Proof of the danger of the review field in your Shopify store and getting reclassified as a Critic Review Rich Result

Many customers have emailed about the warning on the review field in their product data since Google made it an optional field back in December 2018.

I’ve written about how it’s used for Critic Reviews but even with mine and Google’s documentation around it, some people still insist on using it.

Well, I finally have proof of why you don’t want to populate that review field.

A customer emailed me asking about why they lost their Product Rich Reviews.

Here’s what they had showing up (data anonymized)

Incorrect Critic Review Rich Results based on using the review field

Looking at the data behind it, they had the regular Product data type but with the review field populated with their customer review content from some other source.

By filling out the review field, they lost their regular Product Rich Result and was given a Critic Rich Result instead.

Notice the "Review by Kristen" part?

That’s not the business or even the author of the page.

Kristen is the name of the first customer to leave a product review.

With this incorrect review data, Google thinks Kristen is now the author of that page. And it’s no longer a product page in Google’s eyes, it’s a page where Kristen has written a review on the product, like an editorial.

Think about that name for a second…

They are lucky the first reviewer wasn’t by "This company sucks", "Garbage product", or someone who has seen any of Bart Simpson’s prank calls…

Just think if your worst customers where able to take over and write the content for your search results.

The bigger problem is that anyone at Google who performs a manual review will see that this is a product page and not a critic review.

Which means this store would be hit by a manual Google penalty and risk losing all of their Rich Results.

Remember, manual penalties are very bad and can have far reaching impacts based on the how appropriate the Googler thinks the punishment should be. I’ve seen entire domains removed from Google for messing with reviews.

If a site has a manual action, some or all of that site will not be shown in Google search results.

Straight from Google’s Critic Review docs:

Google's manual action warning

Which links to their Manual Actions Report with this in bold:

If a site has a manual action, some or all of that site will not be shown in Google search results.

Google doesn’t get much clearer than this.

The good news is that I was able to find the problem code for the customer and tell them what they needed to do to fix it. Less than a month later, their Product Rich Result is back: (again, data anonymized)

Proper Product Rich Result after the review field is removed

So you might be asking yourself what caused all this and how can you prevent it from happening to your store?

The root cause was their review app adding data to review field. The customer didn’t even know it was happening, they just noticed their review stars disappeared.

That app added code to link their data to JSON-LD for SEO’s data, thereby getting JSON-LD for SEO’s data reclassified. This review app also asked many JSON-LD for SEO customers to link the review app’s incorrect data to JSON-LD for SEO. Can I get a hell no?

This wasn’t some small review app either, they have dozens of employees and many claim to be experts on this stuff. I’ve gotten in many an argument with them over even the basics of how structured data works and pointed them to my own research about structured data.

Luckily, this merchant was only temporally hurt and was able to recover their Rich Results. But many review companies continue to put data into the wrong places and then wonder why their customers are losing Rich Results. This one is just one of a handful who do this with the review field.

I’ll end this story on a clear note:

If you use a review app that puts data into the Products review field, get a new review app.

It’s not worth trying to argue with them that they are wrong. There are plenty of review apps run by people who actually understand how structured data works or are humble enough to ask someone or test their assumptions.

Google’s coming down extremely hard on store abusing Rich Results. They don’t care if it wasn’t your fault. If your site has the wrong review data then it’s your responsibility to fix it, or lose out and take whatever consequences Google judges you by.

This is just one small portion of the kind of service I give to my JSON-LD for SEO customers. There’s a reason why it’s the safest choice for structured data in the app store and has been since 2015.

Eric Davis

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