Reviews or testimonials are mostly said to work on the basis of social proof. Social proof is a psychological process in which people copy the behavior of others, in an attempt to reflect correct behavior. In this post, I’ll take a look at how reviews work, how you can get them and how structured data can help bring them to the search results.

Testimonial, rating, review?

First off, when is something a review and when is it just a rating? And what about testimonials? These terms are used a lot and sometimes they get to mean something similar. So, what is the difference between testimonials, ratings and reviews?

Testimonials

A testimonial tells you that someone you can identify with has bought a product and loved it. That must mean the product is just the right thing for you as well. A testimonial is often a page of text and photos customers explaining why your product or business is great. Also, video works really well for this. You could be feature a recognizable expert endorsing your product.

An example of a testimonial on Yoast.com

Ratings

Ratings are — often star-based — valuation of your website, online store or service. Rating can be given for your entire business or a specific product.

Business ratings

Ratings for your brand or shop will most probably be given on a website like Resellerratings.com or Google My Business. Google will see these ratings and will even add Google My Business ratings to their Knowledge Graph information.

Made.com’s Trustpilot score is highlighted in Google’s search results

The time that Google added stars to search result pages for any website that added these ratings in Schema.org is over. Google was simply flooded with ratings, and it made less sense to add them to all the results anymore. That doesn’t mean they are entirely gone, as the opinion of your visitor or customer is still very valuable to Google. So where it makes sense, Google will still show that rating. Google also tends to show shop ratings in their Google Shopping results, by the way.

Product ratings

Product ratings are a bit of a different breed, although they work pretty much the same. Have people rate your product, and add an Aggregate rating on a nice spot on your product page. Next to Google picking up on that rating and showing it in, for instance, the Google Shopping result, it increases trust in a product.

Google Shopping shows a score for the product as well as the seller

Besides, in the search results, you can also find product reviews from major websites in the search result pages, like this one from CNET:

The CNET reviews appear highlighted in the search results

CNET is a trusted source for Google, so they feel comfortable showing that rating and link these reviews on page one in the search result pages.

Obviously, it’s key to monitor these ratings and act if a product is just getting negative reviews. Either contact the reseller and ask them to fix the issues or stop selling that specific product. More on negative reviews later on in this post.

Reviews

Most of the times the ratings we discussed earlier are just half of a package deal. Ratings are great, and great ratings even greater. But if that rating is accompanied by a detailed review as well, people will be able to relate to the experience another customer had even more. Regardless if that’s for a product or an entire website. These reviews influence the decision-making process of your visitor. If they come to your website and see only negative reviews, written by real people that speak from experience, they will think twice. If these reviews are all raving about the product, people will might be a little less hesitant to hit that buy button.

Reviews influence local ranking

Especially for local rankings, or local products, reviews are important — especially for the local three pack. Reviews tell Google about the public perception of a brand or website. Google can process these reviews and take them into account for rankings if needed. Websites like Yelp and Tripadvisor help people from all over the world to find the right coffee shop or bakery. Sites like Booking.com tell people where to stay and allow people to share their experiences afterward. If you have sufficient reviews, Google shows these ratings and allows you to pick right from their search result pages already. If you search for a specific hotel in Google, you’ll find even more reviews in the search result pages:

Reviews and ratings aplenty in the travel business (also, notice the FAQ beneath this rich result)

It’s up to you which source you trust more. But we think you can’t go wrong with this hotel, right?

In addition to the usual suspects, you shouldn’t rule out reviews from Facebook as well. Maintain an active page and allow for reviews. Again, monitor these. All this positive ‘word of mouth’ combined will contribute to Google liking and ranking your online shop even better.

How to get reviews and ratings

If you’re a (local) business owner, one of your online goals should be getting more local reviews from your (satisfied) customers. These reviews or ratings help Google in determining the value of your company for their users. If you have a nice amount of four-star and five-star ratings, Google considers you a more valuable result on their search result pages, which contributes to better rankings for your site. Here, we’ll dig a bit deeper into these local reviews and convince you to ask your customers for reviews. Of course, loads of positive reviews will also help build trust for your potential customer.

First, let’s see what Google has to say about local reviews. On their review datatype page, they clearly state that Google may display information from aggregate ratings markup in the Knowledge Panels with your business’ details.

They state that they’re using the following review snippet guidelines:

  • Ratings and reviews must come directly from the users.
  • The reviews and ratings have to have content attached to it, they need to be visible for visitors.
  • There is a difference between these user ratings and critic reviews (human editors that curate or compile ratings information for local businesses). That’s a different ball game.
  • Don’t copy reviews from Yelp or whatever other review site, but collect them from your users directly and display these on your site.

There is a clear focus on genuine reviews. Add name, position, photo and any other relevant, public information on the reviewer. That always helps in showing that your reviews are indeed genuine. Also, try to keep a fresh stream of reviews coming in. Don’t aim for a thousand in an hour and then nothing for months, for instance, as that might seem suspicious to Google.

Ask your customers for a review in person

It’s really that simple: ask your customers for a review. Yelp may advise against this, Google promotes it. I agree with Google on this. A friend of mine is in the coaching business and he asks his customers after finishing the coaching process to leave a review on his Google My Business page. This has helped him achieving a local #1 ranking — that and his optimized site, of course.

It might feel a bit odd, to ask your customers for a positive review. However, I bet most of your customers will be more than happy to do this for you. It’s a small token of appreciation for your great service, product or your friendly staff. If you believe in your business, and you’re taking extra steps to help your customer, your customer will for sure leave that review for you. Especially in local businesses, where you know your customer and perhaps have been serving him or her for decades, just ask.

Ask your customers for reviews online

Feel free to ask your customer for a review on your website, for example, right after a purchase. If a customer wanted your product so bad he or she made the purchase, they may be willing to leave a review about their shopping experience as well. Even a simple “How would you rate your experience with our company” could give you that local rating you want.

Email

If you have built a list for your email newsletter, you are sitting on a treasure chest. Email is by far the most popular way of communicating with customers. Of course, you can also use this to collect reviews or insights from customers. It might be as simple as a ‘how do you rate our services on a scale from 1-5’ type of deal at the end of your newsletter. Or, you could get more personal by sending them personalised emails. There are a lot of possibilities, but just don’t invade their privacy and send unwanted mails or you might be in violation of GDPR laws.

Social media

And why not leverage Twitter, Facebook and other social media here? I find Twitter to work pretty decently for local purposes. There’s a separate ‘community’ of tweeps talking to each other on Twitter in our hometown. I’m sure most of them visit local stores. Not just that, but they’ll probably also have an opinion on these stores. And they might just be willing to share that opinion.

Some time ago, one of our local shops won a national award and a lot of locals congratulated the owners with this ‘very much deserved’ win on Facebook. How’s that for an opportunity to ask for Facebook reviews? Facebook is an awesome opportunity for any local business to get reviews. Don’t underestimate how many people search for your business on Facebook.

As mentioned in the section about Google and local reviews: “Don’t copy reviews from Yelp or whatever other review sites”. The same goes for these Facebook reviews. It’s very nice to get them, but leave them on Facebook (or use them in your offline print campaign) and get separate local reviews for your website.

Even negative reviews matter

Asking for reviews, for instance, right from your (support) email inbox, like in the signature of your email, might feel a bit strange at first. However, it will trigger your brand ambassadors to leave a review, after seeing that signature email after email. And yes, you will get some negative reviews as well from people that are not completely satisfied with your product or service. And you want these.

Don’t feel bad when you get one, feel motivated! Negative reviews give you a chance to go beyond yourself in showing how customer-driven you are. They allow you to fix the issue this customer has. After fixing it, ask them to share the solution and/or their experience with your company, so others can see what you have done to turn that disappointed customer into a satisfied customer. Learn how to respond to online reviews of your business.

It’s your job to make your customer happy, and good reviews will follow. Speed up that process by asking your customers for their feedback!

Ratings, reviews, and Schema.org structured data

Google uses structured data to include extra information in the search results. The markup for structured data is taken from a vocabulary called Schema.org. A combined effort of Yahoo!, Microsoft, Google and Yandex, this open data format’s goal is to offer structured data that search engines can consistently use to present rich results. This could be product information, ratings, and reviews, or information about your local business. You can find in-depth information about structured data and how to apply it in our ultimate guide to structured data.

To implement structured data, you need to offer search engines the correct markup. There are a couple of ways of doing that: Microdata, RDFa, and JSON-LD. According to Google, the latter is the easiest way of adding metadata to sites these days. JSON-LD is a lightweight data-format that’s easy to read for both humans and machines. You can test your code in Google’s Rich Results Test Tool. Yoast SEO adds a lot structured data to your site automatically and you can use the Schema tab to finetune the implementation based on the type of content you have. You can append your reviews to it. We have documentation on how to integrate with the Yoast SEO Schema implementation.

Yoast SEO also has structured data powered rating stars in Google

Reviews and ratings

By adding certain Schema.org elements to your code, it’s possible for Google to add reviews and ratings to your search results. You need to tell which parts are about the review and what that element represents. In Schema.org, a rating is the aggregate value a product gets. A review is a rating, with an explanation in text.

Recently, Google put the squeeze on how they look at reviews and which types of Schema it supports. For the LocalBusiness and Organization types, it is no longer possible to add self-serving reviews to your site. These are reviews about businesses you collect yourself and put on your own site. It’s also not allowed to add external reviews via a widget. Of course, other types of content can still get reviews. You won’t be in violation if you have self-serving reviews on your site right now, but Google will simply not show your reviews in search anymore. Do follow Google’s guidelines or else you will get a penalty.

Google also limited the types for which it accepts review structured data. It now supports the following items:

Let’s take a look at a small review structured data example.

Review structured data example

In the example below, you see a typical Schema.org review in JSON-LD format. A couple of highlights:

  • type: The schema.org type (a review)
    • itemReviewed: What you are reviewing
    • type: The schema.org thing (a thing)
    • Any subsets to specify the thing
  • reviewRating: Is it a review or a rating?
    • type: It’s a rating
    • ratingValue: The number of stars (1-5)
  • name: The title of the review
  • author: Who wrote it?
    • type: It’s a person, of course
    • name: Name of the author
  • reviewBody: The body of the review
    • publisher: Where was the review published?
    • type: Most of the time it’s an organization
    • name: Name of the organization
<html>
<head>
<title>Yoast SEO Review</title>
<script type="application/ld+json">
{
 "@context": "http://schema.org/",
 "@type": "Review",
  "itemReviewed": {
  "@type": "SoftwareApplication",
  "operatingSystem": "Web",
  "applicationCategory": "WebApplication",
  "image": "https://cdn-images.yoast.com/uploads/2010/10/Yoast_SEO_WP_plugin_FB.png",
  "name": "Yoast SEO"
 },
 "reviewRating": {
  "@type": "Rating",
  "ratingValue": "5"
 },
 "name": "The best SEO plugin ever!",
  "author": {
  "@type": "Person",
  "name": "Calvin Jones"
 },
 "reviewBody": "I love working with it.",
  "publisher": {
  "@type": "Organization",
  "name": "WordPress.org"
 }
}
</script>
</head>
<body>
</body>
</html>

Products

The same can be done for product listings. If you use the right markup, Google can pick up the data and show it in the results. You can add specifications, price, availability, reviews and ratings, and more to your listings. The code to use is comparable to the one above. Running WooCommerce? The Yoast SEO WooCommerce SEO plugin does a lot of hard work for you so you can focus on improving your site.

Local businesses

Reviews are a godsend for local businesses. That’s why it’s rather important to add them to your listings. Using Schema.org and, for instance, JSON-LD, you give Google the opportunity to add your ratings to the search results. Potential customers will get a good idea of the quality of your business, right in the search engine. Need a helping hand with your local SEO efforts? Our Local SEO plugin might do the trick!

Read more: Use JSON-LD to add schema.org to your website »

Online reviews and how to get them

Hopefully, this guide has given you some ideas on how to get online reviews and rating. In addition, we’ve told you how to add them using structured data so search engines know they are looking at a review. Especially for local business, having good reviews is getting more important by the day. Be sure to reach out to your current customers and get them to share their experiences so others can become your newest customers.

Good luck!

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