05 Jun 2013

Did Penguin 2.0 Kill Review Search Experience?

Something sinister has happened within my Google search results… my review sites are disappearing and all I can find is one person’s opinion! Well, actually about 6-7 peoples’ opinions, based on what I am seeing. I discovered this when finalizing my recent decision to purchase an HTC One. I am the type of Web surfer that likes to see a List-form of reviews come back to me, as is commonly found in many popular reviews sites ranging from local to product – for example Yelp and CNET.

CNET Home Page

I don’t know if it’s weird timing but it sure seems many of the results I used to find near the top for review searches are gone. Are they the victims of their own success or potentially some unfortunate link building? I searched Google for “htc one reviews” and below the three PPC ads this was the top seven:

HTC One Review Google SERP 6.7.13

This is a huge problem for me! I am not the type of searcher that wants to see a video review (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I also want to see multiple points of view – and nearly all of these are the work of a single person. Granted, I am sure that the people responsible for the content are perfectly legitimate candidates. Not surprisingly, you will find two Google + Authors in this result. But where are my sortable results? (Note I do like the 5th result in which the description snippet reveals a recent comment claiming the reviewer is an idiot.)

I felt maybe I was being harsh based on one search, and ran some more queries, including “nike shox reviews” and “crm system reviews.”

Nike Shox Reviews

CRM System Reviews

The Nike Shox result is equally disappointing – c’mon Google are you taking a trick from the old eBay bid-on-everything book by advertising “Nike Shox Reviews” for sale on Google Products? I do find a more “review-ey” site that I like at number one for CRM search. Being a cynic and knowing of some pay-for-credibility reviews sites in our industry, I am slightly suspicious though, for the record.

I do have to give an editorial hat-tip to Bazaarvoice-enabled reviews platforms for both Nike and Footlocker that do well within the Nike return. Knowing the team there over the years I don’t think that this is by accident. From a personal user experience perspective, I am comfortable with going directly to a brand site for reviews as long as they seem legit, and this may be a strong play for Brands going forward, especially if they can associate Google-authenticated Authors to the  brand’s reviews.

Did Penguin 2.0 take out some review sites? I have yet to look deeply enough into it to feel strongly about it, but I feel it’s certainly possible. I found many other seemingly broken results pages for reviews searches. For example if you want to see something interesting I recommend searching “top product review sites”  then changing the date range to the last month, and seeing the difference. What stands out to me most is that 2008 and 2009 single articles are dominating many of these results across the board. Happy research! Please share your thoughts in the comments?