Google Star Ratings: How they have changed and why they’re important in 2022
Savvy business owners have long known the value of securing five-star Google reviews. It’s one of the most effective (not to mention free) ways to gain online credibility, secure more clients or consumers and boost the reputation of your company.
While these ratings may not play a role in how Google ranks websites in its search engine results pages (SERPS), they do influence the decision-making process of customers– making these a valuable tool for SMEs and family-run businesses so they can compete with the big players and their hefty marketing budgets.
Asking customers for reviews has become essential for online success. Almost half of all consumers won’t consider brands that have anything less than a four-star average, while 73 per cent of online shoppers only look at testimonials that have been posted in the last month.
The goalposts have changed when it comes to Google Stars, and now these carry more weight than ever in 2022 – making it imperative to harvest those elusive five-star reviews from your valued customers.
The many places that Google Stars appear
When consumers search online for businesses like yours, they can access the reviews collected by Google when viewing SERPs. However, in recent updates, these ratings have been added to many other features across online searches, making them highly visible and important for your credibility and branding.
Ratings appear beside elements like ads, rich search results (including carousels, images, break-out boxes and other non-text information displayed on SERPs), Maps, third-party websites and even in Samsung and iOS app stores.
These provide a range of benefits for your online presence and reputation, including:
- Greater trust and improved credibility
- Improved click-through rate (CTR) and more traffic coming to your website
- Higher organic ranking in SERPs
- More likely to attract new (positive) reviews
- Overall improvements in your SEO performance
How do I get started with aggregated reviews?
The first step is to set up your Google My Business account. This is your business account that’s used specifically to display information like your address, phone number, business logo, map details and more. By setting up your GMB account, you’ll instantly be connected to Google Reviews. These will be gathered to appear with your business information in SERPs.
The next step is to aggregate testimonials from your website to include them in Google search. If you haven’t already, you need to add schema.org code to your website. Schema coding will collate the ratings that customers leave on your website, then deliver those results to Google.
It’s important to note that you can’t add schema coding to your home page. Instead, this is added to each individual product or services page. All of these ratings are then collated and an average is generated for search listings. You can use third-party apps like Trustpilot on your homepage and these ratings will also influence your overall rating.
If you’re adding the schema.org code manually, it’s important to ensure it’s at the top of the page ahead of all other scheme codings. WordPress sites usually make the ranking process for schema coding simple through the use of plugins that take care of the coding for you.
You can also use third-party platforms like EmbedReviews which will generate your schema.org coding and display a rich snippet in SERPs. This is perfect for businesses with a non-WordPress website or users who aren’t confident with plugins or manual coding.
Unfortunately, it’s not certain as to when the stars will become visible. However, you can check to ensure your schema coding has been successful using the Structured Data Testing Tool.
How to get Google Stars on your paid advertising
Organic search rankings and strong SEO are the backbone of any online business, large or small. However, investments in Google advertising are essential in order to reach your customers, improve your CTRs and generate sales. That makes it vital to have your stars appear with your paid advertising so you can boost your credibility and make your marketing dollars more effective.
These are called seller ratings. The higher your rating is, the more your products will be highlighted. Your star rating and the number of testimonials will appear beside free listings in display ads and shopping ads.
To activate these seller ratings, there are criteria that need to be met, including:
- You must adhere to all policies surrounding paid advertising
- Your business must already have a minimum of 100 verified site reviews that have been lodged in the country you operate in
- These 100 (or more) testimonials must have been collected within the last year
- Your star rating must be 3.5 or higher
The process of activating these seller ratings is not automatic, either. You’ll either need to have the schema.org coding added to your products on your website, or alternatively you can lodge a request to have them activated through your Google merchant centre.
Fortunately, you don’t have to rely on Google Reviews to make up your 100 ratings in the last 12 months. Testimonials collected on your website (as long as it has the same domain that appears in your ads) and through approved partner review sites are also aggregated, making it simple to collate these 100 reviews.
Get your Google Stars to appear in local search results
While some businesses seek to target larger demographics, others focus on their local community and the shoppers in their own backyard. Local businesses need to focus on reaching the people living close by, and this is achieved through Local SEO and the use of Local Packs.
A Local Pack is what appears at the top of the SERPs when customers search for local businesses like yours. It displays the top three most relevant results in the area, with similar businesses to yours.
Having your testimonials appear in these Local Packs is imperative for your credibility, and a big part of effective Local SEO. This often involves pop-outs that appear in SERPs highlighting your location, type of business, contact details, operating hours and more.
To get your Google Stars into your Local Pack, your customers need to provide reviews directly on your local profile. The best way to achieve this is by simply asking your customers to leave a review. Back your products and services and your customers will respond.
Responding to customer reviews is important. You should thank customers for leaving positive reviews, but more importantly, do not ignore the negative ones. Offer suggestions and solutions to help improve their experience and show your local audience that you’re willing to go the extra mile. This will make your business more attractive to the local shoppers you’re trying to attract.