With the rollout of the Reviews from Around the web feature showing aggregate review summaries on non-Google reviews in the Knowledge Panel, Google has once again updated their Schema Review Guidelines.
The New Google Schema Review Guidelines
The new guidelines essentially split the previous single guideline that covered both critic and on-site reviews into two more detailed set of rules, one for critic reviews and one for use of review snippets on your site.
They define each as follows:
Google displays the following types of reviews in search results:
- Critic reviews: A snippet from a longer review article that a single editor has created, curated, or compiled for a publisher.
- Review snippets: A rich snippet of a review or rating markup from a review website, usually an average of the combined rating scores from reviewers. Review snippets appear in Google Search results either under the search result or in the Google Knowledge Cards.
For the most part the critic review section used the previously released rules with minor updates for clarity. But Google, in new critic review schema guidance, makes it clear that critic review snippets must be generated by humans and not machine generated:
- Authoritative human editor(s) must create, curate, or compile content for critic reviews.
More importantly for most of us, Google created additional guidance for the use of Review Snippets and, as with critic reviews, provided general guidelines that cover all of types of review content(products, books, movies, music and local business) as well as an addendum with additional guidance for the use of schema specifically for local business reviews.
Using Review Schema Requires Reviews Original To Your Site
One thing that is still clear in the Review snippets guidelines for local buisnesses is that if you want to use Schema markup, the reviews need to be original and generated by your site. This obviously precludes marking up reviews from Yelp or Google for use. They say:
Google may display information from aggregate ratings markup in the Google Knowledge Cards. The following guidelines apply to review snippets in knowledge cards for local businesses:
- Ratings must be sourced directly from users.
- Don’t rely on human editors to create, curate or compile ratings information for local businesses. These types of reviews are critic reviews.
- Sites must collect ratings information directly from users and not from other sites.
As always with Google guidelines there is a degree of ambiguity, poor writing and a fair bit left open to interpretation as to what is acceptable and what Google will ignore or even punish.
Although this update does provide some additional specificity that is helpful, the reality is that there is still room for confusion. What else is new?
For now, we see the use of on-site schema for feedback and review content that you have captured directly from your clients as a valuable tool for both understanding consumer sentiment and creating great on site content.
P.S. I am including a PDF of copies of the Google’s previous guidance as well as the current guidance so that you can compare the two sets of rules yourself more easily: