Google has made some big changes to the world’s most popular search platform in 2023, namely via AI integration and refinements to the Helpful Content Update. While standard users may not notice a difference in how Google works, the SEO industry certainly does since algorithm tweaks can be beneficial or detrimental to their business. Another update is on its way – the Google Reviews Update. Below we’ve explained what it is and how SEO experts have reacted to it.
The Online Review Space
Millions of blog posts are published every day, many of them containing recommendations or analysis of products and services. Alongside communication and community building, the online review ecosystem is one of the internet’s most valuable contributions to business. As a result, businesses online and offline want to get good press on the internet.
This is especially important for industries that have little to no real-world presence, such as e-commerce and iGaming. If a website decides to review another site with hundreds of online slots, Google wants their review of games like Ruff Heist or Sherwood Gold to be accurate and useful to users. Put simply, their Reviews System Update seems to apply Helpful Content Update dynamics to those posts by rewarding human-first content and holding a megaphone up to their experience, making them effective word-of-mouth contributors.
There aren’t many details available about the Google Reviews System implementation, as the November 2023 Core Update has taken precedence. However, the update was revealed in a Q&A posted by Google Search Central’s account on X (formerly Twitter).
Reviews System Details
According to Google, the system “is designed to evaluate articles, blog posts, pages or similar first-party standalone content written with the purpose of providing a recommendation, giving an opinion or providing analysis.”
This implies that the Review System tweak will be similar to the Helpful Content Update update that we saw in September 2023. This was a tweak to the already-established update that integrated machine learning and updated AI content guidelines, to keep up with revolutionary technologies from the generative AI space.
The new Reviews System Update is likely to implement similar changes. SEO experts are predicting an upgraded AI model that can classify content based on its usefulness to human beings. While Helpful Content targeted text and video-based posts to determine user intent, i.e. if they’re searching for a news article or a visual tutorial, the Reviews System will do the same for recommendation and analysis content.
If that’s the case, it’s the latest in a long line of algorithm changes from Google, beginning in 2022 with guidelines like E-E-A-T and continuing into 2023 with that Helpful Content tweak. Many SEO practitioners get antsy when Google talks about prioritising people-first content, though this latest announcement came with good news.
Google is transitioning to regular updates that should lessen the potential negative impact of game-changing tweaks to their algorithms. Instead, they’ll happen at a “regular and ongoing pace” and will shorten holding times. If a site is negatively affected by an update and the webmaster makes beneficial changes, they typically have to wait until the next big update to see those changes pay off. With regular updates, any search traffic suppression could be lifted sooner instead.
It should also be noted that in Google’s own words, the Reviews System would apply to sites that make posts reviewing and recommending products and services. That’s to say, it won’t rank reviews from third parties in forums and other spaces dedicated to such discussions.