I am a Local SEO Consultant that has been trying to find a clear answer to a question about marking up local business reviews in order to get review rich snippets.
My question is: Is it ok with Google if you markup third-party reviews on your website with Schema?
Google’s Structured Data Documentation
I took a look at Google’s Structured Data documentation but didn’t really find a concrete answer so I kept looking.
Mike Blumenthal is someone that I follow and I trust his opinion. He is the co-founder of GatherUp so I looked through some of his posts and found a statement from 2016.
GatherUp has a post that says: “Only include reviews that have been directly produced by your site, not reviews from third-party sites or syndicated reviews.” This makes total sense, but since this was from 2016 I wanted to make sure that it was still accurate so I kept doing some research.
Schema App Documentation
Before starting my research I was under the impression that you should not markup third-party reviews on your site. However, I found a recent article from a Schema App that said otherwise. They are claiming that “Basically, the rule is if you are using third-party reviews you are ONLY eligible for review rich results and not star rating in knowledge graph cards.”
So it sounds like they are saying you can markup third-party reviews but they will only show up as a review rich snippet, not in the knowledge panel.
Review Rich Snippets vs Reviews From The Web in The Knowledge Panel
If you are wondering what the difference is between the two, here are some example screenshots so you can see.
Review Rich Snippets From Your Site in SERPs
This website has review stars showing up on it’s own site just like other site like Yelp have.
Reveiws From The Web From Your Site in The Knowledge Panel
This website has a review rating from their own website showing up in their Knowledge Panel like other popular sites do.
I always assumed you could get penalized for marking up third-party reviews but Schema App claims: “YES, you can get Review Rich Results for schema.org/LocalBusiness using third-party reviews. While there are some caveats and guidelines you need to follow, it bucks the prevailing advice in the marketplace. Why trust us on this? We’ve helped clients get out of penalties with this recommendation using third-party reviews and wanted to share the learning with you.”
Google’s Structured Data documentation does make a comment on third-party reviews but it’s only related to the Knowledge Panel, not review rich snippets.
Google may display information from aggregate ratings markup in the Google Knowledge Cards. The following guidelines apply to review snippets in knowledge cards for local businesses:
- Ratings must be sourced directly from users.
- Don’t rely on human editors to create, curate or compile ratings information for local businesses. These types of reviews are critic reviews.
- Sites must collect ratings information directly from users and not from other sites.
My feeling is that this is dangerous territory and it is only a matter of time until Google clarifies what they want. Here is what I think they want: Only mark up first-party reviews on your site in order to get review rich snippets and a review rating in the Knowledge Panel. It seems reasonable to conclude that the guidelines should apply to both results: review rich snippets and a review rating in the Knowledge Panel.
Mike Blumenthal was kind enough to share his two cents: “My thoughts are that we are all interpreting Google’s guidance. As far as I know, Google has not clarified what they actually want or mean but here is their guidance:
Google may display information from aggregate ratings markup in the Google Knowledge Cards. The following guidelines apply to review snippets in knowledge cards for local businesses: Ratings must be sourced directly from users.
So does this mean that you can use them in organic but not expect to see them in the Knowledge Panel? It isn’t clear whether the guidance applies to just Knowledge Panel or all organic results. I interpret it conservatively to mean that it is best practice to use original content and that you are always safe if you do so.
My attitude is that it is so easy to get original reviews AND there are so many other reasons to do so (content, social proof, other marketing opportunities) that it is somewhat of a moot question.
The other comment I would make is that Google makes it clear and this we all agree on, if you want “Reviews From The Web” to show in your Knowledge Panel than it is absolutely required to use first-party original content to be within the guidelines. I think that having two or three entries in that area is incredibly valuable for conversions.”
How Do I Get First-Party Reviews on My Site to Show Up in The Knowlege Panel?
You have to markup your first-party reviews with Schema.org review markup.
You can use a tool like GatherUp that does this for you automatically. I highly recommend doing something like this. It’s going to make your life a lot easier. Here is a good review stars FAQ page on this if you want to learn more.
In conclusion, it sounds like it’s better to be safer than sorry and I don’t recommend marking up third-party reviews on your site. It will give you one less thing to worry about!