Why Google Rich Snippets May Not Make You Rich

Google rich snippets as most webmasters probably know by now are small amounts of code that allow Google to present more information regarding a website in the search results. The most common and obvious application of this is with reviews. Here Google hoped to allow site owners to include star ratings for products and services with the intention of giving the viewer more information to base their choices on.

So for instance if you were to search for a specific type of product, you would then be able to see a star rating next to those products giving you a quick consensus of what people think about them. For the visitors this is useful, allowing them to quickly skim through the results, and for the webmasters it would potentially result in a better click through rate according to Google as people would quickly spot which products they wanted and which they didn’t, and as they were attracted to shiny five star ratings.

Of course webmasters cottoned onto this potential pretty fast, and it wasn’t long before every single product and service had a five star rating – of course written by the site owners and not really providing the viewer with much insight.

The Downside of Google Rich Snippets

For the most part then, these snippets are good news for webmasters and just another system for them to take advantage of in order to get a stronger foothold on the net. However, could it be possible that in some cases the rich snippets do more harm than good? Is this something that is suitable for every kind of online business?

The obvious answer for companies that are doing this the honest way is that rich snippets won’t always be good news – as they will sometimes include bad reviews. Of course, most savvy web owners will just alter this with a little code or by writing some dummy reviews, but even in other cases will this always increase CTR?

In the case of review sites, it’s very possible to argue no. Think about it – if you run a review site such as IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes, then do you really want people to see your star rating before they’ve even clicked on your site? Isn’t that kind of like letting people read your punch line before you’ve told them the setup of the joke?

Now I’m not the kind of person that trusts critics when it comes to film reviews, but I know plenty of people who will base their viewing habits entirely on how many stars a film has. So if they can do that without even reading the review, you better believe that’s what they’re going to do. When you consider that all Rotten Tomatoes does is to provide an aggregate score, then really this is no different from just typing in ‘The Hangover 2’ and then scrolling down to see all of the star ratings.

The Wider Problem

This of course isn’t just a problem for film review sites, but for any sites that provide aggregates and reviews as their main value. In such cases it might be worth simply removing those rich snippets from your site.

But could it also be possible that something even more sinister is at play here (cue organ music)? Seeing as Google is aiming to start providing direct answers to questions via its semantic search algorithms, might it not be just a matter of time before they start taking the aggregate scores from all the rich snippets themselves? Google could theoretically become a MetaCritic for everything giving you a crowdsourced review of everything from restaurants to toys – leaving little need for people to visit the sites that publish the reviews at all.

Good job Google on your promise not to be evil…

This post was guest blogged by Jitendra Agrawal of Get Links Pro.

23 thoughts on “Why Google Rich Snippets May Not Make You Rich”

  1. Fishing Blog says:

    google is taking over the world lol

  2. KennyFabre says:

    first what are snippets I being here this topic all over
    Kenny Fabre

  3. Fishing Blog says:

    try actually reading the post instead of just spaming your link then you could answer your own question

  4. Andre says:

    Great information. I had no idea about snippets. I will see how I could incorporate it into my blog: http://joevitaleproducts.net/money-beyond-belief-how-to-achieve-abundance/ – Thanks. 🙂

  5. Brendan Carl says:

    I’ve never actually seen these used for websites featuring information products (eBooks, video courses, etc.). And, I honestly don’t really think that they will any time soon, if at all.
    With that being said, I actually love this feature. As a consumer, I know that I would not personally make my buying decision based solely on this star rating. I always look up the products I am interested in on sites like Amazon too see the full picture of reviews. But, I can see how this would affect the buying decisions of many other people.
    But in general, I think that this is another really great feature by Google to make their searches more intuitive, interactive, and effective. There is a reason that Google is on top!
    Either way, this is an interesting post – I haven’t read anything about this before, even though I have noticed these rich snippets on Google searches. Great info, thanks.

  6. I guess such rating system has not much to do with my blog since my blogs are mostly information based and not usually selling products. But looking at it, I would rather have my visitors know my ratings when they are in my website rather than in the search results.

  7. Abhik says:

    Rich snippets are here to stay. FYI, rich snippet isn’t Google’s property and they are not the only one using this on serp.
    Yes, spammers can easily manipulate the rating and the review count, but Google can easily hunt them down.

    1. jitendraag says:

       @Abhik You are right about Google hunting them down. I should find some screenshots I had taken for ‘seo services’ keyword in Google UK. You will see that almost half the companies gave themselves 5 stars 🙂
      Rich snippets make a LOT of sense for local directories / recipe sites etc.

      1. Abhik says:

         @jitendraag That’s obvious. If I had such a service I would have rated myself 5 starts.

        1. jitendraag says:

           @Abhik True. But that beats the purpose of rich snippets. I wonder if ‘testimonials’ based ratings on ‘same site’ should be allowed at all.

  8. HealthWrong says:

    review ratings can be spammed too. just like how a normal blog can be spammed too.

  9. vikassingal says:

    Its true that Webmaster will try to get advantage of rich snippet. But if you look from a user perspective …today people are smart …they are not like …if they see ONE 5 star rating near your product ..they will buy it….or in the same way…If they see 50 of 3 Star ratings they wont click and have a courage to look into this….

    1. jitendraag says:

       @vikassingal You make a good point, many e-commerce sites might be inclined to keep all ratings at 5 stars by default. But some of them probably already do that.

  10. bihar says:

    Indeed, if you have good reviews then its going to be OK for you but if someone leaves bad reviews then it might just haunt you. So mixed feelings here if these snipets are any good or not. 

  11. fas says:

    So that means one should avoid their use?

    1. jitendraag says:

       @fas No. It only means that we should use them wisely. They can be ‘really’ good for some sites while have adverse effect on traffic for some.

  12. GeorgiaMorrison says:


  13. All we need are positive reviews. Products with good reviews will surely return sales.

  14. shurbhi says:

    aint many of the reviews are paid in nature? would like get some reviews for my work

  15. anyone know how to do the star rating in google snippet??

    1. jitendraag says:

      @Cameron Highland Apartment Tips: Top of my next guest post “IF” John allows 😉

      1.  @jitendraag  @Cameron would love to know that too.. and make it simple, please

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