Thoughts on the Recent Rollout of Aggregate Reviews, Snippets & Critic Reviews in Google SERPS

Since early August with the roll out of Critic Reviews and Top 10 Lists and with the recent rollout of Reviews from the web and a significant review snippet display upgrade, Google has been on a rich snippet tear. Here are some my thoughts, big and small, about these changes.

Do you see these changes as anti-competitive? Do you see them as helping your business? I would love to hear from you.

cad-jacks-pricing-snippetRich Snippets and Aggregate Review Counts are significantly more prominent in the search results with upgrades to both the Knowledge Panel and the review snippet display.

Not only has Google increased review rich snippet prominence in the mobile display but has also included pricing information.

recipe-snippetThis new review snippet display has been changed for other entities as well. You can see in this Recipe snippet that the third column was also used to include even more information. It is interesting to speculate how that might be used for Local. (H/T to Aaron Weiche.)

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-9-44-56-amGoogle has looked far and wide for additional review content and has included a lot of content from sites Zomato and FourSquare as well as others providing site reviews.

It would appear that sites like FourSquare and Zomato became more visible in brand searches as well.

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-10-21-51-amAs noted by Joy Hawkins having your own review system like GetFiveStars seems to offer SERP display benefits particularly for multi location businesses.  (I am a principal in GetFiveStars.)

Disclosure: Growler Guys is a GetFiveStars clientThere is, as always, a ranking element in the order that the aggregate data shows in the Knowledge Panel. This, at first glance, seems to mirror the organic order of the review sites with snippets on the brand search. There also seems to be a correlation with total review count. Which also correlates somewhat to organic positioning… ooh my head is spinning.

critic-top-10This upgrade, following closely on the heels of the prominent Critic Review display, was accompanied by another new update to the Guidelines for critic reviews and review snippets.

These guidelines make it totally obvious that critic reviews must be human curated. While no mention was made whether Top 10 lists also need to be so curated one assumes that might be the case. (Although this is not at all clear.)

With the rollout of Critic review displays, it is likely that these sorts of reviews have taken on a more important ranking impact than UGC reviews. Google in articulating the newest guidelines seems to be encouraging the development of this sort of content for businesses other than restaurants.

Yelp has come and gone from the KP display of aggregate reviews while TripAdvisor has not been seen even though both rank highly and frequently on brand searches. Yelp, for those of you new to Local, has had a long standing and contentious relationship vis a vis Google’s use of their review content that precedes their anti-trust testimony.

tin-hatGoogle has searched far and wide for review content to include in this upgrade. I would speculate that Yelp and TripAdvisor apparently chose not to participate in the Knowledge Panel display. I would posit that Google, not having as much ability to display these two leader’s aggregate review content, perhaps chose to dilute Yelp’s and TA’s impact by prominently showing all of the other review content around the internet?

Interesting question that we can only speculate about.  I am sure that we will more on the topic from Yelp and Google.

Your thoughts?


Exploring Oddities of Reviews from the Web with Joy, Sergey & Priya

mark-pogue-allstate-oleanConversations with Joy Hawkins, Priya Chandra and Sergey Alakov surfaced some odd behaviors with the new “Reviews from the web” Knowledge Graph feature. These 3rd party reviews were sometimes appearing and other times not when the Knowledge Panel was displaying.

After some testing, I determined that the specific query and its degree of relatedness to the actual entity seems to dictate whether the 3rd party reviews show in the Knowledge Panel.

For example “Dive Bar Olean” surfaces the 3rd Base Knowledge Panel but no reviews from the web while the search “3rd Base Olean” does surface the reviews. In a similar case a search for “Juliana’s Cafe Coburg Au” shows the Knowledge Panel but no reviews while the more specific search “Juliana’s Cafe Coburg Vic” does show them.

It appears that there is some degree of certainty dictated by the general relevance of an entity. I would postulate that if an entity has better relevance across more variations of its name it would be more likely to get the reviews with less accurate searches.

In other words for businesses that have a very low web presence and very few varieties of their names used in articles and links around the web, the less sure that Google is of the presentation. Thus a solid, on-going SEO campaign is likely to create a situation where these reviews show up more of the time with your Knowledge Panel.

Here are the searches and the resultant Knowledge Panels. On the left are the less precise searches that don’t show the Reviews from the web and on the right are the more precise searches which do show them. :


Search: Dive Bar Olean


Search: 3rd Base Olean


Search: Pogue allstate olean


Search: Mark Pogue allstate olean


Search: juliana’s cafe coburg au


Search: juliana’s cafe coburg vic

Google Updates Mobile Rich Snippet Display with Pricing Information

In addition to the release of Reviews from the web and new review rich snippet guidelines (again), Google has simultaneously updated the display of mobile organic review rich snippets with more space and additional pricing details. H/T to Aaron Weiche, the CMO at GetFivestars.


Although Jared McKiernan of ParkWhiz asks some interesting questions: Continue reading Google Updates Mobile Rich Snippet Display with Pricing Information

Stoppleman to Google: “Delete It” – Yelp Reviews Gone from Knowledge Panel

Yelp reviews, after showing briefly in the new “Reviews from the web” area of the Knowledge Panel, have once again disappeared from site. It would seem that TripAdvisor aggregate reviews are also conspicuously absent.

Google must work on the premise of ask for forgiveness not permission. Unfortunately it does not appear that Jeremy Stoppleman (of delete your account fame) is not in a forgiving mood.

Here is a Knowledge Panel screen capture of Barbara Oliver Jewelry, my pet client in Buffalo, from Thursday showing Yelp reviews:


And the same screen shot after Yelp deleted their Google account yesterday:


I checked around the world via Twitter and Priya Chandra, my favorite Aussie and fellow Top Contributor to Google My Business,  noted that as of yesterday evening (EDT) Yelp was still showing. But as of this AM its gone.



In the restaurant world ,at least on my favorite dive bar in Olean, 3rd Base, Yelp was quickly replaced by 4Square and Zomato:


It would appear from casual observation that the order of the reviews showing in the Knowledge Panel mirrors the organic ranking of that review site. And that to be shown the review site, needs to be on the first page of the organic results. It appears that some sites like Zomato and perhaps Foursquare have also achieved some ranking boost as neither was anecdotally visible prior to this update.

I would also note that TripAdvisor is also conspicuously missing from panel despite ranking highly for many brand searches and displaying rich snippets in the search results. It does not appear accidental.

Go figure. But this recent update will keep tin hat theorists, Google world domination theorists AND Jeremy occupied for a while.


Yelp Review Summaries Back in the Google Knowledge Panel

I am not sure whether this message has been approved by Jeremy Stoppleman but at least for now, with the new reviews from the web announced yesterday summaries now showing in the Knowledge Panel, Yelp is back.


For those of you that don’t go back to the “early” days of Google Local, it would seem like it’s deja vu all over again. I wrote this in June 2010:

Yelp’s relationship with Google Maps has been off and on again. Their reviews have disappeared and reappeared on Google Maps over the past 3 years as Google’s and Yelp’s relationship has waxed and waned. But the relationship now seems to be on once again. About 10 days ago Yelp’s reviews again started showing up on Places Pages.

Updated Google Schema Review Guidelines for Local Businesses

Review rich snippets are a powerful local markup type but they have been open to abuse and misuse. Google with release of their critic review snippet extension has also significantly updated their rules for Local Business‘s use of review rich snippets on their website.

IN typical Google fashion, the new rules while adding additional use cases manage to direcgtly contradict the previous rules particularly in regards to whether you can mark up reviews from third party sites (previously you could but you can no more.

At the GetFiveStars blog, I have detailed the new rule changes and which of the new rules you should be aware of when implementing rich snippet mark up on your site.

Head over there and let me know what you think of the new rules.

Video: Local U Advanced Speaker Series – David Deering & Schema for Local

LocalU Advanced takes a deep dive into the nuts and bolts of the bleeding edge of local search. Our upcoming LocalU Advanced is taking place the night of October 20th and the day October 21st. To give you a sense of the topics we will be covering we will be interviewing some of the speakers that will be there. David Deering, one of the foremost practitioners of Schema markup will be heading two sessions; Advanced Schema Markup for Local Businesses and a deep dive problem solving session Schema Q&A. If you want to learn the latest in Schema you owe it to yourself and your team to come.

In this first interview of our speaker series with myself, Mike Ramsey and David Deering of TouchPoint Digital, we discuss a number of recent developments, new Schema standards, updated Google rules and some in depth Schema ideas as to how it benefits the local business.

Cross posted at

Google Expanding SMB Test of “Write Directly to Search” Feature

Google has confirmed that they are expanding the test of a “write directly to the search” results product first seen in January for presidential candidates and in the March time frame seen for small businesses. According to Google the test is expanding from “10’s of small businesses to thousands”.

I am in Canada at the moment and unable to see them but you should them appearing regularly in the US
We should be seeing more and more examples in local branded search results over the next 30 days.The test is being run in the US, Brazil and India. The product has not yet been seen being tested with larger brands but is also being tested with live events like soccer matches, certain vertical solutions and other entity types likes schools.

Essentially the product, which has no formal name (I refer to it as Google Posts or Google Podium or maybe the product that “shall not be named”), allows an small business (or other entity) to easily create “cards” that present directly in search results much like an AMP page. In the March SMB tests these local “cards” showed on broad search terms but it appears that in the new test these “cards” will typically show on a brand search in close association with the Knowledge Panel.

Think of it as a live, real time stream of local business content for search. The local card is essentially a super lightweight, fast loading web page that resides directly on Google and may become one of the simplest ways for a business to create a web presence for user discovery.

The product apparently uses a dedicated app/environment that is a super simplified way for a small business to post images, text, links and videos in real time. With these cards, Google is opening up a more dynamic, real time content arena for local businesses. The cards, as in the previous test, can be easily shared by searchers via email or social channels. Essentially Google is attempting to make search results more of a destination and possibly viral.

Given that this current test is focused around showing these local cards on branded results only, I could envision a companion monetization by “boosting” a card to broader local search terms or charging for possible calls to action.

Given that the test is being expanded in Brazil and India as well implies that Google might be seeing this feature as a web alternative for small businesses in developing countries with less bandwidth and computing resources.

When viewed in conjunction with AMP, Places Actions (the ability to schedule a visit via the Knowledge Panel), Google Local Trip Planner and other long standing features like click to call, you can see a long term product arc that is making Local search results the final destination for users rather than a stopping point on a purchase journey. 

Update (via Joy Hawkins): here is a search My Special Day that returns the results.



Developing Knowledge about Local Search