Google Microformats and Customer Reviews
If there is a key to getting good reviews from customers and clients it is the commitment to providing excellent service and quality products. Put this in place and you build a solid foundation that will take care of reviews and testimonials.
But, in this online world, how do you make sure that others will find these reviews and that your business will benefit from them? You have to make sure your users and visitors understand that reviews must be in the correct format and submitted in the proper manner.
That said, you – the business owner – must be responsible for getting the process in place so that reviewing your services and products is as easy as, well, as telling others about the experience. The customer shouldn’t have to be a “techie” and he or she shouldn’t have to wade through half a dozen steps to get that review ready for others to read.
So what does that mean?
In the current online world it means finding out what Google is doing and what Google is not doing. Here’s the answer: Google supports specific microformats. If you want your reviews to get into the Google ocean you will have to get them into the correct format.
How does that happen? Well, it doesn’t just happen.
First of all, determine that you are indeed a viable ecommerce site that could benefit from client/customer reviews. Of course you are! In addition, this particular path is relevant for businesses listed with Google Places. Then you must make sure that the business name, business address and business telephone number are on your pages – in the correct hCard format!!
What is hCard? Here’s the layperson’s definition (if there really is one) from Wikipedia: “hCard is a microformat for publishing the contact details of people, companies, organizations and places in (X)HTML, Atom, RSS or arbitrary XML.”
For nearly two years, Google has been using hCard, hReview and hProduct microformats for their search results. More recently, the company is using these microformats for local search results. As we see it, having this code in place will allow businesses to instruct customers to go to the business Web site to give a review, rather than sending them to Google Maps so they can search for the business, find the listing, choose a review link, log in etc. etc. etc.
Use the correct format and Google will recognize the review and put it on your Places page. Think of it as user-generated content that goes directly to the place where it will do the most good. Once you set up the instructions – in the correct format – the reviews will be where they should be. Now, it isn’t necessary to rely on so-called authority sites. The information can be drawn from our business Web sites.
We understand that Google presents this in two distinct ways: individual reviews and aggregate reviews. The first is used to format pages that will display a single review. If you plan to use a page for a number of reviews or for summaries of several reviews you should use the aggregate method.
Here’s how Google explains it: “You can mark up either individual reviews (for example, an editor’s review of a product), or aggregate review information—for example, the average rating for a local business or the total number of user reviews submitted.”
If the page will have an editor’s review or an expert review that should stand as individual content but also has a collection of user reviews you should simply choose a format. Again, we understand that Google will work this way: “Use the individual Review format to mark up the editor’s review OR you can use the Review-aggregate format to summarize the set of user reviews. If a page contains both types of markup, Google will use the Review-aggregate markup for display.”
When you start to use this process to enhance your business presence make sure you and your Web site folks understand the concept of properties, as defined by Google for this purpose. The online behemoth explains that reviews “contain a number of different properties which you can label using microdata, microformats or RDFa markup.”
A good example presented at: Google Microformats