Google Updates Schema Review Guidelines – Again

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.

Google schema updated

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:

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About the Author

Mike Blumenthal
With unmatched industry expertise and knowledge, Mike is a co-founder and serves as GetFiveStar’s Chief Review Officer helping our customers get the most of the platform. Mike is widely cited as the foremost Local Search expert in North America and affectionately known among his colleagues as ‘Professor Maps’.

9 thoughts on “Google Updates Schema Review Guidelines – Again

  1. Karolina Salek - September 9, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    I guess Google had to step it up and implement some changes….Maybe they feel like they are falling behind with Facebook, Snapchat and IG changing weekly lol! Greta article! Thanks Mike 🙂

    Reply
  2. Jan - September 13, 2016 at 5:06 am

    Thanks for the update on this. A few questions remain unanswered, though. Is this the end of all “aggregating” rating services? After all many of them allow for manually filtering customer reviews.

    Reply
    • Mike Blumenthal - September 13, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      @Jan
      Could you explain what you mean by “aggregating” rating services?

      Reply
  3. Cary Blackburn - October 28, 2016 at 11:47 pm

    From what I could see from a number of sites, this was badly abused. I especially saw a lot of this happening on affiliate sites. My question is: How is Google going to police this without manual reviews of offending sites?

    Reply
    • Mike Blumenthal - October 29, 2016 at 8:05 am

      @Cary
      Obviously Google scales everything with some sort of programatic approach and that includes enforcement. With rich snippets, like with Penguin and Panda, they started out manually, gradually the enforcement process runs as a separate task on some periodic basis and then finally it gets integrated into the on-going process that is Google quality/enforcement. They test and iterate, test and iterated until it achieves whatever level of abuse enforcement they feel is adequate. That doesn’t mean all abusers will be caught but the noise will be reduced to a dull roar.

      I believe that is happening now. I think, but obviously can’t confirm, that they have moved beyond the manual mode into the periodic run “the separate process” mode and have started to automate whatever level of enforcement they are able to achieve. This is usually happening concurrently with the release of guidelines.

      In the case of this review rich snippet abuse enforcement for misuse I believe it to be a situation where the stars are just not shown rather than any proactive penalty pushing a site down in rankings.

      Reply
  4. Mike Chrest - December 5, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    this feature was so abused and overdone , i can not see it last in serps very much longer , seems like it will be gone soon

    Reply
    • Mike Blumenthal - December 6, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      @Mike
      I agree with you that there are abuses.

      But it is not difficult to “do it right”… we are hoping that Google rewards the do it right strategy and punishes the abusers… but who knows.

      Reply
  5. Mike Chrest - December 6, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    Also there was an update to an added Image required and price reccomended. Might want to check this. Not really about review but part of schema

    Reply

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