Google’s Product Reviews Update, 2021

In April we saw Google’s product reviews update, part of a slew of changes the search engine has been making recently. This will most likely be relevant to you if you publish product reviews on your website.

The update is not related to any reviews you write or receive for a business on Google Maps, Google My Business, or any other external platform.

What is the Product Reviews Update?

If you’re looking for a new type of product – a laptop, for example – you’ve probably used Google to search for details and reviews. Maybe you’re not sure which product you want and are looking for a comparison of different brands and models. Or maybe you have an idea of what you’d like but want to find more opinions to check it’s the right item for you.

Laptop in front of a white-grey background

The product reviews update aims to prioritise those websites that provide helpful, in-depth reviews that include good research, a firm understanding of the product, and insightful observations. It will devalue pages deemed to be sparse or unhelpful, such as those that list products without any meaningful information or comparisons.

On the subject of the update, Google states:

“We know people appreciate product reviews that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products.”

As always, they’re making the update because it’s what the user wants.

Analyse your Rankings

If you have a website that includes reviews, then take a look at your rankings over the last few months. Do you see any changes? Big drops could indicate that you aren’t meeting Google’s new standards, and it’s important that you make changes both to existing content and new content going forward.

Even if you didn’t see any major ranking changes, you may still want to go over old content to check whether it can be improved. The guidance will also help you hit the right mark when writing new reviews.

How To Improve Your Review Content

Like any of Google’s ranking factors, a lot of information plays into the decision of where to place a page in search results. So the search engine has provided a list of guidelines to help you identify and create good content. This is useful information and advisable to follow – especially as it comes from Google directly – but it’s also important to remember that it’s not everything. Your ranking will still depend on other good SEO practices, as well as additional ranking factors that Google doesn’t share.

To improve your review’s chances of ranking well, you should be able to answer ‘yes’ to these questions:

  • Are you an established and trusted expert (or enthusiast) on the subject?
  • Is the content unique? Does it provide additional information that’s not available from the manufacturer?
  • Does the review quantify its measurements so that the features and your overall opinion is easily  comparable with other products? You could, for example, rate each feature out of 5.
  • Does your review highlight a unique selling point or something that makes the item stand out from other similar products?
  • Is there a comparison between similar products? Or do you recommend specific products for certain uses? Do you back up your decisions with research and reasoning?
  • Have you provided a balanced review, looking at both positive and negative elements?
  • Do you address any issues, developments, or comparisons to earlier models?
  • Have you identified key decision-making factors and ranked based on those? For example, you may rank a laptop based on speed, visuals, and style.

Google search on a mobile device

While you may not think that all these questions are relevant to you, the more you can address, the better your chances of a good ranking. If you don’t think they relate to your reviews, ask yourself why. Google bases its decisions on a huge amount of user data, and if if thinks you should be answering these questions, then you probably should.

Remember that the tech giant no longer just relies on computers to build its algorithms. Real people assess search results and provide feedback about their experience. This then feeds into the algorithm, making it much more effective in reflecting user behaviour and preference.

Conclusion

In some ways, the product reviews update isn’t a huge change. For many years, Google has focused on quality content, and you should be providing this across your site. This change simply shows that the search engine is continuing to prioritise pages and websites that are useful to the user. When it comes to reviews, there are specific guidelines that will relate more closely to this kind of content, but an overall strong SEO content strategy will help you rank well.

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