Is Google Considering Review Sentiment as A Ranking Factor?
Review sentiment exhibits the overall opinion shared by the consumers in reviews of a business’s services or products.
Many people think that it has an impact on a business’s search rankings.
This has been a genuine concern for businesses as well as Seo companies because if rankings can be lowered due to negative reviews, it can leave businesses vulnerable to negative Seo attacks.
The other way round, competitors can boost their rankings with fake positive reviews.
It is true that review sentiment can definitely affect customer behavior and influence metrics like conversion rate.
But is it a ranking factor?
Well, in this article I will get you across some of the claims and evidence surrounding review sentiment as a ranking factor.
Let’s díve into the details.
Claim: Review Sentiment as A Ranking Factor
In the discussions about Google ranking factors, some people bring about the review sentiment claiming that positive sentiment can increase rankings and negative reviews can push down the ranking.
Ofcourse such claims have several reasons.
One of the popularly cited “evidence” is the interconnection between top-ranking websites and businesses that have positive reviews.
Sentiment analysis is a feature included in Seo software. This may lead to the conclusion that review sentiment influences the ranking of a business.
Roger Montti has published an article in Search Engine Journal which provides more details on where the review sentiment claims emerge and why they keep recurring.
Google’s Search Quality Rater guidelines also play a role in keeping review sentiment as a recurring topic.
Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines
Google in its Search Quality Rater guidelines, offers credence to the claim that review sentiment is a ranking factor.
Section 2.6 of the guidelines tells Google Quality Raters “what to look” and “when to look” to assess the reputation of a website or content creator.
There are various notes about examining review sites to understand better about a business’s reputation.
Here is one of the examples:
Considering the above pieces of guidelines, some have come to the conclusion that review sentiment is a ranking factor.
However, Search Quality Raters do not have any direct influence on search rankings.
Also, the guidelines that Search Quality Raters follow are not based on the regulations that Google’s algorithm uses as ranking factors.
Quality Raters gather feedback on Google’s search results to help to make sure that webpages that are displayed in the SERPs meet a certain quality standard.
Examining the reputation of the website where the page is published is one of the ways webpage qualities is measured.
In 2017, after Google’s Gary Illyes’ speech at a conference on the topic of reputation analysis, headlines related to this chapter of the Quality Rater guidelines came into circulation.
Some people who attended the conference misunderstood his statements and reported incorrectly that Illyes said reputation can impact a website’s position in search results.
But Illyes had only discussed how the Quality Rater guidelines work.
Even though customer reviews are a part of reputation research, you can find that the guidelines suggest that we should approach customer reviews with a degree of skepticism.
Fortunately, Google has offered clarity on this subject and has stated clearly whether review sentiment is a ranking factor.
Evidence: Review Sentiment Is A Ranking Factor
Research studies may try to prove that review sentiment is a ranking factor by showing a connection between customer reviews and the position of a website in the search engine results.
But we should only go for confirmed evidence and Google has declared continuously that review sentiment is not a ranking factor.
When the claims of review sentiment being a ranking factor started to circulate after the conference talk (which was referenced in the previous section), Google’s Gary Illyes quickly denied the claims.
Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed in 2018 that Google does not use review sentiment as a ranking factor. To add further, Google’s algorithms do not even recognize sentiment.
Google can never use sentiment for rankings if it has no concept of what the sentiment is.
This is more than enough to end the speculations about review sentiment being a rank factor. But theories still continue to prevail.
In 2021, when Sullivan was asked again whether anything had changed about Google recognize sentiment, he confirmed that nothing had changed.
So, review sentiment is still not recognized by Google’s algorithm.
Review Sentiment Is A Ranking Factor: The Verdict
Review sentiment is not a ranking factor for organic search rankings though we acknowledge it as a factor for local search rankings.
This has been the case ever after Google’s inability to recognize sentiment was infamously exploited.
In 2010, a company angered the customers to the point that they wrote bad reviews. It was done deliberately, and the links received from the reviews pushed the website higher in the search results.
This shows clearly that Google only recognized the links and did not consider the fact that people linking to the company were saying negative things about it.
Though Google has got better at not rewarding websites that do not offer a good user experience, the indifference towards sentiment remains the same.
Review sentiment can directly influence other areas of internet marketing, but search rankings are not one of them.
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