The unexpected impact of Google’s structured data algorithm update on Shopify’s Product Reviews

While Google’s recent structured data update removed reviews from business data types, it also changed how product reviews work with some Shopify stores.

I started noticed that stores using Shopify’s Product Reviews app and Stamped.io’s reviews app started to have errors in their standalone AggregateRating data. AggregateRating is one way of getting Review Rich Results.

Example errors in Shopify's Product Reviews structured data

(Note: this does not impact JSON-LD for SEO’s reviews for those apps, details below)

What’s happened is that these two product review apps are adding reviews and linking them to the product with that itemReviewed. But they are using the wrong data type, they are using a Thing type which is the most generic type available in Schema.org.

With Google’s update Thing is not a valid data type for reviews so that’s causing an error:

Thing is not a known valid target type for the itemReviewed property.

These apps have had this problem for at least a couple of years but previously Google was lax about it and would just accept the data.

With the new algorithm update, it’s now an error that will cause Google to ignore that review data and remove any Rich Results from it.

There might be more review apps that have this error but I haven’t seen any others yet. Shopify’s app is by far the most common product reviews app so I noticed it right away and since Stamped’s app piggybacks onto Shopify’s, it was noticeable too.

Hopefully they’ll fix them soon and the impacted stores can start to recover their Rich Results.

UPDATE 2019-10-08: Stamped has claimed to some customers that they’ve updated their structured data and no longer piggyback on Shopify’s app. From what I’ve seen, they still do in some stores so you’ll want to test your structured data to see if your store is still impacted.

As I mentioned earlier, JSON-LD for SEO was not impacted by this.

The quick reason why is because it doesn’t use a standalone AggregateRating, it embeds that data in the Product data directly (which also performs much better).

In other words, the problem is because these apps are embedding the Product (as a Thing) inside of an AggregateRating, instead of embedding the AggregateRating into the Product. They are opposite approaches and would work equally well except for the miscoding of the Product as a Thing.

It’s unfortunate that so many Shopify stores might lose their Rich Results but it’s happened multiple times in the past.

That’s why it’s so important to use structured data apps that keep their code current and are actively watching Google’s updates.

If you aren’t yet using JSON-LD for SEO to protect your structured data, you should install it soon before Google’s algorithm update removes even more of your Rich Results (or perhaps you’ve never had them and could finally win some).

It’s an easy and automatic install that can be done in minutes with no coding and you’ll join the thousands of other Shopify stores who haven’t had to worry about structured data algorithm changes.

Eric Davis

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