Should you Mark up Testimonials to get Gold Stars?


JoyHawkins

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Interesting discussion on this video.

Seems like they are advising people not to mark up client testimonials as reviews to get those coveted gold stars. My question is has anyone actually seen any type of penalty for this? Mike Ramsey mentioned a penalty for marking up things in the code that don't exist on the page - I have seen those. What I haven't seen is any reason why a business wouldn't want to take advantage of the gold stars? It really helps CTR.

Thoughts?
 
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Thanks Joy!

Have not watched yet, but David is my hero when it comes to Schema, so I'm sure it's great info.
 

Marie Haynes

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Wow, that was a great video.

I'm like you Joy...I've seen several cases of manual actions for marking up something that didn't exist on the page. But I haven't personally seen a site get a manual action for marking up testimonials.

I thought this question in the Webmaster Help Forums was interesting:

https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/webmasters/HEPYEcKNpJ0;context-place=topicsearchin/webmasters/manual$20action$20testimonials

Grace Massa Langlois said,

In Google's eyes, testimonials are not reviews. Also note, if you're marking up reviews the main topic of the page must be about the item being reviewed. For example, you're displaying a list of blog post excerpts on this page and you're marking up Product type and nesting in AggregateRating, The marked up product name is Our Blog. Our Blog is not a product and the reviews are testimonials about the business. For your Blog page you should be marking up Blog type and nesting BlogPosting type (for each excerpt displayed on the page). I suspect you're marking up the same reviews on many or all pages and marking up Product type for each page and nesting AggregateRating and linking to the same testimonials.
So it sounds like that's a case where a penalty may have been given for marking testimonials as reviews.

Here's another similar answer by Grace:

https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/webmasters/FyINdhBaeTY;context-place=topicsearchin/webmasters/manual$20action$20testimonials

I would start by removing the Product markup with the name Our Client Reviews on the homepage. Our Client Reviews is not a product. Structured data should be an accurate reflection of the content already found on the page. Also note, each testimonial is marked up with the name property but it doesn't belong to any type therefore not being detected by the tool. If your intent is to markup the testimonials as reviews please note in Google's eyes testimonials are not reviews.
Not sure if that answers the question. But it sure helped me learn something today. :)
 
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Thanks for weighing in Marie. Fascinating stuff!

And thanks for linking to your new thread. Hoping we get some discussion there too!
 
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Hey, did somebody say "schema"?? lol Sorry, I just noticed this conversation. Honestly, Google's stance on what's acceptable and what's not when it comes to reviews is sometimes pretty vague and it's constantly changing. But what Grace said is true. Now, there is this guideline that mentions marking up reviews that don't have a rating, but it was written a while ago and may not be up-to-date or accurate any longer.

But as a general rule (well, rules)...

1. The home page should not really be marked up with reviews and ratings. As Grace pointed out, the reviews should be directly about the main topic of the page, and a home page does not really have a single "topic". And not many home pages at all are getting the aggregate rating rich snippet anyway.

2. Along with that, make sure your reviews/ratings are about a specific product or service. You can of course mark up reviews for you or your client's company but the page should be about the company, such as the About page or a Customer Reviews page. But you might want to begin segmenting your reviews for your various services.

3. At the moment, we can't mark up third-party reviews and ratings. So that includes Google+, Yelp, Angie's List and so on. Google wants website owners to generate reviews directly from customers from their site. To me, that will just increase the likelihood of businesses posting and marking up fake reviews. Hopefully the structured data team will recognize that and change this guideline.

4. Whatever content you include in your markup, make sure that it's visible on the page. Marked up hidden content is a quick way to get penalized.

The truth is, Google is not going to display your company's aggregate rating on every page of your site, so use that markup wisely and selectively. But it does look like we and our clients will need to begin implementing some sort of review generation system on our sites if we don't already have one.
 

heckler

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But it does look like we and our clients will need to begin implementing some sort of review generation system on our sites if we don't already have one.
These guys are doing exactly that:
Heating and Air Conditioning in Saint Joseph | BW/Cook Service Experts

They're using their own system for gathering reviews and displaying those in a sidebar on a location page. They do earn review snippets for terms like 'water heater repair saint joseph', but they're a ways down the SERP.
 

JoyHawkins

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David,

So glad you chimed in! I am looking forward to your talk at LocalU :)

So given your explanation, what Allstate is doing with Get5Stars that I highlighted here is fine then?
 
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Hi Joy. Looking forward to hearing your talk at LocalU, too, and meeting you and the rest of the Local SEO experts.

But what Allstate is doing with GetFiveStars is perfect. Each location has its own unique reviews and they all are benefiting from rich snippets, too. So your advice was right on point. :)
 

Marie Haynes

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David,

Have you ever seen a situation where a site got a manual action for something schema-related and it had serious detrimental effects? It seems to me that if you get one of these manual actions you say, "oops sorry", clean up the schema and once you apply for reconsideration everything is fine.
 

Tony Wang

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@Marie, I just replied on your other post with David's reply to the same question I asked in the comments of his localu post last Jan. (Understanding Google's Updated Structured Data Guidelines - Local University), where he stated penalties could be hard to fix.

@David, now I'm really confused. In that localu post you stated that we are now allowed to show and markup 3rd party reviews from Google and Yelp. Based on that, I started showing a "selected" Google review related to a particular service on that service page, with a link to the original review. But it seems they've changed it back and no longer allow 3rd party reviews again?

Moreover, this particular item on Google's guideline page has me confused:

"Reviews must allow for customers to express both positive and negative sentiments. They may not be vetted by the business or restricted by the content provider based on the positive/negative sentiment of the review before submission to Google."

What do they mean by "before submission to Google"? Sounds to me like it's referring to Google reviews.

Also, I thought the Get 5 Stars system vets the reviews; if you're not happy, it steers you to a page where you can send a comment to the business rather than post a review. Doesn't that conflict with this guideline?

I would think Google would prefer us using Google or Yelp reviews rather than a review submission on our own website. How could they possibly know whether I am vetting reviews that are submitted on my site?
 
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@David, now I'm really confused. In that localu post you stated that we are now allowed to show and markup 3rd party reviews from Google and Yelp. Based on that, I started showing a "selected" Google review related to a particular service on that service page, with a link to the original review. But it seems they've changed it back and no longer allow 3rd party reviews again?

Moreover, this particular item on Google's guideline page has me confused:

"Reviews must allow for customers to express both positive and negative sentiments. They may not be vetted by the business or restricted by the content provider based on the positive/negative sentiment of the review before submission to Google."

What do they mean by "before submission to Google"? Sounds to me like it's referring to Google reviews.

Also, I thought the Get 5 Stars system vets the reviews; if you're not happy, it steers you to a page where you can send a comment to the business rather than post a review. Doesn't that conflict with this guideline?

I would think Google would prefer us using Google or Yelp reviews rather than a review submission on our own website. How could they possibly know whether I am vetting reviews that are submitted on my site?
Hey Tony. Looks like they just changed the rules again and you are looking at the new rules that were just published. Mike has the scoop:

<a href="http://blumenthals.com/blog/2016/08/27/updated-google-schema-review-guidelines-for-local-businesses/">Updated Google Schema Review Guidelines for Local Businesses | Understanding Google My Business & Local Search</a>
 

JoyHawkins

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So when it says "reviews must be directly produced by your site" do you think that is an issue with Get5Stars since technically there is no option to leave a review on the site itself (like you can on Yelp)? Aren't the reviews technically produced by a review tool vs the site?
 
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1- While GetFiveStars does allow businesses to NOT show negative feedback, we do encourage businesses to do so. We find that it only reduces the average star rating by less than 1/2 of a star.

2- As to whether a user who provides a negative feedback is directed to a 3rd party review site, that again is totally up to the business but Google is not stating that users should or should not be shown a third party review site, they are stating that if you gather feedback and reviews on your site, you should show them all (within your terms of service).

Some sites, like TripAdvisor, do prohibit this behavior and we have a setting that allows for complete compliance with their TOS.

3-Joy, Google is not speaking as to whether a site uses a 3rd party product or not to help them with the review process... they are saying if you garner reviews, regardless of how, then you need to comply with these guidelines.

4-As a note Allstate filters NO reviews other than those that violate the TOS. They have been well ahead of the curve on this one and it has served them well.

5-And to answer Joy's first question as to whether anyone has been penalized for marking up things incorrectly or in violation of the quidelines- we have not seen it.

But as David points out some of these rules are completely opposite of what the rules were (ie marking up or not 3rd party sites for example or marking up or not syndicated reviews) so I doubt that Google would penalize that in the short run. In local Google has a long history of changing the guidelines and then 3 or 6 months later enforcing the guideline. Or in some cases (like business name) of never enforcing the guideline.

Our position is that we are glad that Google is clarifying and formalizing the standards that should be used when marking up reviews. And we think that GetFiveStars is well positioned to allow a business to take advantage of these new, more stringent standards.
 

Tony Wang

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Thanks for the clarification Linda and Mike, I also just read Mike's post on the Get5stars blog.

Man, I sure wish Google wouldn't flipflop so often, I just started marking up Google reviews on some client sites, all for waste, now.

Again, I'm curious how they would test whether a site is showing all submitted reviews?
 

gyitsakalakis

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The only penalty I've seen has been that snippets were removed site wide. Haven't seen ranking / manual action from this. As of today, still seeing syndicated review snippets. We'll see whether this changes.
 

SumoLeap

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Hi Joy, thanks for posting this video.

As far as the manual penalties go, is it a bad idea to use the below tool and put the markup in the header of a website, not visible to the user? I just found the tool and started doing this for clients, not thinking it was against Google's guidelines. In my mind, it adds relevance and isn't spam. Then again, I'm not Google! (Note: I haven't hidden reviews, just local business SCHEMA.)

https://hallanalysis.com/json-ld-generator/
 

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