Google’s Product Review Algorithm Update: What You Need to Know

Google’s product review update rewards webpages with useful content on products.

On April 8, 2021, Google announced a ranking algorithm update aimed at webpages with product reviews. On April 22, Google completed the rollout of the update (though there still could be some lingering effects). Here’s what you need to know.

Product Review Algorithm Update: What Is It?

Google’s product review update rewards webpages with better rankings in its search results that provide useful content on products. Google explains in its announcement:

… we know people appreciate product reviews that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products. That’s why we’re sharing an improvement to our ranking systems, which we call the product reviews update, that’s designed to better reward such content.

Google goes on to say that:

Although this is separate from our regular core updates, the advice that we provide about producing quality content for those is also relevant here. The overall focus is on providing users with content that provides insightful analysis and original research, and is written by experts or enthusiasts who know the topic well.

Google’s search liaison, Danny Sullivan, clarified on Twitter what type of product reviews it will impact, including single reviews and roundups:

Sullivan clarified another question on Twitter as well: Will the update impact service reviews, too? The answer could be yes.

Product Review Algorithm Update: Who Does It Impact?

For now, the update only impacts English language reviews, but as with any update, that can change in the future. Sullivan again clarified in a tweet:

Practically speaking, this update will most likely impact product affiliates, since most product reviews contain some type of affiliate links. Webpages with “thin content” product reviews will be the most impacted negatively, while product reviews that provide in-depth information will be rewarded.

Search Engine Land published a report that showed that while the product review update had a big impact on many, it was not as big of an impact, per se, as a core algorithm update would be. That report has all sorts of interesting charts and data related to who was impacted the most, the ranking outcomes and more. It is worth a read.

Product Review Algorithm Update: My Opinion

There have been many core algorithm updates, but fewer updates specific to a feature or market segment.

I sense that this product review update is designed to discourage affiliate sites that simply state the specifications, add a pretty picture, throw on a few comments from users and call themselves a review site.

Taken further, thin content could even apply to many of the so-called “best of” websites. Obviously, that would change a lot of things for SEOs. How far the update could go is vague at this time.

While some firms spend a ton (as in millions of dollars) writing reviews of products (such as Edmunds.com and TrailCamPro.com — neither a current client of ours), they invest heavily and so deserve their rankings.

Personally, I would appreciate seeing thin, slap-it-together content sites vanishing.

My advice is to not rely on user-generated content and weakly acquired review links as your business model.

Google: Creating Better Product Review Content

Google says that the same general advice it gives here on content applies to webpages with product reviews as well. That advice includes tips on how to assess quality, expertise and presentation.

It’s not a bad idea to better understand how to create quality content for “your money or your life” webpages, too, since products would fall under that category. You can read more about that starting in Section 2.3 of Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.

In its announcement, Google also linked to a help file on providing better product information for shoppers and a list of questions to consider when creating your product review content.

So product affiliates beware: If you are going to list product reviews on your website, make sure they are crafted with expertise and quality, and are extra helpful in assisting potential customers to make an informed decision.

Need assistance in understanding how to rank in Google? We provide a variety of SEO consulting and services to meet each client’s specific needs. Contact us for a free consultation.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

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5 Replies to “Google’s Product Review Algorithm Update: What You Need to Know”

Olivia Pintolia

Hi there
I have often wondered how accurate and true the reviews on Amazon are after a friend mentioned that I should not rely on them as a lot of them were fake.
I found your site after I decided to do some research: https://www.bruceclay.com/blog/googles-product-review-algorithm-update-what-you-need-to-know/
Shockingly, I also found a recent report on an Amazon supplier who leaked data through an open server – it is apparent the supplier gives a full refund directly to their PayPal account if the user leaves a 5-star review.
See the full report here: https://www.safetydetectives.com/blog/amazon-reviews-leak-report/

I am sure most people like me are being scammed by these reviews! Please add to your page to make more people aware!
Stay safe
Olivia

Ryne Landers

Hi Bruce, you mentioned specifically to “not rely on user-generated content” and I was curious about whether you had any data on eCom sites with user-generated product reviews being impacted? According to Glenn Gabe, he has data from several sites that shows user-generated reviews were impacted, and I have a very large eCom retailer that has seen tremendous shake-ups right around this time (peaking in April then 50%+ loss in May) and a sharp decline in Reviews and Discovery placements that aligns with Glenn’s notes. However, per John Mueller (English Google SEO office-hours from April 9, 2021), the update didn’t specifically target those types of reviews. So, is this an issue of unintended consequences and you have some data that might validate that? Or is it an intended outcome and maybe John Mueller was not 100% up to speed in his notes on the open call? Would love to be able to validate some of what we’re seeing and make some concrete recommendations.

Quality is very important no doubt

Thanks for updating me about this.

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