The Impact of Google’s Reviews Update

30-Second Summary:

  • Google’s November 2023 Reviews Update has impacted the visibility and performance of some sites that relied on quantity over quality with reviews content.
  • Authentic, in-depth reviews align with Google’s focus on quality and relevance in search results, affecting both review-centric businesses and their SEO practices.
  • For recovery and improvement post-update, a strategised approach following best practices from Google can enhance review content quality.

Having rolled out at the tail end of 2023, Google’s most recent Review Update has now had time to settle since completing on 7 December. Businesses and marketers alike have had to assess the impact of this and look at rethinking their strategies if they saw a significant change.

As we previously looked at this in our comprehensive guide to Google’s Review update, here we’ll look at the continuing impact now that Google will be updating the reviews system in the background on an ongoing basis.

Has review visibility, search rankings, and ultimately, consumer behaviour changed since? Understanding these changes can help brands find new opportunities to enhance their online presence and connect more authentically with their audience.

Also, if you have experienced drops in performance from the reviews update, how can you revitalise your digital marketing efforts? With the reviews update also happening around the same time as the November 2023 Core update, which finished rollout on 28 November, it was a busy time that could have impacted your site more than you would’ve liked.

Understanding the Impact of Google’s Reviews Update

Changes in Review Visibility

One of the most immediate effects of the update has been on how reviews are displayed and prioritised across Google’s platforms. The update aims to promote authenticity and relevance, so for businesses, this means that the quality of reviews should outweigh the sheer quantity. As Google published in the updated reviews system documentation, “The reviews system works to ensure that people see reviews that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products, services or other things.”

High-quality, detailed reviews are more likely to be visible and influence potential customers. Google has a list of best practices for writing high-quality reviews here.

Impact on Search Rankings

While reviews have always played a role in SEO, the update places a heavier emphasis on the authenticity and relevance of these reviews. Businesses with consistently well-written, genuine reviews rather than lots of spammy ones are likely to see a boost in their search engine rankings.

This means those reliant on publishing lots of review content that isn’t the best quality may find themselves facing new challenges in maintaining their online visibility. It has seen some news sites suffer with traffic drops due to a combination of the Core update and Reviews update.

The Shift in Consumer Behaviour

With Google putting a premium on authentic, detailed reviews, users are starting to see more relevant, more helpful review content when searching. The idea of course is that Google users shouldn’t have to do anything different, instead, effortlessly find the best content with every search. Consumers are more likely to trust and engage with businesses that boast a portfolio of in-depth, well-written reviews that are genuinely helpful to them.

Business and Industry Responses To The Reviews Update

Like with any update from Google, this one created enough concern and chatter amongst site owners. Businesses steeped in review content found themselves waiting in anticipation, facing the challenge of ensuring their review practices align with Google’s enhanced quality guidelines​. As Semrush pointed out, it’s been incredibly difficult to separate the impact of the reviews update seeing as it was so soon after the November Core update, but it was volatile.

For many businesses, particularly those whose online visibility is heavily dependent on review-based content, the update has necessitated a thorough audit of existing review practices. Sites are encouraged to focus on meeting Google’s quality guidelines by producing original, transparent, informative, and balanced reviews. This includes providing evidence to support the authenticity of reviews. Google says in its guidelines this could be “visuals, audio, or other links of your own experience with what you are reviewing, to support your expertise and reinforce the authenticity of your review.”

However, despite the challenges being faced by adapting to the updated reviews system, many view the update as an opportunity to improve the quality of their content and, by extension, their online reputation. With Google moving to regular updates, this is seen as a chance for quicker recovery from ranking fluctuations for sites that promptly address quality issues​. As Search Engine Land put it, the reviews system is now a more ‘real-time update’ so any changes are reflected in real-time.

Tips for Recovering and Thriving Post-Update

The Google November 2023 Reviews Update, with its emphasis on continuous and dynamic assessment of review content, requires a proactive approach for businesses looking to recover and thrive going forward. Here are some quick strategic tips drawn from Google’s own guidelines for creating high-quality review content​:

  • Incorporate Evidence – Add photos, videos, and links to show personal experience with reviewed products or services.
  • Balance Your Reviews – Ensure reviews are detailed, highlighting both positives and negatives.
  • Update Existing Reviews – Revisit and optimise existing reviews to comply with the latest guidelines.
  • Encourage Genuine Customer Feedback – Promote honest and detailed user reviews. Whilst third-party customer reviews and feedback are not evaluated in the reviews update, it’s still important that these are genuine and helpful too.
  • Use Multimedia to your advantage – Use visuals and audio to enhance review credibility.
  • Link to other useful resources – help your users come to a decision from a review by sharing links to helpful resources.
  • Analyse and Adjust – Monitor performance through analytics and adapt based on insights.

Google Reviews Updates Impact – What To Do Next

Not sure where to start when it comes to how the November Reviews Update may have impacted your site? It was one of many updates last year and 2024 has seen further algorithm updates including the March 2024 Core Update, so it may not be clear exactly why you may have lost rankings or traffic. Fortunately, that’s where we can help you work out what’s happening and how to move forward.

If you’re looking at recovery from any immediate impacts of the update and position your website to be more resilient in future, contact the Absolute team today. We can discuss your current pain points and what strategies can help you recover.

For more insights, please visit our blog, where you can 5 content marketing trends to watch out for in 2024, and 9 tips to optimise your Google Business Profile.

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