Watch out: there have been important changes and updates to Google’s Panda algorithm. Make it as easy as possible for customers to find you on Google search and you’ll see the SEO benefit.
The updates mean that user-generated content (UGC) like customer reviews are more valuable for improving your ranking than ever before.
Here’s how it all works, and how you can squeeze every last drop of PPC & SEO benefit from your website content.
How the algorithm has changed
When Google first introduced its Panda algorithm in February 2011, the goal was to weed out and eliminate what Google calls “content farms”.
These are large-scale websites that produce low-quality, shallow content by repackaging existing content from other places.
Google determined that these websites were not “valuable” enough as they provided a poor, generic experience for users. So Google devalued their rankings.
Google managed to do this in a few ways. And in the process of doing that, it made reviews especially valuable.
Search engines like Google’s need to be able to reach, read, and understand your content in order to rank it. That means that any content you want to be found and ranked must be in a readable text format.
There are a few ways to do this:
One is to embed the reviews into the page so it appears in the webpage HTML. We sometimes do it this way.
Doing it like this is a win-win-win: the content is crawlable by Google, it’s easy to implement and it doesn’t have a negative effect on page load times.
Stocking your site with more depth and coverage via reviews also improves long-tail traffic. - Highlight to share -
Avoid relying upon cookies, Flash, images, iFrames, or other workarounds for hosting your reviews. These techniques are like invisiblity cloaks to search engines.
Google decided that duplicated content was a fairly strong indicator of a “content farm.” Fair enough. Often it is.
However, how Google actually polices this is a little less clear.
“Duplicate penalties” are often discussed in the SEO world – there’s a perception that if the same content appears on multiple URLs it’s significantly devalued.
It’s important though to understand the difference between these penalties and plain old search results filtering.
Filters are applied to search results all the time. The idea is to only return a single destination for the same piece of content, for the benefit of the end user. While it might seem like a penalty, there’s a difference between a product page being shown instead of a category page and your website being completely devalued.
Our advice is that if your content is bringing value to the page, stick with it. Google wants your users to be happy – they’re not in the game of striking down websites for the fun of it.
Depth and coverage
Because Google now values, well, the “value” of websites so much, it rewards sites that feature more unique and more relevant content.
You should spread content more broadly across different topics. You should also provide deeper dives of information about individual topics.
That’s why reviews are especially valuable for their SEO benefit. Collect a high-volume of reviews to populate your site with literally thousands of pages of unique, searchable, valuable content. But do keep an eye on your crawl budget: don’t let Google miss out on crawling your valuable pages while crawling automatically generated pages very few will ever need.
A large volume of reviews will ensure there will be more information about more products and more information about each product.
Stocking your site with more depth and coverage via reviews also improves long-tail traffic. A larger volume of reviews is much more likely to include more niche, long-tail search terms.
For example, a website with two reviews is likely to mention “socks,” but a website with 500 reviews will also come back for “socks with dogs on them,” “socks with smiling dogs,” and “socks with the dog from Lassie,” as well.
You want all of that business, not just some of it. Reviews help you get it.
One of the coolest tools in your search performance kit is Google Rich Snippets.
Rich Snippets allow you to categorise certain pieces of content, like reviews, or breaking news articles, or recipes. Google can then extract them and feature them in the search results.
This means the content of that review – either the text, or the rating, or both – jumps directly into the main search results page for that product. This improves its SEO ranking, as well as making it more visually enticing for customers scrolling down the page (Google says 17% more enticing).
So how do you mark up a review? Simply include the Google-provided structured data markup into the review page, and voila! It’s marked up and ready to be found by Google.
These are relatively simple steps that can give you a huge on those competitive search pages. Now, let’s talk paid…
Google Seller Ratings
Google Seller Ratings (GSR) are a powerful tool to help your business stand out from others in your paid Google Ads. These graphically appealing star-and-numerical ratings are drawn from reviews.
They not only draw customers’ eyes to your listing but also establish a baseline level of quality that they can expect from your business. If people review your business favourably, this will provide confidence in the buyer moving forward, and increase conversion.
In pursuit of authenticity, Google only compiles a Seller Rating from reviews provided by approved, verified sources. - Highlight to share -
So how do you make sure that your PPC ads pop? And that your site’s content generates the rest of these awesome SEO benefits?
The biggest and easiest way is to source your reviews from a Google-approved independent review provider. In pursuit of authenticity, Google only compiles a Seller Rating from reviews provided by approved, verified sources (like Reevoo). This helps instil confidence in buyers, too.
Here at Reevoo, we also recommend using a closed review system, where only reviews from verified customers are allowed. This has several major benefits. It prevents the spread of misinformation. It eliminates misleading feedback. And it cultivates greater customer trust.
There are tonnes of things businesses can do to boost the SEO benefit of their content. By following these rules, reviews can be one of your strongest search performance tools.