Tag Archive | "Review"

Google Review Stars Drop by 14%

Posted by Dr-Pete

On Monday, September 16, Google announced that they would be restricting review stars in SERPs to specific schemas and would stop displaying reviews that they deemed to be “self-serving.” It wasn’t clear at the time when this change would be happening, or if it had already happened.

Across our daily MozCast tracking set, we measured a drop the morning of September 16 (in sync with the announcement) followed by a continued drop the next day …

The purple bar shows the new “normal” in our data set (so far). This represents a two-day relative drop of nearly 14% (13.8%). It definitely appears that Google dropped review snippets from page-1 SERPs across the roughly 48-hour period around their announcement (note that measurements are only taken once per day, so we can’t pinpoint changes beyond 24-hour periods).

Review drops by category

When we broke this two-day drop out into 20 industry categories (roughly corresponding to Google Ads), the results were dramatic. Note that every industry experienced some loss of review snippets. This is not a situation with “winners” and “losers” like an algorithm update. Google’s changes only reduced review snippets. Here’s the breakdown …

Percent drops in blue are <10%, purple are 10%-25%, and red represents 25%+ drops. Finance and Real Estate were hit the hardest, both losing almost half of their SERPs with review snippets (-46%). Note that our 10K daily data set broken down 20 ways only has 500 SERPs per category, so the sample size is low, but even at the scale of 500 SERPs, some of these changes are clearly substantial.

Average reviews per SERP

If we look only at the page-1 SERPs that have review snippets, were there any changes in the average number of snippets per SERP? The short answer is “no” …

On September 18, when the dust settled on the drop, SERPs with review snippets had an average of 2.26 snippets, roughly the same as prior to the drop. Many queries seem to have been unaffected.

Review counts per SERP

How did this break down by count? Let’s look at just the three days covering the review snippet drop. Page-1 SERPs in MozCast with review snippets had between one and nine results with snippets. Here’s the breakdown …



Consistent with the stable average, there was very little shift across groups. Nearly half of all SERPs with review snippets had just one result with review snippets, with a steady drop as count increases.

Next steps and Q&A

What does this mean for you if your site has been affected? I asked my colleague and local SEO expert, Miriam Ellis, for a bit of additional advice …

(Q) Will I be penalized if I leave my review schema active on my website?

(A) No. Continuing to use review schema should have no negative impact. There will be no penalty.

(Q) Are first-party reviews “dead”?

(A) Of course not. Displaying reviews on your website can still be quite beneficial in terms of:

  • Instilling trust in visitors at multiple phases of the consumer journey
  • Creating unique content for store location landing pages
  • Helping you monitor your reputation, learn from and resolve customers’ cited complaints

(Q) Could first-party review stars return to the SERPs in future?

(A) Anything is possible with Google. Review stars were often here-today-gone-tomorrow even while Google supported them. But, Google seems to have made a fairly firm decision this time that they feel first-party reviews are “self serving”.

(Q) Is Google right to consider first-party reviews “self-serving”?

(A) Review spam and review gating are serious problems. Google is absolutely correct that efforts must be made to curb abusive consumer sentiment tactics. At the same time, Google’s increasing control of business reputation is a cause for concern, particularly when their own review corpus is inundated with spam, even for YMYL local business categories. In judging which practices are self-serving, Google may want to look closer to home to see whether their growing middle-man role between consumers and businesses is entirely altruistic. Any CTR loss attendant on Google’s new policy could rightly be seen as less traffic for brand-controlled websites and more for Google.

For more tactical advice on thriving in this new environment, there’s a good write-up on GatherUp.

Thanks, Miriam! A couple of additional comments. As someone who tracks the SERPs, I can tell you that the presence of review stars has definitely fluctuated over time, but in the past this has been more of a “volume” knob, for lack of a better word. In other words, Google is always trying to find an overall balance of usefulness for the feature. You can expect this number to vary in the future, as well, but, as Miriam said, you have to look at the philosophy underlying this change. It’s unlikely Google will reverse course on that philosophy itself.

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How to Get a Customer to Edit Their Negative Review

Posted by MiriamEllis

“When you forgive, you in no way change the past — but you sure do change the future.” — Bernard Meltzer

Your brand inhabits a challenging world in which its consumers’ words make up the bulk of your reputation. Negative reviews can feel like the ultimate revenge, punishing dissatisfactory experiences with public shaming, eroded local rankings, and attendant revenue loss. Some business owners become so worried about negative reviews, they head to fora asking if there is any way to opt-out and even querying whether they should simply remove their business listings altogether rather than face the discordant music.

But hang in there. Local business customers may be more forgiving than you think. In fact, your customers may think differently than you might think. 

I’ve just completed a study of consumer behavior as it relates to negative reviews becoming positive ones and I believe this blog post will hold some very welcome surprises for concerned local business owners and their marketers — I know that some of what I learned both surprised and delighted me. In fact, it’s convinced me that, in case after case, negative reviews aren’t what we might think they are at all.

Let’s study this together, with real-world examples, data, a poll, and takeaways that could transform your outlook. 

Stats to start with

Your company winds up with a negative review, and the possibility of a permanently lost customer. Marketing wisdom tells us that it’s more costly to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one happy. But it’s actually more far-reaching. The following list of stats tells the story of why you want to do anything you can to get the customer to edit a bad review to reflect more positive sentiment:

  • 57 percent of consumers will only use a business if it has four or more stars — (BrightLocal)
  • One study showed that ~1.5-star rating increase improved conversions from 10.4 percent to 12.8 percent, representing about 13,000 more leads for the brand. — (Location3)
  • 73.8 percent of customers are either likely or extremely likely to continue doing business with a brand that resolves their complaints. — (GatherUp)
  • A typical business only hears from four percent of its dissatisfied customers, meaning that the negative reviews you rectify for outspoken people could solve problems for silent ones. — (Ruby Newell-Lerner)
  • 89 percent of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews. — (BrightLocal)

The impact of ratings, reviews, and responses are so clear that every local brand needs to devote resources to better understanding this scenario of sentiment and customer retention.

People power: One reason consumers love reviews

The Better Business Bureau was founded in 1912. The Federal Trade Commission made its debut just two years later. Consumer protections are deemed a necessity, but until the internet put the potential of mass reviews directly into individuals hands, the “little guy” often felt he lacked a truly audible voice when the “big guy” (business) didn’t do right by him.

You can see how local business review platforms have become a bully pulpit, empowering everyday people to make their feelings known to a large audience. And, you can see from reviews, like the one below, the relish with which some consumers embrace that power:

Here, a customer is boasting the belief that they outwitted an entity which would otherwise have defrauded them, if not for the influence of a review platform. That’s our first impression. But if we look a little closer, what we’re really seeing here is that the platform is a communications tool between consumer and brand. The reviewer is saying:

“The business has to do right by me if I put this on Yelp!”

What they’re communicating isn’t nice, and may well be untrue, but it is certainly a message they want to be amplified.

And this is where things get interesting.

Brand power: Full of surprises!

This month, I created a spreadsheet to organize data I was collecting about negative reviews being transformed into positive ones. I searched Yelp for the phrase “edited my review” in cities in every region of the United States and quickly amassed 50 examples for in-depth analysis. In the process, I discovered three pieces of information that could be relevant to your brand.

Surprise #1: Many consumers think of their reviews as living documents

In this first example, we see a customer who left a review after having trouble making an appointment and promising to update their content once they’d experienced actual service. As I combed through consumer sentiment, I was enlightened to discover that many people treat reviews as live objects, updating them over time to reflect evolving experiences. How far do reviewers go with this approach? Just look:

In the above example, the customer has handled their review in four separate updates spanning several days. If you look at the stars, they went from high to low to high again. It’s akin to live updates from a sporting event, and that honestly surprised me to see.

Brands should see this as good news because it means an initial negative review doesn’t have to be set in stone.

Surprise #2: Consumers can be incredibly forgiving

“What really defines you is how you handle the situation after you realize you made a mistake.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself, and this edited review typifies for me the reasonableness I saw in case after case. Far from being the scary, irrational customers that business owners dread, it’s clear that many people have the basic understanding that mistakes can happen… and can be rectified. I even saw people forgiving auto dealerships for damaging their cars, once things had been made right.

Surprise #3: Consumers can be self-correcting.

The customer apparently isn’t “always right,” and some of them know it. I saw several instances of customers editing their reviews after realizing that they were the ones who made a mistake. For example, one rather long review saga contained this:

“I didn’t realize they had an hourly option so my initial review was 3 stars. However, after the company letting me know they’d be happy to modify my charges since I overlooked the hourly option, it was only fair to edit my review. I thought that was really nice of them. 5 stars and will be using them again in the future.”

When a customer has initially misunderstood a policy or offering and the business in question takes the time to clarify things, fair-minded individuals can feel honor-bound to update their reviews. Many updated reviews contained phrases like “in good conscience” and “in all fairness.”

Overall, in studying this group of reviewers, I found them to be reasonable people, meaning that your brand has (surprising) significant power to work with dissatisfied customers to win back their respect and their business.

How negative reviews become positive: Identifying winning patterns

In my case study, the dominant, overall pattern of negative reviews being transformed into positive ones consisted of these three Rs:

  1. Reach — the customer reaches out with their negative experience, often knowing that, in this day and age, powerful review platforms are a way to reach brands.
  2. Remedy — Some type of fix occurs, whether this results from intervention on the part of the brand, a second positive experience outweighing an initial negative one, or the consumer self-correcting their own misunderstanding.
  3. Restoration — The unhappy customer is restored to the business as a happy one, hopefully, ready to trust the brand for future transactions, and the reputation of the brand is restored by an edited review reflecting better satisfaction.

Now, let’s bucket this general pattern into smaller segments for a more nuanced understanding. Note: There is an overlap in the following information, as some customers experienced multiple positive elements that convinced them to update their reviews.

Key to review transformation:

  • 70 percent mentioned poor service/rude service rectified by a second experience in which staff demonstrated caring.
  • 64 percent mentioned the owner/manager/staff proactively, directly reached out to the customer with a remedy.
  • 32 percent mentioned item replaced or job re-done for free.
  • 20 percent mentioned customer decided to give a business a second chance on their own and was better-pleased by a second experience.
  • 6 percent mentioned customer realized the fault for a misunderstanding was theirs.

From this data, two insights become clear and belong at the core of your reputation strategy:

Poor and rude service seriously fuel negative reviews

This correlates well with the findings of an earlier GatherUp study demonstrating that 57 percent of consumer complaints revolve around customer service and employee behavior. It’s critical to realize that nearly three-quarters of these disasters could be turned around with subsequent excellent service. As one customer in my study phrased it:

“X has since gone above and beyond to resolve the issue and make me feel like they cared.”

Proactive outreach is your negative review repair kit

Well over half of the subjects in my study specifically mentioned that the business had reached out to them in some way. I suspect many instances of such outreach went undocumented in the review updates, so the number may actually be much higher than represented.

Outreach can happen in a variety of ways:

  • The business may recognize who the customer is and have their name and number on file due to a contract.
  • The business may not know who the customer is but can provide an owner response to the review that includes the company’s contact information and an earnest request to get in touch.
  • The business can DM the customer if the negative review is on Yelp.

You’re being given a second chance if you get the customer’s ear a second time. It’s then up to your brand to do everything you can to change their opinion. Here’s one customer’s description of how far a local business was willing to go to get back into his good graces:

“X made every effort to make up for the failed programming and the lack of customer service the night before. My sales rep, his manager and even the finance rep reached out by phone, text and email. I was actually in meetings all morning, watching my phone buzz with what turned out to be their calls, as they attempted to find out what they could do to make amends. Mark came over on my lunch break, fixed/reprogrammed the remote and even comped me a free tank of gas for my next fill up. I appreciated his sincere apologies and wanted to update/revise my review as a token of my appreciation.”

What a great example of dedication to earning forgiveness!

Should you actively ask restored customers to edit their negative reviews?

I confess — this setup makes me a bit nervous. I took Twitter poll to gauge sentiment among my followers:

Respondents showed strong support for asking a customer who has been restored to happiness to edit their review. However, I would add a few provisos.

Firstly, not one of the subjects in my study mentioned that the business requested they update their review. Perhaps it went undocumented, but there was absolutely zero suggestion that restored customers had been prompted to re-review the business.

Secondly, I would want to be 100 percent certain that the customer is, indeed, delighted again. Otherwise, you could end up with something truly awful on your review profile, like this:

Suffice it to say, never demand an edited review, and certainly don’t use one as blackmail!

With a nod to the Twitter poll, I think it might be alright to mention you’d appreciate an updated review. I’d be extremely choosy about how you word your request so as not to make the customer feel obligated in any way. And I’d only do so if the customer was truly, sincerely restored to a sense of trust and well-being by the brand.

So what are negative reviews, really?

In so many cases, negative reviews are neither punishment nor the end of the road.

They are, in fact, a form of customer outreach that’s often akin to a cry for help.

Someone trusted your business and was disappointed. Your brand needs to equip itself to ride to the rescue. I was struck by how many reviewers said they felt uncared-for, and impressed by how business owners like this one completely turned things around:

In this light, review platforms are simply a communications medium hosting back-and-forth between customer people and business people. Communicate with a rescue plan and your reputation can “sparkle like diamonds”, too.

Reviews-in-progress

I want to close by mentioning how evident it was to me, upon completing this study, that reviewers take their task seriously. The average word count of the Yelp reviews I surveyed was about 250 words. If half of the 12,584 words I examined expressed disappointment, your brand is empowered to make the other half express forgiveness for mistakes and restoration of trust.

It could well be that the industry term “negative” review is misleading, causing unnecessary fear for local brands and their marketers. What if, instead, we thought of this influential content as “reviews-in-progress,” with the potential for transformation charting the mastery of your brand at customer service.

The short road is that you prevent negative experiences by doubling down on staff hiring and training practices that leave people with nothing to complain about in the entire customer service ecosystem. But re-dubbing online records of inevitable mistakes as “reviews-in-progress” simply means treading a slightly longer road to reputation, retention, and revenue. If your local brand is in business for the long haul, you’ve got this!

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Review counts matter more to local business revenue than star ratings, according to study

Womply also found businesses claiming their listings on multiple sites generated 58% more revenue than the average.



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New Things I’ve Learned About Google Review Likes

Posted by MiriamEllis

Last time I counted, there were upwards of 35 components to a single Google Business Profile (GBP). Hotel panels, in and of themselves, are enough to make one squeal, but even on a more “typical” GPB, it’s easy to overlook some low-lying features. Often, you may simply ignore them until life makes you engage.

A few weeks ago, a local SEO came to me with a curious real-life anecdote, in which a client was pressuring the agency to have all their staff hit the “like” button on all of the brand’s positive Google reviews. Presumably, the client felt this would help their business in some manner. More on the nitty-gritty of this scenario later, but at first, it made me face that I’d set this whole GBP feature to one side of my brain as not terribly important.

Fast forward a bit, and I’ve now spent a couple of days looking more closely at the review like button, its uses, abuses, and industry opinions about it. I’ve done a very small study, conducted a poll, and spoken to three different Google reps. Now, I’m ready to share what I’ve learned with you.

Wait, what is the “like” button?

Crash course: Rolled out in 2016, this simple function allows anyone logged into a Google account to thumbs-up any review they like. There is no opposite thumbs-down function. From the same account, you can only thumb up a single review once. Hitting the button twice simply reverses the “liking” action. Google doesn’t prevent anyone from hitting the button, including owners of the business being reviewed.

At a glance, do Google review likes influence anything?

My teammate, Kameron Jenkins, and I plugged 20 totally random local businesses into a spreadsheet, with 60 total reviews being highlighted on the front interface of the GBP. Google highlights just three reviews on the GBP and I wanted to know two things:

  1. How many businesses out of twenty had a liked review anywhere in their corpus
  2. Did the presence of likes appear to be impacting which reviews Google was highlighting on the front of the GBP?

The study was very small, and should certainly be expanded on, but here’s what I saw:

60 percent of the brands had earned at least one like somewhere in their review corpus.

15 percent of the time, Google highlighted only reviews with zero likes, even when a business had liked reviews elsewhere in its corpus. But, 85 percent of the time, if a business had some likes, at least one liked review was making it to the front of the GBP.

At a glance, I’d say it looks like a brand’s liked reviews may have an advantage when it comes to which sentiment Google highlights. This can be either a positive or negative scenario, depending on whether the reviews that get thumbed up on your listing are your positive or negative reviews.

And that leads us to…

Google’s guidelines for the use of the review likes function

But don’t get too excited, because it turns out, no such guidelines exist. Though it’s been three years since Google debuted this potentially-influential feature, I’ve confirmed with them that nothing has actually been published about what you should and shouldn’t do with this capability. If that seems like an open invitation to spam, I hear you!

So, since there were no official rules, I had to hunt for the next best thing. I was thinking about that SEO agency with the client wanting to pay them to thumb up reviews when I decided to take a Twitter poll. I asked my followers:

Unsurprisingly, given the lack of guidelines, 15 percent of 111 respondents had no idea whether it would be fishy to employ staff or markers to thumb up brand reviews. The dominant 53 percent felt it would be totally fine, but a staunch 32 percent called it spam. The latter group added additional thoughts like these:

I want to thank Tess Voecks, Gyi Tsakalakis, and everyone else for taking the poll. And I think the disagreement in it is especially interesting when we look at what happens next.

After polling the industry, I contacted three forms of Google support: phone, chat, and Twitter. If you found it curious that SEOs might disagree about whether or not paying for review likes is spam, I’m sorry to tell you that Google’s own staff doesn’t have brand-wide consensus on this either. In three parts:

1. The Google phone rep was initially unfamiliar with what the like button is. I explained it to her. First, I asked if it was okay for the business owner to hit the like button on the brand’s reviews, she confirmed that it’s fine to do that. This didn’t surprise me. But, when I asked the question about paying people to take such actions, she replied (I paraphrase):

“If a review is being liked by people apart from the owner, it’s not considered as spam.”

“What if the business owner is paying people, like staff or marketers, to like their reviews,” I asked.

“No, it’s not considered spam.”

“Not even then?”

“No,” she said.

2. Next, here’s a screenshot of my chat with a Google rep:

The final response actually amused me (i.e. yeah, go ahead and do that if you want to, but I wouldn’t do it if I were you).

3. Finally, I spoke with Google’s Twitter support, which I always find helpful:

To sum up, we had one Google rep tell is it would be fine and dandy to pay people to thumb up reviews (uh-oh!), but the other two warned against doing this. We’ll go with majority rule here and try to cobble together our own guidelines, in the absence of public ones.

My guidelines for use of the review likes function

Going forward with what we’ve learned, here’s what I would recommend:

  1. As a business owner, if you receive a review you appreciate, definitely go ahead and thumb it up. It may have some influence on what makes it to the highly-visible “front” of your Google Business Profile, and, even if not, it’s a way of saying “thank you” to the customer when you’re also writing your owner response. So, a nice review comes in, respond with thanks and hit the like button. End of story.
  2. Don’t tell anyone in your employ to thumb up your brand’s reviews. That means staff, marketers, and dependents to whom you pay allowance. Two-thirds of Google reps agree this would be spam, and 32 percent of respondents to my poll got it right about this. Buying likes is almost as sad a strategy as buying reviews. You could get caught and damage the very reputation you are hoping to build. It’s just not worth the risk.
  3. While we’re on the subject, avoid the temptation to thumbs-up your competitors’ negative reviews in hopes of getting them to surface on GBPs. Let’s just not go there. I didn’t ask Google specifically about this, but can’t you just see some unscrupulous party deciding this is clever?
  4. If you suspect someone is artificially inflating review likes on positive or negative reviews, the Twitter Google rep suggests flagging the review. So, this is a step you can take, though my confidence in Google taking action on such measures is not high. But, you could try.

How big of a priority should review likes be for local brands?

In the grand scheme of things, I’d put this low on the scale of local search marketing initiatives. As I mentioned, I’d given only a passing glance at this function over the past few years until I was confronted with the fact that people were trying to spam their way to purchased glory with it.

If reputation is a major focus for your brand (and it should be!) I’d invest more resources into creating excellent in-store experiences, review acquisition and management, and sentiment analysis than I would in worrying too much about those little thumbs. But, if you have some time to spare on a deep rep dive, it could be interesting to see if you can analyze why some types of your brand’s reviews get likes and if there’s anything you can do to build on that. I can also see showing positive reviewers that you reward their nice feedback with likes, if for no other reason than a sign of engagement.

What’s your take? Do you know anything about review likes that I should know? Please, share in the comments, and you know what I’ll do if you share a good tip? I’ll thumb up your reply!

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Year in Review: Top 10 expert PPC columns of 2018

Here’s a roundup of the most read paid search columns this year.



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2017 Year In Review: Business Ups And Downs, Cryptocurrencies, Europe, A Solar Startup And More

[ Download MP3 | Transcript | iTunes | Soundcloud | Raw RSS ] As we head towards the new year, now is a great time to look back over 2017 and review results. In response to a great suggestion from Mani, a member of our Laptop Lifestyle Academy and Blog Mastermind…

The post 2017 Year In Review: Business Ups And Downs, Cryptocurrencies, Europe, A Solar Startup And More appeared first on Yaro.blog.

Entrepreneurs-Journey.com by Yaro Starak

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2017 Year In Review: Business Ups And Downs, Cryptocurrencies, Europe, A Solar Startup And More

[ Download MP3 | Transcript Coming Soon | iTunes | Soundcloud | Raw RSS ] As we head towards the new year, now is a great time to look back over 2017 and review results. In response to a great suggestion from Mani, a member of our Laptop Lifestyle Academy and…

The post 2017 Year In Review: Business Ups And Downs, Cryptocurrencies, Europe, A Solar Startup And More appeared first on Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.

Entrepreneurs-Journey.com by Yaro Starak

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A year in review: Search Engine Land’s top 10 columns of 2017

We conclude our year-in-review series by calling out our most popular columns of 2017, which covered subjects ranging from technical SEO tips to local search updates and more.

The post A year in review: Search Engine Land’s top 10 columns of 2017 appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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3 inconsistencies in Yelp’s review solicitation crackdown

Yelp has taken a hard line against review solicitation, but columnist Brian Patterson believes the company may be taking it too far.

The post 3 inconsistencies in Yelp’s review solicitation crackdown appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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A year in review: Search Engine Land’s top 10 columns of 2016

Which topics drew the most attention within the search industry this year? From infographics to quizzes to advice, our top 10 columns of the year covered all the bases.

The post A year in review: Search Engine Land’s top 10 columns of 2016 appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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