Google Places: Testimonials as Reviews Now Viewed As Spam?

In early October, 2010, shortly after Google announced support for Rich Snippets in Local, Google Rich Snippet FAQ noted the following:

How will Google treat businesses posting testimonials with review mark up on their own site? Will these be treated as a review by the Place Page?

Testimonials will be treated as business reviews on the Place Page.

Since that time, I have been tracking the appearance of testimonial pages as reviews in Places. And while I have been finding some they have mostly been non marked up pages and these results have not been coming into Places with more than very sporadic frequency. That being said, they are in fact coming into Places.

Today when rereading the Google Rich Snippet FAQ I discovered this change in Google’s position on this topic (when it occurred is unclear):

How will Google treat businesses posting testimonials with review mark up on their own site? Will these be treated as a review by the Place Page?

Google’s goal is to provide a comprehensive, unbiased, and credible view of businesses. Reviews should come from an independent source to remain trustworthy. Posting testimonials or using review markup on a business site will generally not improve how its listing appears on Google. As with any form of unuseful content, reviews markup intended to game search results will only undermine the listing’s credibility and may negatively affect its ranking. See our Webmaster Guidelines.

What is odd about this pronouncement is that testimonials are in fact flowing into Places. In a review of the 24 hotels in the the 7-pack for hotels in Buffalo, NYC, New Orleans and Miami, I found at least 5 Places pages with their own hotel sites listed as a review source.

I have also found three other site smb sites that have their testimonial pages listed as reviews in their Places Page (again not marked up). I have found no rich snippet marked up testimonial page appearing.

Consistency and stability allows businesses to plan and execute. Google’s inconsistencies and changing position make this issue a moving target and one that is frustrating.

Should SMB’s include testimonials on their websites? Will they be penalized? Should they or should they not be marked up? Should Google include them on the Places Pages?

Google has once again managed to send very mixed signals to the business community that makes the job of running a business that much harder.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Places: Testimonials as Reviews Now Viewed As Spam? by

26 thoughts on “Google Places: Testimonials as Reviews Now Viewed As Spam?”

  1. Stop moving the gosh-darn target G!

    As far as I’m concerned this is a bunch of BS. Carter Maslan specifically indicated to us at SMX West last year and since that Google was LOOKING FOR THESE DATA!

    I’m pissed.

    GO BING!

  2. @Will
    It is incredibly frustrating. Being able to advise SMBs on ethical practices is very difficult. Obviously Google doesn’t think through these things before they say them but it sure seems to indicate an incredible lack of respect and an inability to create a consistent environment into which a business can make a decision.

    I don’t really care which way they go on this… but I just can’t abide by the changing…

  3. The mixed messages are trumped by the evidence that Google is indeed pulling reviews from the business websites.

    The recommendation to our hotel clients will be to continue to publish customer reviews on your site. It helps influence the customer buying decision and has the potential of helping your local ranking.

    There is no n