The digital space is dynamic and nothing ever stays the same for long and this spills over to digital marketing as well. As a digital marketing consultant, I’ve learned to anticipate and keep an eye out for these changes partly because I love learning new things and partly because such changes can significantly affect my clients’ businesses.
One of the major changes that happened recently is Google’s decision to start restricting review stars in SERPs and at the same time stop displaying first-party reviews that they considered self-serving. This change took effect in the middle of September this year and although Google had announced they would do it, they really hadn’t given a timeline for the change so some businesses were caught unawares.
This change resulted in reduced review snippets for all businesses in industries across the board although YMYL sites seemed to be the hardest hit e.g. those dealing with Finance.
Why did Google make this decision?
First-party reviews are those created by customers and displayed on a business website without input from the business owner. They generally come from your verified business customers as you give them the opportunity to give feedback about their experiences with your business, services or products. This not only adds a personal touch to your business but also gives it a sense of transparency and credibility. Potential customers can read through these reviews and feel assured that they are in good hands.
First-party reviews also directly impact organic search by influencing the CTR which in turn affects a business’ organic listing. Because of this, some businesses looked for ways to manipulate their SERPs. For instance, some paid employees to give the company high ratings while others decided to sabotage their competitors by giving them low ratings or leaving negative reviews on their sites.
This is probably why Google decided to step in to curb such manipulative and abusive tactics and crack the whip on review spam.
What does this mean for online businesses?
As a business owner, you’re probably wondering whether first-party reviews are now obsolete thanks to Google’s latest changes. Well, they’re not.
User reviews still remain incredibly important to businesses as they help instill trust in potential customers who visit your website. Additionally, they give you valuable insight into what your customers do and don’t like about either your business or the products or services you sell. These reviews help you improve customer experience by noting the feedback and solving the complaints raised.
However, you and your customers can only benefit from these reviews if they are genuine and I think that’s what Google wants to ensure as they continue playing the middleman role between businesses and their customers.
Need technical advice on how to improve your CTR and or effectively market your business or product? Get in touch with me today and we’ll find a marketing engagement option that suits your needs.