Will Google Update Make Lawyer Review Rich Snippets More Helpful?
September 16, 2019
Today, Google announced plans to introduce algorithmic updates to reviews in rich results. Their stated purpose is to make review rich results more helpful.
Review snippet spam has been a big problem for some time. This has been a particularly thorny issue in legal SEO. While I welcome changes that make reviews more helpful and meaningful, I'm not sure that this update will make much of a difference.
What Lawyer Review Rich Snippets Will Be Impacted?
According to the announcement, Google will limit the pool of schema types that can potentially trigger review rich results. For our purposes, their list does include local business and organization schema, as well as, their sub-types. This would include LegalService schema which is a sub-type of LocalBusiness.
Google says that reviews for LocalBusiness and Organization that can be perceived as "self-serving" aren't allowed:
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. That’s why, with this change, we’re not going to display review rich results anymore for the schema types LocalBusiness and Organization (and their subtypes) in cases when the entity being reviewed controls the reviews themselves.
I read this to mean that Google intends to cease showing rich review snippets for law firm websites that host their own reviews, regardless of whether they are first-party or third-party reviews.
At the time of writing, I am still seeing most "self-serving" reviews showing snippets. For example:
Should Lawyers Remove Markup from Self-Serving Reviews?
This is a tough one.
First, to my knowledge, the penalty for violating this guideline is that Google won't show rich snippets for these reviews. In other words, as penalties go, this is a "meh." Also, it's worth noting that Google is talking "algorithmic" update, not manual action. That might indicate that this means snippet removal only, as opposed to, rankings impact.
If true, it's probably worth rolling the dice and leaving the markup in place. However, if Google gets serious about combating these "self-serving" reviews, they may decide to take harsher action in the future. Who wants to be the guinea pig?
In my view, at the time of writing this, it's probably still worth the risk to keep the markup.
Instead of removing all the markup, I encourage you to consider adjusting your online review acquisition strategy. The short version is to prioritize earning reviews on platforms on which Google is currently showing review rich snippets. Further, prioritize those that appear prominently for searches on your name / firm name. Also, prioritize those that appear prominently for relevant category searches (i.e. practice are + city). Finally, I might abandon trying to obtain first-party reviews altogether. After all, you can syndicate third-party reviews on your site, just don't mark them up with review schema. So, if you use a review platform, like Gatherup, you might configure it to only encourage third-party reviews.
Anyway, this is a new announcement, so keep in mind that things may change. We'll work to stay on top of this situation. Have questions? Don't hesitate to ask!
UPDATE: Here's some audio if this post was confusing.
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