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Keep Calm and Follow Google’s New Schema Guidelines… Or Not

As often happens when Google sneezes, marketers and SEOs are whipped into a frenzy of hand-wringing and speculation. We wonder: Am I doing it wrong? Will I be penalized? Will I lose my clients? My job? My house?! My spouse?!!

This month, the Big G threw us its latest curveball: new guidelines for use of schema markup on review content for local businesses. Not to be accused of consistency, Google made sure these guidelines directly contradicted its headlines yesterday.

I’ve been getting a flood of emails myself, and I think it’s important to reiterate:

These guidelines pertain only to local businesses who publish review content on their website in schema markup.

These guidelines do not pertain to how you acquire new reviews or even how you showcase them on your website. They are about Google’s criteria for the use of schema markup. Period. That’s it.


If you don’t know what “schema markup” is, you probably don’t need to read further. For the rest of you, I have only one recommendation at this time: Take a deep breath. Better? Okay, now let’s look at these hyped-up changes in some detail.

Our founder, Jon Hall, wanted to chime in on the recent changes to Google's Schema Guidelines and how it impacts online reviews and SEO.

1. Our customers saw the article posted on Search Engine Land and were asking us if this would impact the Review Stream Widget for their clients.

2. The ambiguous nature of Google updates leads people to jump to conclusions, so it was important to us to address speculation that could elicit an overreaction.

What are your thoughts on the new guidelines? Do you believe Google will start penalizing businesses for using the 'wrong' types of reviews in their scheme markup?

Read the full post here.

keepcalm.jpg
 

Jon Hall

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Thanks for sharing, Garrett. Yeah, the first part of the post is to address exactly that hype/confusion/"jumping to conclusions" as to what these guidelines are actually about: Google's criteria for the use of schema markup on reviews. Man, Google can stir things up! This is a feature that the vast majority of local businesses don't even use today.

I'd be curious to know what the prevailing opinions are here on the second part of the post, though: Will the new guidelines actually stick and produce the results Google is looking for? Or is this a step in the direction of removing review schema as a viable feature for local businesses?

The more I think about it, the more it seems like Google let this genie out of the bottle with review schema and now has to stuff it back in. I can't see how they would ultimately enforce the new guidelines except to whitelist a select group of independent review publishers, as they have for seller ratings.

For example, while everybody seems to be talking about the guideline against using reviews sourced from third-party review sites, how about the one against using reviews collected by any "aggregator or content provider" with whom the business has "commercial agreements paid or otherwise"? That would ex-out every review/feedback solution out there, every legitimate third-party publisher like Yelp or TripAdvisor, and leaves the business owner alone to offer up only homespun review content of dubious origin. That can't be Google's goal, can it?
 

Linda Buquet

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Thanks Garrett!

I totally agree with what you said here Jon, but have not read your full post yet.

FYI we've been having a discussion here - so you can see some of the thoughts on it.
<a href="http://www.localsearchforum.com/local-reviews/42851-should-you-mark-up-testimonials-get-gold-stars.html">Should you Mark up Testimonials to get Gold Stars?</a>

I'll add a link to this thread in that one, so everyone there will see this one too.
 

Tony Wang

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Good summary of the issues Jon. I agree, I can't help thinking Google's swinging away with an oversized club and causing more problems.

"...leaves the business owner alone to offer up only homespun review content of dubious origin. That can't be Google's goal, can it?"
 

mborgelt

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Thanks for providing this point of clarity, Jon! Looks like there guidelines will give a lot more direction to DIYers. I find #6 interesting as some of multi-location business use third party reviews as a way to prevent duplicate content. I like how you indicated how small this change is in the grand scheme of things. It's so easy to get lost in the weeds and start chasing your tail in this industry.
 
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