Last Updated: Dec 22, 2021

Last April, Google dropped a new search algorithm update that affects a very specific type of content: product reviews. And just a few weeks ago, a Product Reviews Update 2.0 was released with a few additional guidelines.

Running a Google search before hitting the add to cart button has become part of the buyer’s journey. Some 59% of shoppers use Google to research a product or service before they buy, whether it’s for an online or offline purchase. 

But these days it can be challenging to find reviews that are reliable, detailed, and most of all, unbiased. And so the goal of Google’s Product Reviews Update is to weed out thin content and fluff from review sites and pages in order to help customers make informed decisions about their purchases.

Danny Sullivan, Google’s Public Liaison for Search says that this new update, “Looks to improve all types of product reviews, single reviews, or round-ups.” 

Websites that will be affected are:

The good news is that these algorithm changes come with a silver lining. Instead of leaving content creators and business owners guessing on how to adapt to the new algorithm, Google has provided guidelines on how to create review content that ranks

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at Google’s Reviews Update and the steps you can take to go with the new algorithm changes. This is important if you post reviews or round-ups on your website or other websites, or if you’re encouraging your customers to leave reviews for you as well. Let’s dive in now. 

Google Product Reviews Update: An In-depth Look

Even if you don’t write review content on your blog, the new update can affect your choice of affiliate sites and publications which feature your brand and products. 

For better visibility and reach, you’ll want to develop relationships with content creators, experts, and journalists who can write the type of high-quality content that Google wants. 

An important point to note though, is that this isn’t considered to be a core update. Core updates are significant changes that Google makes on its algorithm which affect your website’s presence and all its indexed pages.

The product reviews update won’t affect your website as a whole and won’t apply to informational content that you may already have in your blog, such as how-to articles.

Here are the Write High Quality Product Reviews guidelines from Google Search Central

  • “Evaluate the product from a user’s perspective.
  • Demonstrate that you are knowledgeable about the products reviewed – show you are an expert.
  • Provide evidence such as visuals, audio, or other links of your own experience with the product, to support your expertise and reinforce the authenticity of your review.
  • Share quantitative measurements about how a product measures up in various categories of performance.
  • Explain what sets a product apart from its competitors.
  • Cover comparable products to consider, or explain which products might be best for certain uses or circumstances.
  • Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a particular product, based on your own original research.
  • Describe how a product has evolved from previous models or releases to provide improvements, address issues, or otherwise help users in making a purchase decision.
  • Identify key decision-making factors for the product’s category and how the product performs in those areas (for example, a car review might determine that fuel economy, safety, and handling are key decision-making factors and rate performance in those areas).
  • Describe key choices in how a product has been designed and their effect on the users beyond what the manufacturer says.
  • Include links to other useful resources (your own or from other sites) to help a reader make a decision.
  • Consider including links to multiple sellers to give the reader the option to purchase from their merchant of choice.”

The point of this algorithm update is to help ensure that reviews are legitimate. For this reason, any evidence that you, or your customers, if you’re encouraging them to write reviews, can leave that they’ve actually purchased and used your products is important. Encouraging them to take photos or videos, or highlight how, exactly, your product differs from the competition can all help.

Tips to Improve Your Product Review Content

So what exactly does thin content look like?

These are articles that give only a list of recommended products without substantial information or content that simply summarizes products with links to affiliate websites thrown in. It usually doesn’t explain how the products are selected, doesn’t mention who does the reviews, and doesn’t contain additional information that’s not available on the manufacturer’s page. 

Take a look at this example of how a product review post should not be written: 

(Source: GSQI)

Google Search Central and the SEO community have always advised webmasters to follow the Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness or “E A T” guidelines when it comes to creating content. 

The product reviews algorithm update wants review posts that show insightful analysis, based on original research rather than thin content. In this section I’ll be sharing tips on how to improve your product review content. You’ll also want to look for the same things when your products are featured by review sites:

Add Authors’ Names

These days, anyone can write review content by copying a product description from the manufacturer’s site, adding a bit of fluff, and throwing in some affiliate links. Google suggests that reviews should be written by experts and enthusiasts in that product’s category.

It sounds more credible and helpful without being pushy, offers insightful analysis, and shows real experiences from a user’s perspective. 

Sites that did well during the update had reviews written by enthusiasts and experts, and the sites provided author names and bios. Including author bios on your blog posts or website is also consistent with the “E A T” rule of SEO. When crediting authors on review content, don’t forget to put relevant information on what makes him or her a voice to be trusted. 

Take a look at this example from Wirecutter. Their review article is second in the search results for “best cutting boards:”

(Source: Wirecutter)

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This is another good example of an author bio from Tom’s Guide, whose review article is fourth on the search results for “best robot mops:

(Source: Tom’s Guide)

Establish Website Reputation

Aside from adding authors’ information, establish your site’s reputation and legitimacy by making sure your logo and business name appear on each page. Also include a section that contains company and contact information. Sites that didn’t have solid branding and contact details (logos or site name on top of the page) were seen to have dropped heavily during the update. Again, “E A T” seems to play a big role in the new product reviews update.

Avoid Aggressive Advertising

According to GSQI’s testing, sites with aggressive affiliate marketing strategies saw a drop in their rankings. Their pages were filled with images, buttons, and links that all led to off-site clicks pushing readers to buy something. It can be a user experience nightmare for visitors who simply want to research an item.

It also shows that the site cares more about making revenue and not really about delivering helpful content. Don’t overwhelm readers with too many affiliate links and also include an affiliate disclosure on your page.

Understand Search Intent

Search intent marketing is the creation of content that meets a user’s need or the “search intent”. For example, someone might do a search for “pros of gaming laptops “ or “best gaming laptops under $500.” When a user visits your site, will their needs be met? You’d want to help searchers come away from your site meeting their goal, whether that’s to make a purchase or look up information about an item.  

Think about the features of your product and what people searching for it might want to know, then create content that meets those needs. Rich content usually covers topics on key decision-making factors for people before making a purchase.

Use Comparison Tables

Comparison tables are a great way to illustrate core differences among several products and to show what sets it apart from competitors. Take note of all the relevant performance categories that play a role in decision-making. Take a look at this great example:

(Source: GSQI)

Include Rich Review Content

Share in depth research that goes beyond talking about the product. Review sites that included buying guides, product specs and dimensions, and a pros and cons section were rewarded during the product reviews update. 

Medical News Today jumped in rank for their product round-up that included a comprehensive buying guide:

(Source: Search Engine Journal)

An example from Bellingham Electric that includes the specs also ranked well:

(Source: Search Engine Journal)

Here’s a fantastic review from Wirecutter, which includes original research and additional information on the product:

(Source: GSQI)

Use Unique Photos and Videos

Google says to include, “Unique content beyond what’s provided on the manufacturer’s site.” Opt for photos and videos of the actual product being used aside from the product photos. Try to use high-quality images and videos as much as possible, which give your reviews and website a more professional and polished feel. Aside from taking your own photos, you can also source these from user generated content or from your influencer or expert reviews.

Use Objective Language

Google’s BERT AI and NLP algorithms are getting much smarter at reading the language and tone used in web pages. The tone and words used in sales pages or product pages should ideally be different from what you read on review content.

While it’s perfectly normal for sales pages to contain “power words”, using the same type of language on review content makes it feel like the goal is to highlight a product’s best features to sell, and not give objective information. For review posts, describe the products and experience as objectively as possible without using sales copy or fluff.

Make sure to use words that you’re likely to find in review posts such as test, compare, and findings.’ Using more personal pronouns like I and we also make it read more like a real review done by a tester and not sales copy disguised as a review or recommendation.

Take a look at Search Engine Journal’s findings of two review sites who used different types of language. The first example uses marketing language, which Google’s algorithm detected and resulted in a drop in ranking:

(Source: Search Engine Journal)

 The second example from Best Reviews uses objective language in the review: 

(Source: Search Engine Journal)

Work With Experts and Content Creators in Your Niche

If you’re not yet working with influencers and experts in your industry, now’s the best time to reach out to those who can create high-value, rich content. You may also have to send out samples of products to be tested out.

Product reviews based on real experiences will be much more objective and believable from a user’s perspective. This is also a great source of original, unique photos and videos that Google’s reviews update algorithm is now favoring. 

Remember to combine these tips along with SEO best practices and regular analytics checks to make sure your site is ranking for your keywords. Check how your page is doing by keeping track of your Google Analytics results and using tools like Ahrefs Rank Tracker, MOZ Pro or Sitechecker

With the amount of content being produced every day, it’s hard to know which sites to trust and which ones to avoid. Google’s product reviews update wants to protect their search engine and users from manipulative and misleading content.

Google stresses that the quality and originality of the reviews are what matter the most, and not length. Tailoring your content based on Google’s latest guidelines will help your ecommerce store and products get seen by more people, and will lead to customers who are happier and more satisfied with their purchases. 

Looking to scale your ecommerce business as quickly and efficiently as possible? Reach out today for your free 20-minute consultation, and let’s uncover techniques to help you grow your business.

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