The Week in Search is a weekly column produced by the Studio team to keep marketing professionals and ecommerce merchants up to date on changes in the search industry, and provide valuable context on what it all means. If you have questions or think we missed something, email us directly.

Google Announces Updates to Review Rich Results

Early this week, the Google Webmasters Blog announced that they’ll be doing some housecleaning on how they evaluate and display review rich results. Here are some of the major changes:

  • Google will no longer show self-serving reviews in rich results – In the past, companies and individuals could create their own review schema and add get it to show up on their organic listing. Google is now keeping an eye on those and will not show them in organic search results.
  • Embedded review widgets from a 3rd party will no longer be shown in search results – Google also identifies this as a method to control your reviews, so 3rd party embeds will no longer display in organic results
  • Fewer review schema types available – Google has pared down the number of Schema types that they’ll show review rich results for. You can still add review schema for any schema type, but Google likely won’t display it in search
  • “Name” property is now required – With this update, the “name” property is now required for review rich snippets

This update was coupled with a rather tumultuous week for Google’s algorithm, which we cover in the next section. According to SEO Roundtable, this change has resulted in a drop in the percentage of how often review rich results are being show in SERPs, from 40% to around 36%.

Studio Takeaway: Check your markup! Since we mostly work with ecommerce clientele, reviews are very, very important. This update in policy will level the playing field and prevent any review schemes from inaccurately reviewing themselves.

Google Algorithm Shakeup, Bugs & “Starmageddon”

gif from SEO Roundtable

After last week’s Week in Search post, the SEO community began some serious investigation into a search ranking update. We try not to report on every single instance, but over the last week, SEOs have continued to discuss changes in their site rankings, lack of reliability in where they’ll be from one day to the next, and a bunch of – what appear to be – bugs that have been noticed in SERPs, including emojis in autocomplete suggestions and URL-only search results.

SEO Roundtable is reporting a Google update rolling out late last week through the middle of this week.

This is coupled with Google review rich results update has spelled trouble for many webmasters. While Google hasn’t commented on any algorithm specific updates, Danny Sullivan has tweeted the following:

This was in response to the SEO community wanting to name the update “Starmageddon.”

Names aside, there has been a shakeup. Even cryptic commenter and self-proclaimed Google insider, Bill Lambert chimed in saying that last week’s algo update was a test gone wrong designed to line the pockets of Google “suits”:

There’s no indication of any ad or geo-specific testing going on. Without Google comment, there’s no way to know.

Studio Takeaway: We haven’t noticed any algorithm fluctuation on our end but knowing that Google is coming out and naming their review rich snippet update gives the change a little more weight.

We’re also not sure what Lambert’s comments mean at all, but he’s been right about some things in the past so we’re keeping an eye out.

There’s also some interesting internal drama about the Google “oracle,” Bill Lambert, that we found particularly entertaining in the comment thread on this post:

Content Syndicators Sometimes Outrank Original Publishers

Last week, Google made an announcement that it would be giving original content publishers preference in search results. Shortly after, Conde Nast noticed that Yahoo!-syndicated content was receiving organic priority over the original publisher in Top Stories results.

Google responded saying that there isn’t much they can do when news outlets intentionally syndicate content, since many syndicators publish at the same time, or even before the original content creator.

John Mueller pointed out that utilizing the rel=canonical directive will help prevent that from happening.

Studio Takeaway: Ideally, you don’t syndicate your content and keep all of those pageviews for yourself.

Other Interesting Links