What the Latest Google Updates Will Mean for Your Yelp Reviews

You take pride in your business’ good name and strong reviews. But are you about to lose them?

Google recently announced updates to their local reviews schema guidelines. The biggest change business owners should take note of is only reviews that are “directly produced by your site” can have local reviews markup. These changes also come with the release of their critic review snippet extension.

According to Google, the new guidelines local business reviews are:

  • Snippets must not be written or provided by the business or content provider unless they are genuine, independent, and unpaid editorial reviews.
  • Reviews must allow for customers to express both positive and negative sentiments. They may not be vetted by the business or restricted by the content provider based on the positive/negative sentiment of the review before submission to Google.
  • Reviews cannot be template sentences built from data or automated metrics. For example, the following is not acceptable: “Based on X number of responses, on average people experienced X with this business.”
  • Reviews for multiple-location businesses such as retail chains or franchises can only be submitted for the specific business location for which they were written. In other words, reviews for multiple-location businesses cannot be syndicated or applied to all business locations of the same company.
  • Aggregators or content providers must have no commercial agreements paid or otherwise with businesses to provide reviews.
  • Do not include reviews that are duplicate or similar reviews across many businesses or from different sources.
  • Only include reviews that have been directly produced by your site, not reviews from third- party sites or syndicated reviews.

The last one in that list certainly jumps out. Third-party reviews are the main social proof for a lot of businesses, particularly those in the foodservice or restaurant sector who rely on strong Yelp reviews to bring in foot traffic.

At first glance, the requirement for both good and bad reviews seems cumbersome. But, bad reviews are not as hurtful as you may think. Research shows that bad reviews can actually be good for business, if the reviewer is polite and not over the top.

According to Forbes Magazine, “Customer complaints that are worded politely may increase the likelihood that a customer will purchase from your business, according to a new research study in the Journal of Consumer Research.”

“Researchers examined the impact that phrases like, ‘I don’t want to be mean, but…’ and, ‘I’ll be honest…’ had on the reader’s perception of a product. Any time reviewers used warnings to soften bad news or negative information, the negative review didn’t harm sales.”

The key takeaway here is that since you can’t consolidate third party reviews for markup on your site, generating your own reviews from customers on your site is important, if you want to leverage the updated schema.

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