Today Google launches the product reviews search algorithm update, designed to rank well-researched, in-depth content over brief product summaries.
To be clear, this is not a core algorithm update that affects all search results. This update specifically targets product reviews.
In an announcement, Google says it designed the product reviews update to reward content that users find the most helpful:
“Google Search is always working to show the most useful and helpful information possible, through testing, experimenting and review processes. From this, we know people appreciate product reviews that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products. That’s why we’re sharing an improvement to our ranking systems, which we call the product reviews update, that’s designed to better reward such content.”
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For now, this update only affects English-language search results.
Sites that do not publish product reviews have nothing to worry about with regard to this update.
Sites that do publish product reviews should carefully monitor their traffic and look for anything out of the ordinary.
The algorithm update goes live today, which means site owners may already observe fluctuations in traffic and rankings.
Any sudden spike or drop in search traffic, starting at or around April 8, likely indicates a site was impacted by the product reviews update.
Regardless of any changes in traffic, site owners should add an annotation to Google Analytics and other monitoring tools to indicate the product reviews update went live today.
What if the Product Reviews Update Impacted My Site?
The product reviews updated focuses on providing users with content that offers insightful analysis and original research.
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With this update, Google Search aims to prioritize product reviews written by experts or enthusiasts who know the topic well.
Site owners who believe they’ve been impacted by the product reviews update should look to Google’s advice on creating better content.
Try to review the content objectively and ask if your site’s product reviews:
- Express expert knowledge about products where appropriate?
- Show what the product is like physically, or how it is used, with unique content beyond what’s provided by the manufacturer?
- Provide 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 research into it?
- 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?
The above recommendations are consistent with Google’s goal of rewarding the most useful product reviews.
Going forward, reviews will have a harder time ranking in search results if they only have short summaries of products.
Reviews with short summaries of products are commonly seen on affiliate sites which focus more on making quick commissions than providing actual value to users.
Site owners now need to publish holistic analyses of products, which include comparisons to similar products and comparisons to previous iterations of the same product.
Provide quantitative analysis when possible, such as the results of speed tests if you’re reviewing a computer, and other data that can assist consumers with making a purchase decision.
It sounds like Google will pay close attention to whether a review offers information that goes beyond what the manufacturer provides. In other words, don’t go to a product page and rewrite what’s already on the web.
We’ll likely learn more about this algorithm update over time as it continues to roll out.