Searching for high-quality reviews of a product you want to buy — a phone, for instance, or a mattress — requires wading through a minefield of useless content. Some review sites forego actually testing out products in favor of aggregating Amazon user reviews or using other low-quality methodology to get some Google juice.
Well, that's about to end. Google is changing up which kinds of product reviews show up in search results, announcing Wednesday that product reviews will have to meet certain criteria to be pushed higher up in search.
The criteria for product reviews to be prioritized in search results is strict. Google software engineer Perry Liu said in a blog post that reviews need to include in-depth details (such as pros and cons of specific products), be written by people who actually have used the product, include information "beyond what the manufacturer provides" (i.e. videos or photos) and cover products like it to explain what sets it apart.
"Our work to improve product reviews will continue, including expanding these updates to more languages beyond English," Liu said in the announcement. "Ultimately, our goal is to help people find trustworthy, reliable advice when they come to Search — no matter what they’re looking for."
Google has been working on prioritizing better product reviews for a while now. The search update builds on a process that begun last April, when the company started improving its ranking system to "better reward" good product reviews. The company also released a December update to up-rank reviews with evidence that the writer had used the product and links to multiple sellers of the product.
The updates will begin to roll out over the next few weeks, Google said in a separate announcement. The update "may impact the rankings of English-language product reviews across many sites," the company said.