02 Dec 2016

The Future of Online Reviews: Weekly Forum Update

seochat-wmw-cre8asite-threadwatch-roundup-768x576We took a little break for the holidays, but now we’re back! Even though haven’t written a post in a few weeks, our forums didn’t take a break at all. In fact, if anything, they’ve been a bit busier discussing some of the latest news.

This week’s title refers to the (perceived) growing power of online reviews. If you keep with us on SEO Chat, you’ll remember that a few weeks ago we shared a thread about how reviews could be the new links when it comes to ranking.

Whether that’s true or not is a matter for debate – but it’s undeniable that reviews play an important part in the online business world. What concerns many webmasters is how easy it is to fake reviews.

On third party platforms like Yelp, it’s difficult to prove that a review is fake – and, when proven, it’s even harder to get reviews removed. Amazon has started taking action against fake reviews, though, so perhaps other platforms will follow! Take a look at these stories, and more, below.

Desktop Pages, Mobile Pages, AMP Pages, and Index Priority

The mobile-first index is out there! Google says that it’s just a small test for now, but you can be assured that it will get bigger. Mobile pages will soon be considered the primary versions of their content.

That opens up a question – what if you don’t have a mobile version of your site? Google has clarified how the mobile-first index will handle different configurations: if you only have desktop and AMP versions of your site, the desktop version will be primary. If all you have are AMP pages (which is very rare, I imagine) then the AMP pages will be primary.

Little questions like this are cropping up more and more as time goes on. It makes sense when you think about it – there are kinds of different screen sizes and all kinds of different ways to make your site respond to them. So, naturally, there are lots of questions about how some obscure configurations will interact with the mobile-first index.

Yelp, Google, and Urbanspoon Easy Targets for Fake Reviews

If you’re a business that uses any of those three for reviews, you probably know this already. What’s the big deal? Well, those reviews are money in the bank for some businesses! Cre8asiteforums member bobbb shared an article with this premise:

“When researchers at the Harvard Business School analyzed restaurant reviews and revenue in Seattle, they found that a one-star increase on the popular review site Yelp meant a  five to nine per cent increase in revenue for independent restaurants…as the public’s reliance on review sites has increased, so has the market for bolstering businesses online reputations.”

Earlpearl points out that the research was paid for by Yelp, but that doesn’t make it wrong in this case:

“…we have NO DOUBT via our smbs that positive reviews have a positive impact on customers.”

It’s not only fake reviews that are a problem, though. The owners and operators of sites like Yelp also have the power to determine which reviews appear in online profiles and which do not. Earlpearl writes that

“The sense is Yelp manipulates what shows or doesn’t show, subject to whether they can get your advertising. Certain types of smb’s get tons of reviews: restaurants in particular.”

Reviews may be the future, but it’s still not clear how they are evaluated and weighted.

Amazon Deletes 500,000 “Incentivized” Reviews

About time, eh? It’s encouraging to see a business like Amazon taking steps to preserve the integrity of their reviews. WebmasterWorld’s admin, engine, shared the full story. The disturbing part is that Amazon knows there are more incentivized and fake reviews out there – they just can’t find them yet. Lucy24 writes,

“If even Amazon can’t screen out bogus reviews, what hope is there for a brick-and-mortar business that has no built-in means to identify reviewers…”

So, you either hand over the screening process to a third-party…or you struggle on your own. Bit of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” situation, eh? I think there’s a lot of money waiting for the person who can “invent a better mousetrap” when it comes to online reviews.

A Russian Hacker Celebrated Donald Trump’s Victory by Hacking Google Analytics

Pretty weird story here from Cre8asiteforums. Kim discovered that some of her traffic was coming from a strange language:

“Secret google.com You are invited! Enter only with this ticket URL. Copy it. Vote for Trump!”

Jennifer Slegg shared the real source of the traffic: a Russian hacker was using the Google Analytics Measurement Protocol to create artificial hits.

By changing the tracking IDs, they were able to project their message to a boatload of people. If you’ve been hit by this, there’s an easy solution – check the thread for more details!

Google Extends Rich Cards to Include Local Restaurants and Online Courses

Google’s new Rich Card format must have been a success in their eyes, because they’re expanding it! It used to only work for movies and recipes, but now online courses and local restaurants can make use of them in the US. Some WebmasterWorld members are skeptical. Hobbs writes

“That’s Google slowly turning into Yahoo. Adopting the ways of the dodo.”

Graeme_p adds that

“It makes sense,” but “The downside for some webmasters is that more and better information in the SERPs means less reason to visit the page… Not good if your site makes money from ads…”

Google Removes Content Keywords from Search Console

It’s a bit of a surprise to see a core feature of Search Console be retired, but the simple truth is that it’s been replaced. Content Keywords used to be a great tool for detecting site hacks and getting an insight into what Googlebot could see on your site.

Now “fetch as Google” and some simple “site:” searches in Google can do both of those things easily. Are there any features of Content Keywords that you’ll miss or can’t get elsewhere?


  1. John December 10, 2016 at 1:50 PM

    Sooo what you’re saying about the 5 to 9 % increase is that if you have a five start rating, your business has > 45% of getting that customer over the next?

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