Ever done a Google search and noticed that some sites have star ratings next to their listings, while most don't?
If a site is showing up as 4 or 5-star, it's going to get more clicks than sites with no stars at all. And people visiting the site are going to be going there with a good impression before they even land on the site.
And although Google don't release details of their algorithm, many SEO experts believe that having good star ratings and reviews can help you move up the search results. If nothing else, because people are more likely to click to your site because of the star ratings that higher clickthrough rate will move you up the listings over time.
I've found that since implementing this I've gone up in the search results a couple of places for some of my main page 1 keywords.
As it turns out, despite the fact that hardly any sites have star rating in their search listings, it's pretty easy to make happen. It's fiddly, as you'll see, but relatively easy.
I implemented some simple changes to my site and within 4 days I had star ratings next to my site for searches for my name, and the next day the star ratings were there for other important keyword searches for me as you can see below.
So how do you get star ratings to show up?
Step 1: Getting Some Reviews To Use
First, you need reviews on a reputable site that you can use as the basis for the star ratings. This could be Yelp, Trustpilot, Amazon if we're talking about a page for a book. Or it could be Google's own “My Business” section.
If you've already got a bunch of reviews on a trusted site then you can proceed to Step 2. If not, you'll need to get some. The simplest way is to use Google's own “My Business” section as those are the reviews Google will trust the most.
If you don't know “My Business” from Google, it's simply a way of registering your business with Google and providing basic information like your business category, location, opening hours etc. So that if appropriate Google can show you on those local maps it occasionally pops up like the following:
Typically on a local listing Google will prioritise those whose name best matches the search, with their registered location closest to the centre of the location specified (in this case London) and with the best reviews.
In my case, my little town is too small for anyone to ever do a search for a marketing consultant in it. But I can use the same interface to register my business, tell Google where I am and my office hours, and upload some images of me, my logo, my office (ie my home!), etc. Those will often show up in the right column if someone does a search for my name, giving me precedence over others with the same name (in my case my business name is the same as my own name – in your case the same would happen for a search of your business name)
More importantly, being listed on Google's My Business means people can leave reviews about you there. And obviously the review site Google trusts more than any other is it's own. The stars in local listings are all based on this.
So if you haven't done so already, register your business using Google's My Business Site here. You'll need a Google/Google+ account (e.g. the account you use for Gmail if you have it) to set it up under. Log into your Google account first, then go to My Business.
Next, you need to get some reviews up there if you haven't already.
When I started this exercise I had just one review up on My Business. It was a 5 star one, but was from someone I had no recollection of knowing! No matter, the next step is to get a decent number of reviews.
You don't need too many. My star listing initially showed up with just 4 reviews. But obviously more looks better.
I simply reached out on the Facebook group I run for my Momentum Club members to ask for reviews as part of a video tutorial on this topic I was creating for them. But you could personally contact happy clients, or send an email to your list, etc.
The main challenge with Google My Business Reviews is that it's not easy to find the page to write one on. The review page appears as a popup window you can normally only get to by finding a My Business listing for your business and clicking on the “Write a Review” link.
But asking people to search for your business name, find the listing on the right, click on the link, then write a review is a bit too complex – most people won't do it. So here's a way of generating a link that will pull up the review page immediately.
First, go to this page and put in your business name and postal (zip) code to find your business:
Click on the “Get Google Review Links” button and it will pop up a list of possible businesses that match for you to select from (9 out of 10 times it will only have your business in the list):
Click on the Continue button and it will generate a set of review links for you:
The first is the safest to use – if people click on that link it will take them to a page to write a review for you.
The second is a maps listing – if people click on that link it will take them to a map with your business on and a link to write a review.
The third is great but only works on desktop. It brings up a list of your existing reviews (hopefully all good!) with a button to write a review.
You can put the link up on your site, or ideally send it to some of your satisfied customers to ask them to do a review. You obviously can't bribe people to get a good review, but I would make sure they're in a good mood first before asking for the review. So send them something useful for free first as a gift to create a bit of goodwill first.
Since it's a complicated link, I'd put it into a link shortener like the Pretty Link plugin for WordPress or the bit.ly or goo.gl url shorteners to get an easier to remember version. In fact that's just what I've done here: https://www.ianbrodie.com/review
Once you've got at least a few reviews, you can proceed to Step 2 where you'll get those reviews to show up in your Google search listings.
Step 2: Getting Your Star Ratings onto Google's Search Results Pages
To get the star ratings on your Google Search results listings you need to use something called “schema.org markup” or “microdata”.
Basically, this is a standard for how you label data on your website so that browsers and bots like Google can interpret it and know what it represents. At a simple level, that means that rather than just having your address as text on your site, you label that text as being the business address of your business and Google will then use that data so it can place your business on a map listing.
Typically, you'll put this information in the footer on the pages of your website as it's also useful – though not essential – reference information for web visitors.
There are a myriad of different types of data defined in schema.org, but the ones we're most interested in are the definitions of:
- Local Business (or sub-categories like Dentist, Professional Service, etc.) – which gives Google details about your business.
- Product – which tells Google about your product or products, including your star ratings.
If you click on those links you'll see a whole load of complex information, the vast majority of which you don’t need or isn't applicable. So let's stick to the basics.
For a Local Business (which I assume you are rather than a big Corporation) you need to tell Google at minimum, the business name and address and provide an image (either of the business or your logo). Google also likes to see your opening hours, telephone number and email address too. It would also prefer pricing information, but for most of us that's not appropriate and it's OK to leave it out.
It's also a good idea to put any legally necessary information in here too. For example, in the UK if you run a Limited company you're required to put your company registration information, address and contact details on your website – so you might as well put them in this section.
To get the data on to your site in a way Google can interpret you'll need to use some html code with “itemscope” and “itemprop” labels to tell Google what your data relates to.
Here's what I have in the footer of my site:
<div itemscope="" itemtype="https://schema.org/ProfessionalService"> <img itemprop="image" src="https://www.ianbrodie.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/ian-new-email-logo.jpg" style="display:none;"> © Copyright 2007 - 2017 <span itemprop="name">Ian Brodie</span> <div itemprop="address" itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress">Business Address:<span itemprop="streetAddress">29 Dean Road</span>,<span itemprop="addressLocality">Wilmslow</span>,<span itemprop="addressRegion">Cheshire</span>,<span itemprop="postalCode">SK9 3AH</span>,<span itemprop="addressCountry">GB</span> |Tel: <span itemprop="telephone">0161 408 0984</span> |Email: <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" itemprop="email">email@example.com</a>.</div> <span itemprop="geo" itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/GeoCoordinates"> <meta itemprop="latitude" content="53.34292"> <meta itemprop="longitude" content="-2.207815"> </span> <span>Company No. 06372487</span> |VAT No.<span itemprop="vatID">922 3892 18</span> |Business hours are <time itemprop="openingHours" datetime="Mo,Tu,We,Th,Fr 09:00-17:00">09.00 a.m. to 17.00 p.m. Monday to Friday</time> </div>
Obviously, if you're not technically minded and this all seems like gobbledegook to you then you'll need to get your web developer to do it for you.
But in essence, all you need to do is change the details to reflect your business and get it in to the footer of your website. Here are the tweaks you need to make:
- In the itemtype section, I have linked to “https://schema.org/ProfessionalService” which tells Google my business is a Professional Service business. There are other definitions like Dentist, LegalService, FinancialService etc. You can see the full list at the bottom of the definition of LocalBusiness here. Just find the most relevant business for you, click through to the definition, and select the web address of that page to use like “https://schema.org/LegalService”. If you can't find a specific type that fits you, just use “https://schema.org/LocalBusiness” – the exact type doesn't really matter as long as it's not misleading.
- In the itemprop “image” section provide a link to an image representing you, your business, your logo etc. This doesn't get displayed in the main search result listings so it's not super important but you do need to provide it. I've set the style=”display:none;” so that the image doesn't appear in your footer – you're just telling Google where it is for future reference.
- In the itemprop “name” section you need to put the name of your business – mine is my own name.
- In the itemprop “address” section you'll need to put your business address in all the relevant fields. The “addressCountry” part needs to be the two-digit ISO country code for your country. You can find a list of country codes here.
- The “telephone” and “email” sections need to be your telephone number and email address. The email address is hyperlinked to open up a mail to you in the visitor's browser if clicked.
The “geo” section is where you put the latitude and longitude of your location so Google can place your business on a map. You can find out your Latitude and Longitude thanks to Nasa here. Note that North and East are +ve numbers and South and West are -ve.
- The Company Number part above isn't for Google so it doesn’t have an itemprop, but it's a UK legal requirement so I just show the text. The vatID and openingHours itemprops aren't mandatory but putting them in helps show Google you're a legitimate business.
And that's it for the definition of your business. You could put other properties in too from the schema.org definition. But these are the main ones you want.
Also note that the properties should match up with anything you put in your business definition on Google My Business in Step 1 (for example, your opening hours). In fact, if they don't, the next time you log in to Google My Business, you'll be asked if you want to update the data in Google My Business to match your website.
Next, we come to the Star Ratings themselves. Just like your business definition, you want to put these into the footer of your website:
<span class="rating-desc" itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/Product"> <span itemprop="name">Ian Brodie</span> <span itemprop="aggregateRating" itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/AggregateRating"> Rated <span itemprop="ratingValue">5</span> / 5 based on <span itemprop="reviewCount">5</span> reviews. | <a class="ratings" href="https://www.ianbrodie.com/review">Review Me</a> </span> </span>
Here's what you need to tweak for your own business:
- The “name” itemprop is the name of the product you're giving the star ratings for. For a service business I would advise just using your business name as people will be rating your business as a whole rather than specific products.
- The “ratingValue” is your average rating out of 5 on the tool you've used (Google My Business Reviews for most of us). The “reviewCount” is the total number of reviews you've had.
- I also provide a link to my review page. This isn't mandatory, but I think adds legitimacy to the rating, especially if someone from Google does a manual review of your site.
Once this data is up on your site you can test it using Google's Structured Data Testing Tool. You simply put in your web address like this:
Google will then review the data on your site to check for any errors in the markup. You'll see results like this:
The website and person definitions come from the website generally and we can ignore them for our purposes. What we're looking for are the Business definition and Product definition. In my case the business definition shows up as “ProfessionalService” as that's the one I used, yours may be slightly different.
You'll see the Product definition has no errors or warnings. You can click on it to see what data it has.
My ProfessionalServices definition has one warning. Clicking on it shows that the warning is because Google recommends including the priceRange property but I don’t have one. That's OK – I don’t want to put prices up on my site for my services generally and a warning doesn't stop the item being processed by Google.
If you do have errors, click to see what they are. Most of the time they're just when you've mistyped something so double check against the code I gave you.
You'll notice a couple of things about the star ratings.
Firstly, you have to manually enter them. In theory you could get some kind of plugin or automation to keep them up to date with your current ratings in the review system you use. But I think it's just easier to manually update them if they change significantly.
Secondly, because you're manually entering the ratings then in theory you could completely fake your star rating and put in 5 stars even if you don't have 5 star reviews. I'm sure some unscrupulous sites do this, but obviously I don't recommend it. It's dishonest and I'm pretty sure that at some point Google will cross-check your ratings and you'll be in trouble if you fake them.
And that's it. You've now got your business details and star ratings marked up on your site. When Google next “spiders” your web pages it should recognise the markup and begin to get them on to the search results pages.
Of course, nothing with Google is certain. It took 4 days before the star ratings began to appear for me – but my site gets spidered by Google fairly frequently because I often update the content. Your site might take longer. Or it might never happen at all.
But for a little bit of work, it's definitely worth doing. If nothing else, getting reviews on Google My Business can do no harm even if they never show up in the main search results.
Do feel free to report back on your results using this in the comments. It'll take a few days for the results to show up (faster if you have a frequently updated site that Google checks regularly, slower if your site isn't often updated) but it would be great to hear how you get on.
Of course, showing up well in the search engines is just the first step in winning clients, so don't forget to sign up for my regular client-winning tips both online and offline using one of the many sign-up boxes on the site.