In this week’s update, learn about the full rollout of the Page Experience update; Facebook’s tools for personalized experiences; how Google and Yelp fight fake reviews; a spike in GMB cleanup actions; a guide to Google’s star ratings; and the rise of “localism” in marketing.
The Page Experience update has fully rolled out
Google has announced that the slow rollout of the Page Experience algorithm update, which began in mid-June, has finally been completed. The rollout includes both Google Search and Top Stories. The Google News app will also be affected by the change, with updates expected to be complete towards the end of this week. Google sent a notice to news publishers stating that it will no longer be sourcing article content from RSS feeds and will begin mixing AMP and non-AMP pages in news results.
As a reminder, Page Experience is not just about Core Web Vitals (CWV). Though CWV is the new part, the Page Experience metric has been around for a while and was already measuring mobile friendliness as well as checking for “intrusive interstitials,” Google’s term for popups, overlays, and similar page components that block users from seeing the main content of the page when they first visit, leading to a poor user experience.
Taken together, Page Experience signals are an important ranking metric, made even more significant by the emphasis of CWV standards on several new and highly specific aspects of user experience during page load. SEOs will need to pay close attention to these factors to remain competitive.
Facebook offers tools for building personalized experiences
A recent article from Facebook VP Dan Levy outlines recent product innovations geared towards helping businesses create personalized experiences for consumers. Levy cites four themes: privacy, discovery, commerce, and efficiency.
On the privacy front, Facebook is eager to demonstrate it can still deliver personalized advertising while implementing technologies that minimize the need to access users’ personal information. As for discovery, Facebook is adding tools to the news feed where people can browse content from related businesses under topic headings like beauty and fitness, as well as helping users build communities to support businesses that align with their values. Already, 3.5 million users have joined Facebook groups supporting Black-owned businesses.
Commerce is changing, with one in three consumers saying they will spend less time in stores even after the pandemic lifts. At the same time, three fourths of consumers say they get shopping ideas from Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, or WhatsApp. Facebook envisions these platforms growing to become personalized engines for commerce. Finally, Facebook is launching tools within its Business Suite to help businesses develop content and to consolidate messaging across platforms.
Levy notes that 200 million businesses engage with consumers on Facebook and Instagram using organic tools like Facebook Pages, whereas 10 million pay to advertise.
How Google and Yelp fight fake reviews
George Nguyen has a useful article on Search Engine Land about Google and Yelp’s differing methodologies for fighting fake reviews and other violations of policy. Both Google and Yelp make use of automated systems backed up by human moderators. Google places heavy emphasis on machine learning, using “hundreds of cues to detect abusive behavior, such as a shift of review patterns on a business and implausible behavior patterns by reviewers,” according to a statement from the company. Google also uses machine learning to prevent fake Google My Business profiles from being created. These processes are complemented by thousands of human moderators to fill in where the algorithms fall short.
Yelp feels human moderation is more central to the process of weeding out fake reviews. Though also employing a complex set of rules designed to automatically detect fake, biased, or solicited reviews, “a real human reviews the issue every single time,” according to a statement. Yelp’s human moderators also validate new businesses who sign up for the platform, and they occasionally post consumer alerts on profiles when businesses are subject to political attacks or when they are suspected of paying for or otherwise garnering fake reviews. Yelp may also issue search ranking penalties to businesses that violate its policies. Yelp bans businesses from advertising when they violate policies such as paying for reviews; Google does not.
Most commentators agree that Google’s attempts to fight fake reviews and listings has had limited success in the face of massive amounts of fraudulent content on the platform. Yelp, with its focus on high quality reviews over all else, seems to have a better success rate in that area, though many legitimate reviews may also be caught in its filters and relegated to the “not recommended” category.
Unusual levels of GMB listing cleanup actions detected
Apropos of the last item, our own client success team has reported an unusually high volume over the past two to three weeks of Google alerts to GMB owners and managers for issues like duplicate listings and the removal of reviews that violate policy guidelines. Because my email is associated with our main Google My Business account, I’ve been seeing this volume spike myself, with dozens of alerts flooding my inbox every day. In the past, it was common among our enterprise clients to see a large number of user requests for access to specific business locations -- due to the change a couple of years back where users could attempt to claim already-claimed listings. What’s new is the other types of alerts.
The good news is that they mostly appear to be legitimate and well founded. I’ve seen review removal alerts for reviews, for example, with racist comments in them, as well as reviews with other kinds of offensive language and others that seemed irrelevant to the business. Google appears to be turning up the dial on its automated detection systems, and the results look positive at this point. They also seem to be cleaning up some very long-standing dead weight -- in my personal account, I had an alert the other day that an unverified listing I’d had sitting untouched in GMB for at least 12 years was going to be deleted soon if I took no action. Better late than never?
Alert regarding a test listing (using my father’s address) that I created in GMB a dozen years ago
A guide to Google’s various star ratings
Chandal Nolasco da Silva of Mako Fintech has a piece at Search Engine Journal about Google’s star ratings and how they work. She reminds us that Google displays star ratings on a five-point scale in many places, not just local search results. Stars can appear alongside standard search results, in ads, in recipe cards and other rich results, in app store listings, and more. In local search, rating and review count are acknowledged by Google to be ranking factors, but in general search, ratings are not a ranking factor, according to statements by Google’s John Mueller. Still, ratings can help drive conversion regardless of their ranking impact.
Star ratings appear in SERPs when they are tagged using Schema markup (but this doesn’t work anymore for reviews of your own business on your website). Star ratings appearing in paid search ads are called “seller ratings,” and these are aggregated by Google from trusted third-party sites. Rich results, like recipe carousels, get their stars through Schema markup just like other websites. The same is true for third-party review sites like Trustpilot and Capterra. App store ratings, of course, come from users and are aggregated and displayed in each app store listing, just like local business reviews. Like website-based ratings, app store ratings can appear in SERPs.
Google Play Store result in SERPs with star rating, courtesy Search Engine Journal
Google endorses “Localism” in marketing
A guest post on Think with Google by Susie Walker of Cannes Lions makes a case that marketers need to embrace the concept of “localism,” “a consumer preference for brands and businesses located geographically nearby that engage the specific needs and behaviors of local communities and tap into location-specific culture.” The shift towards localism has been driven by multiple factors, including limited movement imposed by the pandemic as well as the rise of “conscious consumerism,” with its emphasis on support for local businesses and locally sourced products. Brands who successfully tap into consumers’ desire for ethical buying and ties to local culture can do good while reaping benefits, as evidenced by several of Walker’s examples, including an award-winning agency in Brazil that transformed a local Starbucks into a registry office during Pride 2020 where trans people could legally change their names at no charge; and a Nike campaign, also based in Brazil, that connected with local graffiti artists and made use of geolocation technology, winning an increase of 32% in local sales.