Yelp and Google Reviews are generally seen as the two most important review aggregate sites for businesses. The two sites don’t allow business owners to remove reviews, making it so each business’ score has an element of authenticity to it. Of course, these scores can still be manipulated by business owners, but not to the extent that business owners are currently highlighting reviews on their own sites.
While website admins are allowed to showcase 5-star reviews on their sites – and even hide negative reviews – Google has recently taken steps that will prevent websites from showing inflated review scores in their markup. This markup, visible on search results pages, pulls in reviews from either the website they’re presented on (by users with an account specific to that site) or from third-party sites. It’s important to note these reviews are not coming from either Google+ or Yelp. Because these third-party sites are not as well moderated as sites like Yelp and Google+, they can easily be manipulated and provide websites with an unfair advantage in search engine results pages. For example, the company featured in the above screenshot has 4.3 Google+ and 4.0 Yelp rating. While this markup isn’t a Google ranking factor, it isn’t fair for competitors using honest SEO practices.
Google’s adjustments to prevent this include:
- Only allowing websites’ markup to include reviews taken from their own site – not third-party
- Users must be allowed to write a negative review that won’t later be deleted or hidden
- National chains cannot pull in reviews for other locations in their markup for just one location’s website
- Businesses cannot pay or offer other monetary incentives to customers to get them to leave a 5-star review
While this update won’t be visible overnight, expect review markup to slowly disappear as time goes on.