Google Review Stars

Review Stars Disappeared in Google

Update 25 Feb: Looks like the star snippets are coming back. I have not seen any communication from Google of what caused the sudden drop. 

Barry Schwartz at SEOroundtable reported on Thursday that there was a big drop in the number of review star appearing in Google. And indeed, if you check Mozcast you can see that it dropped from 34.1 to 24.1 percent in the last three days.

Mocast Chart - Review Snippets Dropped

Mocast – Review Snippets Dropped

That’s a sharp dive!

So as soon as Barry reported this, I went on and checked my sites. I have a pretty big review site, monetized with affiliate links. It has several top rankings and actually delivers value to my visitors. I have calculators and all kinds of useful stuff up there.

Thursday I had all my snippets intact. Good, I thought. It only affects my competitors. I saw a couple of them have lost their snippets. As far as I can remember, we had an average of 6-7 websites with review stars in the top 10. Now we have 3 or 4.

Sure enough, today as I’ve gone through my morning routine, checking my stats, rankings and earnings, I checked the SERPs. My snippets are gone!

Diagnosing the cause will not be easy, because I have made a lot of changes on the site recently.

  • I have changed the theme about 2 weeks ago.
  • I have tested the layout (buttons, links, wording).
  • I have added some tables.
  • Changed the byline’s wording and look.

I don’t think any of those caused the disappearance of my review stars. It must be some kind of update.

So what can you do?

Test With Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool

Also called the Rich Snippet Testing Tool. You can copy code in there, or you can click on the “Fetch URL” link and let Google retreive the page.

You have to make sure that your code has no errors at all. That was a green check for me. I wasn’t too happy about it, because fixing the code would have been much easier than finding out what’s going on with Google’s algos.

Check Whether All Your Snippets Are Gone

Initially I have only checked my major traffic driving keywords in the SERPs. But are all my review stars gone? I searched in Google:

site:mysite.com review

That gave me all my reviews. And here is the surprize:

some of my snippets are still there!

Is The Update Not Finished Yet?

There are two options here.

  1. The update removing the review star snippets has not fully run yet.
  2. The update has fully run, and some of my pages were not affected by it.

I will find out either way in a couple days.

What’s Different About The Pages Not Affected?

My stats:

  • 9 pages that previously all had review stars in Google
  • They all have around 2000 words, except for one (it kept the stars)
  • 3 of them retained the stars
    • They are not ranked well. Except for one (which ranks #8), they are all second page. They get very little traffic.
    • They are not cluttered. There are less links on them (affiliate and organic).
    • There is no exit popup on them.
    • Visually they look more appealing.
    • Their tex-to-code ratio is better (ensued from the above).
  • 6 of them have lost the stars
    • They are #1-3 rankers, except for one that is on page 2. It doesn’t look so good and needs some work, adding images, headings, etc.
    • They are a bit heavy with links. I was pushing the limits in the last month or so to see what can I get away with.
    • They have exit popups, except the sloppy looking one on page 2.
    • They are a bit heavy on javascript. Affiliate link cloaker and Mouseflow are present only on a subset of these pages.
    • They have high traffic.
  • Bounce rate and other metrics are virtually the same for all of them.

I am curious to see if the three pages that still have the snippets will keep them. If they do, they may provide some hints as to what should be changed on the ones that have lost their stars.

Google always said that they may show the rich snippets. In my experience, they tend to show them from quality pages. So amping up the quality might be the first step.

Now it’s also possible that the update kicks in for keywords that are in the top 10. That would explain why these three kept their stars (although one of them is #8).

What Am I Trying To Get The Stars Back?

First of all, I have removed the heavy javascript on all of the pages. I have also removed the exit popup on one the pages. If only that page recovers, that kind of helps to see what’s working.

I will keep watching the three pages that still have their stars, and will try to make the ones that lost their stars similar to them.

That means removing most of the affiliate links and keeping them only at key places, removing the exit popups, making the site lighter (text-to-code).

I will also look at my competitors. Are all their snippets gone, or some of them remained? What’s common between my pages and theirs?

What Do You Think?

I have written down my ideas. It would be awesome to hear what you think! Any idea what this update is targeting? Interesting stats or insights? Or just bored and want to say hi, do so below by adding a comment!

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