Google clarifies review policy

client reviews

Glowing reviews from clients are something every business values and appreciates. Even when the reviews aren’t so glowing, web users are glad to hear the perspective of previous clients and customers who have interacted with the business.

Savvy web users know to take all reviews – both good and bad – with a grain of salt, but the trends and details revealed by reviewers are useful even when viewed through a wary lens. Their value goes a long way to explaining the cornucopia of review sites that have proliferated on the internet in recent years. This abundance, while good for consumers overall, has made it harder for firms to keep all their reviews in one place.

Many firms have wrestled with questions over review protocol: Is it okay to share reviews from other online sources on the firm’s website? It seems like a reasonable method of providing potential clients with information about what it’s really like to work with the company, keeping site visitors from having to perform intensive research and benefiting the business at the same time (assuming reviewers have positive things to say about their experience).

On the other hand, we’re all loath to offend the gods of SEO these days. Nobody wants to misuse content or suffer penalties that can negatively impact page rank, so the issue of taking reviews given on one platform and using them in another, i.e. the firm’s own website, has been a murky one.

In a recent tweet, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller weighed in on the question, indicating that sharing reviews from other platforms on a company website shouldn’t cause SEO problems for businesses that choose to do so. His tweet reads, in part,

“From a Google SEO point of view, I don’t see a problem with that. I imagine the original is more likely to rank for that text, but if you use that to provide context, that’s fine (it shouldn’t be marked up with structured data though).”

John is an authoritative source for all things Google, so firms can now rest easy knowing it’s fine to use this type of content from third parties on their own sites. However, he does specify that it’s not okay to use third-party site reviews with structured markup. That much has been spelled out in Google’s review guidelines since 2016, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The clarification on using third-party site reviews without structured markup, however, is a welcome one. Now that there’s no ambiguity around using the text of reviews from different online sources on your firm’s site, all that’s left to do is go make your clients happy enough to write nice things!



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Sarah Warlick

Sarah Warlick founded Proof Positive Content to provide professional service firms with high-quality content that resonates with their target audiences. Sarah's writing appears in books, on the websites of over a dozen Top 100 Accounting Firms and in Accounting Today, Forbes and other leading publications, but usually under another name. Ghostwriters rarely get the glory - their clients do!