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Google’s December 2021 Update: Ratings And Reviews For Ecommerce


For brands looking to lead with customer feedback, Google’s latest product reviews update in December of 2021 is one to pay attention to. It has been a while since the previous update, which happened in April 2021, so we should take a look at what the most recent changes will mean for ecommerce stores and the business world as a whole.

We sat down with experts from the top digital agencies in the US to talk about the impact of this update and provide a general overview of why Google’s product reviews are important for any business, ecommerce, or otherwise. 

But first, let’s quickly talk about what product reviews are, how they are different from customer reviews, and why both are important for the success of an eCommerce business.

Product Reviews vs Customer Reviews: What’s the Difference?

You should make sure your customers have the chance to give feedback about your store and your products through reviews. The reviews you receive from your customers often include images and videos showing how well or poorly products worked for them and the overall quality of the customer experience.

Reviews from your customers are like “report cards” about their experience. They include factors such as customer service, delivery time, or satisfaction with a service. 

On the other hand, a product review is simply a reflection of what the customer purchased rather than an assessment of who sold it to them (the vendor). Star ratings appear alongside organic listings in Google Shopping and are used to rank products. Customers can use the 1-5 ranking to assess a product’s performance and determine whether it is worth buying.

While traditional Ratings & Reviews are always important, you can get the most out of your customer feedback approach by taking it a step further. Checkout Comments™ ask customers why they bought a product, and can generate 3-5x as much content as regular reviews. Similarly, a Community Q&A section on your product pages gives your customers a place to ask and answer questions, which helps you improve the way you talk about your products while facilitating an open dialogue.

Importance of Product Reviews for SEO

You can improve your SEO by getting more reviews, faster. How? By allowing customers to write their own reviews, you give Google more content to track and index. It is a good idea to factor user-generated content into your website development process, as it is a great way to attract Google’s attention.

Google takes full advantage of keywords in user-generated content. These keywords are found in user reviews and other types of content in ecommerce sites, such as blog posts. Furthermore, most product descriptions have relevant phrases that provide further explanations of your products or services and improve your ranking in search engine results.

Now that we’ve explained the differences between customer and product reviews, and the importance of both for your SEO efforts, let’s take a deep dive into the latest Google update and what the changes it brings could mean for your business.

Google’s December 2021 Update — Overview

In its December update, Google has introduced two new product review best practices. From now on, reviews will perform better if they:

  1. Provide evidence of the writer’s genuine experience with the product to reinforce the review’s authenticity or support the writer’s expertise.
  2. Include links to a range of stores to give readers the option to buy the product from their preferred merchant.

Review syndication can be a great approach to this second point, while providing more context to site visitors. These pointers were taken directly from Google Search Central’s Advanced SEO Page, which also lists points introduced in previous updates, including, among other things:

  • Evaluating the product from the users’ perspective
  • Explaining what sets the product apart from the competition
  • Using one’s own research to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the product
  • Including links to helpful resources from other websites
  • Demonstrating one’s expertise in the subject

When the update was first released, Alan Kent, Google’s eCommerce Developer Advocate, took to Twitter to clarify the changes… 

…and explain which businesses would be most impacted.

 Getting More Product Reviews

In the United States, 9/10 customers consider reviews a crucial step in deciding whether to purchase a product online. Also, almost half of all customers (49%) consider the number of online reviews as an essential factor. Therefore, it is clear that gathering as many product reviews as possible is crucial for any business.

So, where to start?

The first step should always be asking satisfied customers to write about their experience with your product. You can make this easier by utilizing TurnTo’s Inbox Submission tool, which allows customers to leave their reviews without leaving the email they receive from your brand.Additionally, you may want to consider offering free shipping, discounts on future purchases, or other incentives.

Aside from your own website, reviews of your products should also be available on top ecommerce and product review websites such as CNET, ConsumerReports, Amazon, and others.

The more reviews each product has, the more likely it is to be purchased. We’re not making this up; there is data to prove it.

Studies have shown that anywhere from 20 – 50 reviews of a single product is the optimal range, giving prospects assurance in their decision. This point provides even more ammunition for Checkout Comments™, as they typically provide a much larger volume of customer content (and you don’t have to wait for customers to receive their product).

Anyone who is even tangentially involved in the eCommerce SEO sphere knows that there are many fake product reviews out there. The reasons for this are many, starting with the fact that lots of products are expensive and difficult to get a hold of.

Therefore, many review websites resort to rewriting existing reviews and featuring someone else’s images of the product. The changes in Google’s latest update are meant to combat such fake reviews, and only time will tell if they show any actual results.

After all, there’s a relatively simple way to get around the requirements, so we’re sure there will be an increasing number of fake hands-on images and content popping up on review sites in the upcoming months.

Special thanks to our friends at Pixlee for their insights on this topic.
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