I sent the following email to Carter Maslan, Product Management Director, Local Search at Google for clarification:
You have been quoted as saying at Kelsey: “Merchants should be publishing their own reviews and that Google would find them.”
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.
I realize that these are not incompatible statements IF on an SMB website, the owner puts testimonials without hReview mark up.
Is that what you are currently suggesting as a best practice? Will Google on occasion still include them as a review in Places?
Hi Mike –
An authentic testimonial is really nothing more than a glowingly positive user review that the business owner has hand-chosen to feature because it’s speaks so highly of the business. There’s nothing wrong with that – especially if there are avenues to corroborate the authenticity of the author and review (e.g. “reviewer” attribute referencing the hcard of a real person that might have originally posted comments on a blog or review site). The FAQ below was intended to convey that we try to classify reviews wherever they’re found on the Web but that we also aim to protect users from spam.
The use of hReview or other structured HTML formats on any site is just an aid in understanding the page more precisely. Ranking tries to steer clear of suspicious testimonials regardless of whether they’re marked-up or not on an SMB’s own site. Bottom line – it’s not that we always score testimonials on business home pages as spammy but rather that white-hat SEOs might not invest special effort to markup testimonials at this point.