Google announces an algorithm update impacting product review pages begins rolling out today. The December 2021 Product Review Update will take three weeks to complete.
A similar algorithm update was launched in April. Websites that have made improvements since the last product review update may see those changes reflected in the new update.
This update is preceded by a spam update in early November, and a core algorithm update that concluded in late November.
While some may argue it’s ill-timed for Google to apply algorithm updates during the busiest shopping season, anecdotally these updates have not been too disruptive.
Yet it would be most unfortunate if legitimate product review sites unintentionally lost rankings during this critical time of the year.
A tweet from Google Search Central announced:
“Our December 2021 product reviews update is now rolling out for English-language pages. It will take about three weeks to complete.”
Later, Google Developer Advocate Alan Kent tweeted:
“It is one of many ranking signals, but certainly the goal is to reward authentic high quality reviews. The docs page lists our recommendations for good reviews.”
Kent clarified of what kinds of sites will be affected by the December 2021 product review update:
“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products. Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com. Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”
The response on Twitter generally took the announcement in stride:
Bring it on… pic.twitter.com/yn4B38AjvV
— TechReview (@besttechreview) December 1, 2021
Product Review Page Ranking Assessment
Google’s announcement makes reference to an “automated assessment” that is specific to product reviews. It also notes that product review pages are subject to the same ranking factors that apply to regular webpages.
“…note that our automated assessment of product review content is only one of many factors used in ranking content, so changes can happen at any time for various reasons.”
New Product Review Best Practices
Google gave an advanced warning that they will be introducing two new product review requirements that are clearly aimed at fake product reviews.
The first requirement is that a product review page needs to provide evidence that the product in question has been used by the person reviewing it.
Many low quality reviews are clearly affiliate sites posting bogus reviews that are closer to rewritten versions of the product specifications.
The second requirement is that product reviews offer multiple buying options.
Google’s product review update states:
“Users have told us that they trust reviews with evidence of products actually being tested, and prefer to have more options to purchase the product.
Provide evidence such as visuals, audio, or other links of your own experience with the product, to support your expertise and reinforce the authenticity of your review.
Include links to multiple sellers to give the reader the option to purchase from their merchant of choice.”
Google doesn’t call these best practices “ranking factors,” but does say that these best practices will be folded into future product review algorithm updates.
So these two best practices can potentially become ranking factors in the future.
The new documentation, titled Write high quality product reviews, lists the following recommendations to follow to abide by Google’s guidelines.
Google’s recommendations include:
- Share quantitative measurements about how a product measures up in various categories of performance.
- 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.
- Describe key choices in how a product has been designed and their effect on the users beyond what the manufacturer says.
- Include links to other useful resources (your own or from other sites) to help a reader make a decision.
Promoting Quality Product Reviews
Many products are expensive to review, such as kayaks, which is why there are so many fake reviews that do not feature original images of the products because no kayak was actually reviewed.
One has to wonder if these new requirements could backfire by causing fake review sites to respond by adding fake hands-on assessment content and images.