On Monday this week, Google announced that they would be changing their treatment of star rating rich snippets in search results.
We already know that Google wasn’t happy with how star rating rich snippets (like those pictured above) were being used in the wild. “Structured data penalties” have become common in the past couple of years, mostly (in my experience) for the practice of placing organisation-level ratings markup across your entire site, which Google considered inaccurate or misleading (as the ratings weren’t for the specific content of the page they were on). Lots of examples of this exact behaviour continued to exist, however, with Google seemingly unable to enforce their own rules at scale (as is common for activities requiring manual review).
So what has changed?
It looks like Google is about to get far stricter on when they will and will not respect ratings structured data, the Schema.org property which has until now triggered these enhanced search results.
In particular, the use of a rating widget (e.g. Trustpilot, Feefo, hardcoded) to show reviews of your organization or business on a site that is run by your organization or business will no longer be respected. You can see Google’s updated guidelines here.
This covers probably the majority of real world use cases I’ve seen, although that may just be my experience.
What is Google aiming for, and what are they enforcing?
It seems that Google wants to push these ratings to apply mainly to critical or genuine 3rd party reviews – for example, a newspaper’s review of a film. Weirdly the distinction that Google is making in what they’re aiming for is whether the reviews are “self-serving” – I’d argue that having a website at all is fairly self-serving in most cases, unless you’re a charity or are running the reviews section of your site as an act of altruism.
Unfortunately, my pedantry isn’t going to get anyone their ratings back, but it does seem…