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A guide to star ratings on Google and how they work

A guide to star ratings on Google and how they work

The evasive five-star review used to be something you could only flaunt in a rotating review section of your site.

But today, Google has pulled these stars out of the shadows and has them ahead and centered across branded SERPs and beyond.

Consider that 48% of consumers will not even look twice at a business with less than 4 stars.

Star ratings can help companies earn the trust of potential customers, improve local search rankings and increase conversions.

This is your guide to how they work.

Stars and SERPs

Star ratings on Google are driven by consumer reviews from different properties, and Google uses an algorithm and an average to determine how many stars are displayed.

These ratings are displayed on a scale of 1 to 5 stars.

When a person searches on Google, they will encounter star ratings on standard blue link listings, ads, rich results like recipe cards, local package results, third-party review sites, and in-app results.

John Mueller recently confirmed that Google does not include star ratings or customer reviews in web search rankings. However, Google is aware that star ratings affect local search results and rankings:

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“Counts Google reviews and local search ranking factor. More reviews and positive reviews can improve your business’ local ranking. ”

Although they are not a ranking factor for organic search, star ratings can serve as an important conversion element to help you show social proof and build credibility.

This is how the different types of star rating results look in Google and how they work on each list form.

Standard “Blue Link” listings and Google Stars

Screenshot from SERPs, Google, August 2021

Websites can stand out from their competitors by getting stars to appear around their organic search results.

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It was only recently that Google began testing star ratings in organic search.

How to get Google Stars on organic SERPs

If you want stars to appear in your organic search results, add schedule markers to your site.

Learn how to do it in the video below:

As the video points out, you need actual reviews to get your structured data markup displayed.

You can then work with your development team to enter the code on your site that indicates your average rating, highest, lowest, and overall rating.

Screenshot JSON-LD script on Google Developers, August 2021

Once you have added the rich snippet to your site, there is no clear timeline for when they will start appearing in the SERPs, it is up to Google.

When you’re done, you can check your work with Google’s structured data testing tool.

It is strongly recommended to add schedule. But even without it, if you own a retail store and have ratings, Google can still show your star ratings in the search engine results.

They do this to ensure that applicants have access to a variety of results. Google says:

“If you have structured data markup on your site, your products will automatically appear in free listings (with the exception of the Shopping tab) without directly participating in the feature.”

If you want star ratings to appear in Shopping ads, you have to pay for it.

Paid ads and Google Stars

Screenshot from SERP ads, Google, August 2021 Screenshot from SERP ads, Google, July 2021

When Google Stars appear in paid search ads, they are called seller ratings, “an automatic type of extension showing high-ranking advertisers.”

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These can appear in text ads, shopping ads (as seen above) and free listings. Both the star rating and the total number of votes or reviews are displayed.

How to get Google Stars on paid ads

To participate in free listings, salespeople must do two things:

Follow all required policies regarding personally identifiable information, spam, malware, legal requirements and more. Submit a feed through the Google Merchant Center, or get structured data markup on their site (as described in the previous section).

And again, some e-commerce vendors that do not have structured data markup may still have their content displayed in the SERPs.

In order for text ads and shopping ads to show star ratings, salespeople typically need at least 100 reviews over the last twelve months.

Google processes reviews per Country, and therefore the minimum notification limit also applies to only one region at a time.

In order for star ratings to appear on the ads of a Canadian e-commerce company, they had to e.g. Have received at least 100 reviews from within Canada in the last year.

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Google considers reviews from their own Google customer reviews and also from approved third-party partner review sites, making it easier for salespeople to reach the minimum review threshold each year. Google also requests:

The domain that has ratings must be the same as what is visible in the ad. A survey of your site must be conducted by Google or its affiliates. The included reviews should be about the product or service being sold.

Finally, Google makes a (really confusing) claim that:

“In addition, both of the following criteria must be met: Average, compound, 3.5 or more star rating for text ads. At this time, Google may show seller ratings if the average rating is less than 3.5 stars.”

Basically, paid advertisers must meet a minimum number of stars for seller ratings to even appear on their ads.

This helps higher quality advertisers stand out from the competition.

Local package results and Google Stars

Screenshot from SERPs local pack, Google, August 2021

Local businesses have a handful of options for their business to appear on Google via Google Maps, a Google My Business page and more – all of which can display star ratings.

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Google may collect reviews from other local review sites on your local business properties with Google.

It can take up to two weeks for new reviews to appear in your overall score.

How to get Google Stars on local search results

Customers should leave reviews directly on your local corporate properties and other local review sites.

Google encourages business owners to request reviews from their customers, including best practices such as:

Ask your customers to leave you a review, and make it easy for them to do so by providing a link to your review pages. Review prompts desktop and mobile friendly. Respond to customer reviews (be sure to be a verified provider on Google first). Make sure you do not offer incentive reviews.

When customers actively leave reviews, Google My Business profile owners have a number of options to help them manage them:

Screenshot from GMB Help, Google, August 2021

Rich results, like recipes and Google Stars

Screenshot from search for [tofu recipe], Google, August 2021 Everyone has to eat and we celebrate food in many ways – one of them is recipe blogs.

While restaurants are more reliant on local reviews, organic search results and even paid ads, food bloggers are looking to get their recipes rated.

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Like other types of reviews, recipe cards in search results show the average rating and the total number of reviews.

The result has become a point of contention among the food blogging community, as only three recipes can be seen per. Search Google’s desktop results (as shown in the image above) and four on your mobile.

These coveted sites will attract 75% of clicks and leave anyone who has not mastered online customer reviews in the dust.

This means that the quality of the recipe does not necessarily drive these results.

How to get Google Stars on recipe results

Just like the steps to get stars to appear on organic blue-link listings, food bloggers and recipe sites need to add form to their site in order for star ratings to appear.

However, it is not as straightforward as stating the average and the total number of ratings. Developers should follow Google’s recipe selection instructions. Both markup and recommended markup are required:

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Required selection for recipes

The name of the recipe. Picture of the recipe.

Recommended markup for recipes

Overall rating.Author.Cooking time, preparation time and total duration.Date published.Description.Keywords.Nutrition information.Recipe category by target type, e.g. “Dinner” Region attached to the recipe.Ingredients.Instructions.Consumption or total serving. Video (and other related markup if there is a video in the recipe).

The recipe instructions check box would look like this, for example:

“recipeInstructions”:[{“@type”:”HowToStep””name”:”Preheat””text”:”Preheatovento425°F””url”:”https://samplelecom/recipe#step1″”image”:”https://explecom/photos/recipe/step1jpg”}[{“@type”:”HowToStep””name”:”Forvarme””tekst”:”Opvarmovnentil425°F””url”:”https://examplecom/opskrift#trin1″”image”:”https://examplecom/photos/recipe/step1jpg”}

Third-party crawl pages and Google Stars

Screenshot from SERPs list of a review site, Google, August 2021

Many software companies rely on third-party review sites to help inform their customers’ purchasing decisions.

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Third party review pages include any website that a brand does not own where a customer can submit a review, e.g. Yelp, G2 and many more.

Many of these sites, like Capterra shown above, can display star ratings.

How to get Google Stars on third-party review sites

The best way to get a review on a third-party review site depends on which site is best for the brand or company.

For example, if you If you have active customers on Yelp, you can choose to interact with customers there.

Screenshot from SERPs list of a review site, Google, August 2021

Similarly, if a software review site like Trust Pilot shows up for your brand search, you can create an email campaign with your customer list and ask them to leave you a review there.

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Here are a few third-party review sites that Google recognizes:

Rely on Pilot.Reevoo.Bizrate – through Shopzilla.

When it comes to third-party reviews, Google reminds companies that there is no way to opt out of third-party reviews, and they should address any issues with third-party site owners.

App Store results and Google Stars

Screenshot from SERP app store results, Google, August 2021

When companies have an application as their core product, they typically rely on downloads from the App Store and Google Play Store.

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Right from the SERPs, searchers can see an app’s star ratings as well as the total number of votes and other important information, e.g. Whether the app is free or not.

How to get Google Stars in App Store results

Companies can list their iOS apps in the App Store, ask customers to leave reviews there and also respond to them.

They can do the same in the Google Play Store; instructions to do so are here.

Shoot for the stars

Stars indicate quality to consumers, so they almost always improve their clickthrough rate, no matter where they are.

Consumers tend to trust and buy from brands that have higher star ratings in local listings, paid ads or even app downloads.

Many, many, many studies have shown this phenomenon over and over again. So do not hold back when it comes to reviews.

Revise where your brand appears in the SERPs and get stars next to as many rankings as possible.

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However, the most important part of star ratings across Google will always be the service and experiences companies provide that provide good reviews from happy customers.

More resources:

Image credits

Feature Image: BlueberryPie / Shutterstock
All screenshots taken by the author

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