reviews update is going live today, and only involves English language reviews at this stage.