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How Do User Reviews Affect SEO (and usability)?

 4:34 pm on May 31, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hi there, Everyone:

I have some products with a few user reviews on them.

Right now, there is just a small graphic that displays the number of Stars a product has and then a link that says, "See reviews" that opens a popup window with the reviews in it.

Could putting the reviews on the actual product description page (instead of in a popup) negatively affect search rankings? Would it positively affect search rankings?

Bonus Question: How would you handle reviews in terms of usability? Would you put ALL the reviews on the product page? Just the most recent ones? Just the most flattering ones? Then have the remainder on a separate page?

Thanks in advance.

I do realize that I am worrying about pleasing google MORE than I am worrying about pleasing my visitors. However, at this time, I really do need to make sure I don't do anything to sabotage what little google traffic I have while I try developing other traffic sources.



 7:59 pm on May 31, 2012 (gmt 0)

Personally I don't think reviews have much impact either way. Yet.

We've had reviews on our sites for a while and they have neither positively or negatively impacted rankings. But as we've seen with the new Google+ local reviews are now more important so i'd expect to see them make an appearance sooner rather than later.

That being said, the other advantage to reviews is you can embed RDF markup into your code to display some review and rating info - gives you a little more real estate on the SERP page.


 8:40 pm on May 31, 2012 (gmt 0)

The way I see most sites using user reviews will have no significant impact on their SEO. That is because most of the sites I see have very few user reviews and the user reviews they do have are often less than 10 words long. That is just not helpful.

I like to post longer user reviews on my product pages (over 200 words). You need to get creative in how to encourage long reviews like running a contest or something else. By having longer reviews it gives good info to users so they stay longer on the page. Also I end up getting more long tail traffic since these longer user reviews will have keyword combinations that I wouldn't have thought of.


 9:49 pm on May 31, 2012 (gmt 0)

I think if there is an impact, it will most likely be affected by the quality of the reviews. Mine (travel reviews) go into moderation and I employ a freelance editor to tidy them up grammatically prior to release. That said, in the past year I have seen no ranking impact either way that I can directly attribute to them so it's more hunch with a nod to one of the early Panda iterations that IMO seemed to impact a significant number of sites with UGC.

Oh...and we ditch the one sentence reviews incidentally unless they are very useful snippets.


 11:38 pm on May 31, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the responses.

Ok, I will look at it in terms of adding usability.

@ Simsi:

i wonder if it might be good to incorporate the one sentence reviews into the description, like: "A customer in Des Moine wrote to rave about the shine on these widgets."

You know, yelp seems to rank so well these days (it often outranks the official website site of a business), that I can't help but feel that reviews somehow play a pretty big part in their ranking power.


 11:41 am on Jun 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

A large site that I worked on found a huge SEO difference between products with lots of long reviews and products with no reviews. There were some products that we couldn't seem to rank for no matter how many times we linked to them internally. It seemed to us to come down to user experience. When we didn't have reviews, users would often bounce. When we had lots of product info including dozens of good reviews, the bounce rate could be as low as 10%. On the other end of the spectrum, the bounce rate could be as high as 70%.

We had the text of the user reviews directly in the page. It often helped talk about the product in a natural way and introduce keywords that the manufacturer didn't think of.

I'd recommend user reviews in the page. Users can find them more easily there. Unless they are duplicate content (taken from other sites), or unless they are too low quality for users to find useful.


 1:05 pm on Jun 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thank you, deadsea!

I am a little curious as to how having reviews would affect BOUNCE rate though.

I can see how user reviews would affect time on page / time on site (since it would take time to read the reviews, naturally increasing the time the user spent on the page).

But do you have any idea why / how it got people to click through to OTHER pages on the site? (which is what is need to reduce bounce rate)

Also, one last question:

I'd recommend user reviews in the page.

Would you use CSS "tabs" to reveal the reviews when someone clicks on them? Or would you just go ahead and show them?

(Also, is there any SEO ramifications for having content "hidden" by using CSS tabs until someone clicks on it?)


 1:56 pm on Jun 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

We did not consider a user a bounce if the user added to the shopping cart, clicked on an ad, clicked to read a full review (as opposed to the first couple paragraphs that are featured on the product page), moved the map, or otherwise interacted with the site. It is easy to imagine why user reviews would make users more comfortable doing these things as opposed to hitting th back button and returning to the SERPs.

I'm not a big fan of hiding content with CSS at all. I rarely find that it is good for users compared to putting extra content below the fold and letting users scroll to it. For very long reviews (500+ words), you probably need to have a "click here to read the full review" so that your product page isn't dominated by a single review. Either CSS, or another page is fine at that point. I would certainly put a summary of the reviews above the fold. Something like "10 users reviewed this product and gave it 4 out of 5 stars on average, click here to read reviews". Also consider summaries of the most helpful reviews above the fold. When in doubt, copy Amazon, they do it 85% right, IMO.


 6:24 pm on Jun 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thank you again, deadsea.


 10:39 pm on Jun 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

i wonder if it might be good to incorporate the one sentence reviews into the description, like: "A customer in Des Moine wrote to rave about the shine on these widgets."

If you don't get many reviews then I can't see it does much harm although cnversely I'm not sure it adds much value either. As a reader, I am often sceptical of that type of comment myself.

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