Google Removes ‘Self-Serving’ Star Ratings from Search Snippets (Again)

Back in October 2019, we reported that Google will be removing ‘self-serving’ star ratings from search snippets. Before this update was released, this search snippet opportunity was very attractive for many businesses to help them stand out in the search results. But Google realized it was being abused, could be misleading and deemed it to not be in the best interest of users.

However, certain websites used a work-around in their structured data code that allowed their website to continue showing self-serving reviews (even after the update from Google was released). But it was only a matter of time before Google caught on to the latest tactics. As a result, in January 2021, there was more discussion in the search community that businesses (and specifically law firms) were once again targeted by Google for this enhancement and is being removed again.

But we still see competitors using an “aggregate review” rich snippet as another work-around like the one featured below. However, for most law firm webpages, this is a violation of Google’s guidelines. If a site violates these guidelines, then Google may take manual action against the website, resulting in a loss of search visibility.

As a result, our stance at PaperStreet is to not recommend this update even though you may see your competition with it. As previously mentioned, the competition is most likely violating the following guideline recommendations from Google and can be reported using Google’s Webspam form.

  1. Make sure the reviews and ratings you mark up are readily available to users from the marked-up page. It should be immediately obvious to users that the page has review content.
  2. Ratings must be sourced directly from users.
  3. Sites must collect ratings information directly from users and not from other sites.
  4. The content referred to by the structured data is hidden from the user.
  5. The structured data is not representative of the main content of the page, or is potentially misleading.

For a better understanding, a webpage that is using the “aggregate review” rich snippet properly would be an AVVO page like the example below. This page clearly shows the aggregate star rating on the page, along with the actual sourced reviews and allows you to submit reviews through the page. That is the appropriate scenario for this type of search enhancement.

AVVO rich snippet

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