Mr Jonathan Jones

Mr Jonathan Jones

SEO & Digital Consultant

Google’s Product Review Update, April 2021

In typical Google fashion, Google recently announced a bombshell of an announcement called the “product review update” on Twitter & Google Search Central titled “What creators should know about Google’s product reviews update“.

This update, at a glance, looks to target affiliate websites. The affiliate space is growing and is huge, so it’s no surprise they have put particular focus on this space.

However, whilst they did not specifically call out affiliate sites, they specified that they would be introducing “an improvement to [their] ranking systems” to “reward” in-depth & well-researched product reviews pages. These tend to be, 9 times out of 10, monetised with affiliate links.

In Google’s own words:

People appreciate product reviews with in-depth research. Our product reviews update that’s going out today is designed to better reward such rich content. For now, it involves English language searches.

Google Search Central

Lots of questions have been asked on Twitter with lots of responses & answers from Danny Sullivan, Google’s Public Search Liaison.

Here’s what you need to know.

Does the update impact round-ups, or best ofs?

From Danny’s response the answer to this is yes. It impacts product reviews, single reviews or round-ups. I’d take round-ups to mean a page which contains a list of product reviews – a la Best Ofs or “round-ups“.

How often will Google’s Product Review update refresh?

Unclear whether Google will post when an update on this will happen. So expect volatility. Google’s expectations here are clear though. Genuine product reviews with real in-depth research.

Does this update impact service reviews?

This update will impact both service and product reviews, but it’ll most likely be more meaningful for product reviews from Danny’s response below to this question.

Will this update eventually be rolled out in other languages?

Google typically will roll out changes that it rolls out for English language queries to other languages where it makes sense and where they have the data to support that the benefit in English is also transferable to other languages. However, it’s not clear on when they’ll roll this update to other languages outside of English yet.

When can we expect the update to fully roll out?

2 weeks is the timeframe given here for the full rollout.

The focus is still on the quality of your content

This headline is nothing new in the world of SEO and Google’s communications to web owners about what the expectation here is. It’s pretty in-line with Google’s line on Expertise, Authority, and Trust (E-A-T) signals that Google push out constantly.

However, it’s interesting to see in the post itself what Google are specifically calling out and what they are trying to overcome with product reviews:

From this, we know people appreciate product reviews that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products

Google Search Central, Perry Liu, software engineer and Danny Sullivan, public liaison for Search

The important part I’ve put in bold is the most critical part in my opinion. Google does not want websites simply summarising products. A lot of affiliate websites literally take the content description from Amazon and use that as a reference rather than even write their own descriptions. But it’s clear that Google expects web owners to go way beyond even rewriting descriptions.

It expects businesses to do full in-depth research into these products; rather than doing thinly veiled summaries of product without the value add that users expect too.

What does this mean from a business perspective? Simply, it means you should be investing more into your content. You’ll see from the list of questions below that Google wants you to answer when you create your product review pages.

Investing more into your content in summary can mean:

  • Hire experts to write the product reviews, and not just some random copywriter who simply is able to write content
  • Go an extra step and create something that is genuinely going to be helpful for decision making purposes for your users. That can be running scientific polls on getting consumer sentiment of a specific product and likelihood to purchase products (NPS)
  • Do the actual research. Create spreadsheets, analyse the data, do qualitative research into the products which would sway a user to purchase if that is what is important for users to purchase a product or service – and then present that as information and an argument to either purchase or not purchase a product (pros and cons come to mind)
  • Purchase the product or service, and test it out, understand and see if it is genuinely a good product or service. This can obviously be quite expensive and time consuming. But if your competitors are doing this, who do you think Google will try to rank over the other?
    • I think do a splendid job of this, for example, their review on the Sony SRS-XB23 contains a testing methodology, an actual breakdown of what actually matters (real tests against those aspects), objectivity (pros and cons), and qualitative data that goes beyond what the manufacturer supplies

It’s no surprise why are seeing strong growth:

I don’t expect them to drop from this update, and would be really, really surprised if they did given how I even feel like they beyond what’s needed here and are somewhat OTT which is awesome.

Really – the questions below are fairly easy to interpret and there can be no misinterpretation of what they are trying to do here.

Questions to consider for your content (from Google):

  • Express expert knowledge about products where appropriate?
  • Show what the product is like physically, or how it is used, with unique content beyond what’s provided by the manufacturer?
  • Provide quantitative measurements about how a product measures up in various categories of performance?
  • Explain what sets a product apart from its competitors?
  • Cover comparable products to consider, or explain which products might be best for certain uses or circumstances?
  • Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a particular product, based on research into it?
  • Describe how a product has evolved from previous models or releases to provide improvements, address issues, or otherwise help users in making a purchase decision?
  • Identify key decision-making factors for the product’s category and how the product performs in those areas? For example, a car review might determine that fuel economy, safety, and handling are key decision-making factors and rate performance in those areas.
  • Describe key choices in how a product has been designed and their effect on the users beyond what the manufacturer says?

In conclusion, Google are trying to clean up the affiliate space from what this looks like and generally up the quality in terms of what is being recommended by websites from a product and service perspective, so you should always been striving for more and with pushing beyond what everyone else is doing to stay ahead of the game.

Related Video From John Mueller’s Office Hangouts:

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