Trust has always been important in business, even if it is intangible in nature. Trust is seldom defined by one thing, but rather a combination of actions that influence people differently. And word-of-mouth is probably the strongest indicator of trust.
As businesses shift to having an online presence, either as a regular website or an online store, trust becomes even more important. You’re no longer only trying to get customers to trust your brand, or your products, you now also have to try and convince search engines that your customers trust you.
Fortunately, Google and other search engines have – like your customers – long associated trust with ratings and reviews. Ratings and reviews are the foundation of services like Yelp, and even the Yellow Pages has transitioned from a directory service to including ratings and reviews.
Despite this, many businesses are still not making use of Google’s own star ratings feature, which are available for most websites.
What are star ratings in Google’s search results?
Many times when running a search query through Google, a few of the results may include a star rating. When shown, star ratings appears in the third line of SERP entries, between the URL and the description, and at the very least includes a visual representation of the rating, a numerical value, and the number of reviews or votes the rating is based on.
Star ratings are available for most websites, and can even be incorporated in AdWords campaigns; Google currently supports ratings for the following types of content:
- Local businesses
But in this article we will be focusing on star ratings in organic search results for websites selling a service and/or products.
How could star ratings benefit my business?
The gold standard for any business has always been to rank in position one in relevant search results. But achieving this is becoming more and more difficult, and one way of countering this is to make sure your business or website stands out from others on SERPs.
Enter rich snippets, now also referred to as rich results. Originally intended as a way to
give users relevant information about what they’ll find when they click through to visit your site.
rich snippets have the added benefit for site operators of making their result stand out.
And when it comes to star ratings, rich snippets don’t only make your result stand out, they also promote trust. A star rating on a search result doesn’t only show that other people have used the business before, but also how they viewed the service, or product quality. And when there is more than one entry with star ratings in a single search result, the one with the higher rating is usually more indicative of a higher level of trust. Which translates into higher click-throughs, a higher volume of traffic, and higher conversions. And this – in turn – could also boost how high up in search results your site appears.
None of this is supposition; a study done by the CXL Institute in 2017 found that search results with star ratings can boost click-through rates by up to 35 percent.
How to get star ratings in Google’s search results?
The inclusion of star ratings in Google’s search results depends on the use of structured data and – obviously – actual customer ratings and reviews. Prior to 2016 it was possible to include ratings and reviews that customers had left on other sites such as Yelp, but Google has since updated their policy to state:
Sites must collect ratings information directly from users and not from other sites.
How you go about collecting and displaying customer ratings and reviews depends on your website:
- E-commerce site – all the best e-commerce platforms offer ratings and reviews either as a standard feature, or through add-ons or plugins. The ratings and review feature or plugin should also automatically include the relevant structured data, but you can use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to verify this.
- WordPress site – if your business website doesn’t include e-commerce capabilities but is built using WordPress, you can still incorporate ratings and reviews without too much technical know-how. Free plugins like WP Customer Reviews and Rich Reviews are easy to add to WordPress, and automatically include relevant structured data. You may need to combine these with the WP SEO Structured Data Schema plugin in order to add structured data markup to your business details. This is required for businesses that provide a service rather than sell products, such as medical practitioners, plumbers, etc.
All other websites, including those that use a CMS other than WordPress, are still able to simplify the process of collecting and displaying ratings and reviews through the use of GetFiveStars and Trustpilot.
Both Trustpilot and GetFiveStars platform can be incorporated into almost any business website (including those using WordPress), with Trustpilot providing apps to easily integrate with Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, WooCommerce, and PrestaShop. Trustpilot offers a free plan, but any business wanting to display ratings and reviews on their website will have to sign up for a paid plan, with pricing from $170 /mo. GetFiveStars is priced from $40 /mo.
Whenever you buy something through Amazon, you can expect to receive an email a few days after delivery, asking you to review the product. This is an important step in collecting customer reviews, and one that can only be automated through the use of GetFiveStars, Trustpilot, and some of the solutions offered by top e-commerce platforms. Just making it possible for customers to leave a review and rating on your website is not enough, you need to ask for a review. If your chosen ratings and reviews solution doesn’t automate this step, you will need to have a strategy in place for manually emailing your customers and asking for a review. And nothing stops you from encouraging customers to leave a review by offering them a discount – or free shipping – on their next order.
Most of the 3rd-party solutions mentioned above allow for review moderation before they are made visible on your website. But while this can help you manage reviews, it shouldn’t be used to suppress negative reviews.
All the solutions discussed here include structured data, but you can always verify this, and check that there aren’t errors, by using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. You can also add structured data manually, using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. This does require more technical skill than the other solutions, so if you have to do this, work with your developer to ensure everything is done correctly.
Once you have added reviews and the relevant structured data to your website, Google will automatically detect it during the next crawl, and may start displaying star ratings next to your website in search results. Having valid structured data for your website does not guarantee that Google will use any of them in search results, but when they do, you are assured of standing out from any other results. And in the case of star ratings, you should also notice this through a boost in your click-through rates.
Important notes regarding star ratings and Google’s search results
Google programmatically decides whether to include star ratings in any search results, with the primary criteria being that your site uses structured data, and includes actual customer ratings and reviews. However, Google also doesn’t expect to find ratings and reviews on every page of your website: they must be linked to a specific service or product.
For non e-commerce sites, you could choose to display your aggregate rating and some reviews on your home page, linking to a separate page where customers can see all ratings and reviews, and submit their own. The ratings and reviews relate to your business (or service), not individual products.
E-commerce sites should see customers rating and reviewing specific products, not the business, so reviews should be incorporated into each product page.
The use of structured data for rich results can seem complicated, but there are many 3rd-party tools that reduce the technical skill required to implement. And while the use of structured data doesn’t guarantee that Google will use them for rich results like star ratings, when they do you can be sure that your business won’t only stand out, but could also gain from all the benefits associated with star ratings in Google’s search results.