Understanding Google Schema Guidelines: Review Snippets vs. Critic Reviews

We recently received this question via support:  Google guidelines state the following: “Only include critic reviews that have been directly produced by your site, not reviews from third- party sites or syndicated reviews.” Is it ok to use GetFiveStars’ rich snippet widget?

Great question.

Google Has 2 Types of Review Guidelines

It’s important to understand the two types of review guidelines for local businesses:

  • Critic Reviews
  • Review Snippets

Its very easy to confuse the two sets of guidelines because of the (typical?) way that Google has laid them out.

Google Critic Reviews

“Critic Reviews” are for publishers of news sites to write about local businesses. This is a relatively new program introduced in August (see this Searchenginland article ) and encourages human curated reviews of businesses to be published on their own web site. And example of this type of review is the USA Today 10 Best lists. Google started showing these in search results last fall.

Reviews Snippets

By contrast “Review snippets” are for consumer reviews of a local business as well as other entities like recipes etc. These need to be written by consumers and must be original reviews, not copied from other sites in order to be marked up.

Each has their own rule set and the guidelines for “Review snippets” are slightly different than the rules for “Critic reviews”. The guidelines for both are on the same page but the “Critic review” guidelines are here (at the top of the page) and Review Snippet guidelines are here (buried deep down the page) and are hard to find.

For consumer reviews that will be shown in the Google SERPS and occasionally in the Knowledge Panel, the “Review Snippet” guidelines are the ones that you should reference.

We have designed GetFiveStars, and continually update it, with an eye on these guidelines and with the goal of staying in compliance.

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For reference the Google Review Snippet Guidelines for Local Businesses: NOTES
1- 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: Yes… that’s what we are hoping
2- Ratings must be sourced directly from users. Rating and content should be original and directly from customers of that business. That’s what GetFiveStar Feedback flow is all about.
3- Don’t rely on human editors to create, curate or compile ratings information for local businesses. These types of reviews are critic reviews. GetFiveStars doesn’t allow a business to create their own ratings. We do allow a business to remove feedback that does not meet their Terms of Service. And we allow businesses to try to satisfy complaints before posting feedback.
4- Sites must collect ratings information directly from users and not from other sites. Do not mark up reviews from sites like Google or Yelp. It’s OK to have them on your site if it is OK, just not to mark them up
In addition to the above rules specific to local business also be aware of the following general guidelines:
5- Aggregate ratings: An aggregate evaluation of an item by many people should be marked up as a schema.org/AggregateRating. Google may display aggregate ratings as rich snippets or, for certain types of items, answers in search results. Our Badge and Testimonial Widgets use AggregateRating schema in this way.
6- Refer clearly to a specific product or service. Do this by nesting the review or ratings within the markup of another schema.org type—such as schema.org/Book or schema.org/LocalBusiness —or by using that schema.org typed element as a value for the itemReviewed property. We use nested markup that clearly refers to the Local business
7- Make sure the reviews and ratings you mark up are readily available to users from the marked-up page. It should be immediately obvious to users that the page has review or ratings content. Don’t hide content that has been marked up in schema from the reader. If you are using rich snippet encoding on your site the ratings content should be readily visible to the reader. It’s possible, when using JSON markup to to not display the content of the JSON mark up to the reader. That’s a no no. We clearly show all ratings and when appropriate link to the feedback content itself.
8- Provide review and/or rating information about a specific item, not about a category or a list of items. For example, “hotels in Madrid,” “summer dresses,” or “cake recipes” are not specific items. See also our structured data guidelines for multiple entities on the same page. GetFiveStars is providing rating content about your specific business.
9- No reviews are shown for adult-related products or services. OK. I don’t think we have adult toy sites using the system but…
10- Single reviewer name needs to be valid. For example, “50% off until Saturday” is not a valid name for a reviewer. We use actual first name and last initial. And track the last name privately in our system. All names are valid and your actual customers. What other review system can you say that about?
11- Ratings that don’t use a 5-point scale: By default, Google assumes that your site uses a 5-point scale, where 5 is the best possible rating and 1 is the worst, but you can use any other scale. If you do, you can mark up the best and worst ratings, and Google will scale that to the 5-star system used in rich snippets. GetFiveStars auto converts from our 11 point NPS scale to a 5 star scale for display in rich snippet format.

 

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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’.

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