Google changes review start in search

The review stars that Google displays on its search results pages are awesome, but podiatrists and lawyers will now have to kiss them goodbye. Previously, Google allowed you to add a snippet of code to your website that would enrich the search results for your business with review and rating information. Now, the company has changed its mind about who gets to display review stars and who doesn’t.

But why did Google make the change, and what does it mean for you?

What Did Google Do With My Review Stars?

You may have already noticed that the search results for your law firm or medical practice no longer look like this:

Law Firm Search Result in Google

See the stars and rating information in the image above, just below the page link? Google announced in September 2019 that it would start disabling these kinds of rich review snippets for some kinds of pages, but not others. Now, at the start of 2020, these changes should be in effect for most—if not all—categories of pages affected.

Why Did Attorneys and podiatrists Lose Rich Review Snippets?

Why, though? Google stated that the change is intended to cut out reviews that can be perceived “self-serving,” which it defines like this:

"We call reviews “self-serving” when a review about entity A is placed on the website of entity A—either directly in their markup or via an embedded 3rd party widget."

Under that definition, rich review snippets for many local businesses and organizations—like our attorney and podiatrist clients—are out. Meanwhile, review stars continue to display for other kinds of search results, like specific recipes and individual products.

It might sound arbitrary at first, but Google’s logic here isn’t to “punish” law firms, medical practices, and similar businesses. Instead, the idea is to make rich review snippets more specific and meaningful for its users.

When users see review stars in a search for “the best chicken casserole,” they know that it’s the recipe that is being rated, not the blog that posted it. Similarly, when users see review stars on an Amazon product page, they know that it’s the product that is being rated, not Amazon as a company.

See the difference?

What Should Attorneys and podiatrists Do About Google’s Review Schema Changes?

It’s a little frustrating to lose the enriched search results, but there is nothing that you need to do now that the changes have rolled out. Remember that Google makes changes to the way its search results are displayed all the time. This is just the latest tweak, and there is nothing you need to worry about on your end.

Even if you and your marketing team have used review schema heavily in the past, you don’t have to remove it from your website’s code or take any other action. Google has already stated that it does not plan to penalize sites that use review schema. Instead, the company is simply no longer using that subset of schema to augment its search results.

However, just because “review schema” has lost some importance, don’t think that “reviews” and “schema” don’t matter.

Aside from review schema, there are lots of other markups that businesses should continue to use. Markups for NAP (name, address, phone number) info are especially important and won’t be affected by this change. This also goes for other helpful and relevant parameters in the “LocalBusiness” and “Organization” schema types.

You also should definitely continue to build your review strategy and highlight good reviews, ratings, and testimonials on your website. These are still powerful trust signals and persuasive conversion elements, even if Google isn’t using them in search results.

So, in short, these changes shouldn’t be a big deal for your business. You just need to keep doing what you’re doing!

Is Your Law Firm Or Medical Practice Website Getting Enough Exposure? Foster Web Marketing Can Help With Our Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Services  

Are you concerned that your website isn't pulling in enough traffic to keep you swimming in leads? Do you need help with SEO for your legal or medical website? If so, Foster Web Marketing can help! Please contact us online or call our office directly at 866.497.6199 to schedule your free consultation with our experienced marketing team. We have been helping clients throughout the United States and internationally since 1998 and are confident we can help you not only reach, but exceed your goals.

Tom Foster
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Founder|Owner, Speaker, Creator of DSS, World of Marketing Podcast Host, EOS Implementor
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Steven J Richardson 03/05/2020 05:23 PM
Sorry, but I disagree with Google. People look to sites like Avvo for guidance in hiring an attorney, and I have heard from people who said they hired me because of my 5-star reviews there. So I think people can easily see that the attorney is being reviewed, just like the recipe, on Google search results, and makes it a better search experience for the user because they then don't have to go to a separate review site (like Avvo) for that info. I'm calling BS on this one.
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Jamie Kelly 03/06/2020 08:59 AM
Hey Steve, you're right that reviews are extremely valuable persuasive tools, and it's a shame they are no longer being leveraged in search results for attorneys and law firms. I understand Google's logic about "self serving" reviews, to an extent, but your point makes sense as well. From a consumer perspective, I think reviews on 3rd party sites can actually be more effective because they're interpreted as more impartial than reviews on an attorney's own website (even if those reviews are just piped in from other 3rd party sources for the sake of convenience). Regardless, any work you're doing to get new, high-quality reviews is going to be an effective strategy.
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