Learn how to fine-tune your content and make sure that your product reviews are in line with Google’s guidelines.
How to Write Product Reviews: The Google Way
Author: Artur Karpinski, Senior Account Manager
In the ever-changing world of cyclical algorithm updates, it might seem more and more challenging to write a product review without the fear of losing precious rankings in Google Search results. However, there are several guidelines published by the Mountain View giant, which can help you avoid getting in trouble when the next Product Review Update rolls out.
Whilst following Google’s advice to the letter will not guarantee bulletproof success, you can significantly reduce the odds of being punished by the almighty Google Gods if you know what they look for in a good product review.
Unsurprisingly, the answer to that question is pretty simple – what makes a stellar review are honesty, authority, helpfulness, and evidence.
We have prepared a concise guide that will help you fine-tune your content and make sure it’s up to date with the latest Google recommendations. This way you will be able to write great product reviews that are not only helpful to your audience, but will also be optimised for search engines.
The Impact of Google’s Product Review Updates
Since 2021, Google has announced and rolled out Product Review Updates in more or less six-month intervals. The latest one was announced in February 2023. But what is a Product Review Update and how does it impact SERPs?
Firstly, Google Product Review Updates should not be confused with a core algorithm update, which affects the whole ranking mechanism.
Instead, a Product Review Update specifically targets product review pages which are part and parcel of a website; this is particularly the case for affiliate websites and eCommerce stores.
As historical data shows, the most affected sites after each update were thin affiliate websites that published poor-quality content that didn’t really feel like reviews at all. Such unhelpful articles had more features of a product description, usually copied from a producer’s website, than a real product review – and were thus devalued by subsequent updates.
However, this is not the only case. For example, the December 2021 Product Review Update hit the “best of” web pages hard, as well as those targeting keywords with a user intent newly classified as transactional. That is, some queries now favour eCommerce sites instead of product reviews.
Google decided that e.g. by searching for “winter jackets”, a reader would be more interested in landing at a website where they can directly buy them, instead of comparing different products.
The first website with a “best of” ranking is currently in 4th position.
If we analyse what kind of content won the uneven game against the algorithm each time, we can draw certain conclusions. Here is a list of features shared by pages that increased their rankings after Google Product Review Updates:
- Provide expert insights into what the writer likes and dislikes about the product
- Use real photos taken while reviewing the product, instead of stock images
- Include links to multiple sellers and not only the desired affiliate link
- Regularly update content to consistently stay up to date
- Provide information about authoritative authorship and when the reviews was updated
- Call out product highlights and specific features
For the “best of” list pages, the article should additionally:
- Describe the selection methodology
- Feature a robust comparison table with pros and cons
- Choose the best overall product
- Identify the best product for specific categories, features, audiences, and price points
Google’s Guidelines for Writing Reviews
Apart from reverse engineering the SERP winners and losers, it is crucial to focus on the obvious: Google’s own guidelines for writing reviews.
To begin with, it is crucial to evaluate the product from a user’s perspective.
This means looking at the product’s features, benefits, and drawbacks from the point of view of someone who is likely to use it. It is also essential to demonstrate your expertise and knowledge about the product. This can be done by providing evidence such as visuals, audio, or links to support your review.
Avoid Scraping Content
What Google is really particular about is whether the product was actually used and reviewed.
This is mainly because of the ever-growing affiliate marketing sector, which caused thin affiliate pages to mushroom in pursuit of easy money. Such websites would more often than not publish scraped or stolen content from the manufacturers’ sources, and pretend that the reviewed product has been really used by the reviewer.
Such behaviour goes strictly against Google Spam Guidelines and might result in a penalty or devaluation.
Provide Added Value
Even if the content was genuinely written by a living person, it is still not enough to rank well. What Google is constantly looking to achieve is for product reviews to provide added value to the user.
The phrase added value, in fact, is omnipresent in various credible sources providing recommendations on how to write a product review and also aligns with Google’s other ranking system that is related to helpful content.
10 Best Practices For Writing High-Quality Product Reviews
Knowing both the basic Google guidelines on how to write a product review, and the immediate impact of past Product Review Updates on various product review pages, we came up with a list of the 10 Best Practices For Writing High-Quality Product Reviews.
Be sure to bookmark this page and refer to it when writing reviews for your site – whether you’re running an eCommerce business or you’re an aspiring content publisher.
1. Understand the Target Customer
The first question you should ask yourself before reviewing a particular product, is who it is made for?
Understanding the product’s target market is crucial to design the whole review page. Many online reviews ignore that basic fact, so even though it seems obvious, it should always be number one on your checklist.
For example, if you are reviewing a pair of high-end earbuds from one of the top-quality producers, speak to your readers as if they were audiophiles. Focus on the intricate details of how this particular product is better than its competition in terms of sound and parameters.
Concentrating on the fact that those earbuds come in black, white and silver has less significance to expert users who are more interested in knowing about the power of the drivers or how well the bass performs in relation to the mids and treble.
However, if you are reviewing a product made under a trendy brand for customers who aren’t as interested in the technical aspects – the information about design, colour, and shape might carry much more importance.
2. Demonstrate Your Expertise
Another aspect in which websites that lost a lot of organic traffic under delivered was the E-A-T, or rather the new version of it – the E-E-A-T. It’s an acronym for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
When writing reviews, you should show that you know what you’re talking about. Unfortunately, it is not enough to plainly state it. There should be a lot of credible evidence behind the author’s expertise.
First of all, writers creating product reviews should be real people and not created online personas. Long gone are the times of generated avatars writing fake reviews that ranked well. Google’s focus on authenticity and authority now requires genuine people providing trustworthy content – which is of course a good thing!
E-E-A-T can be demonstrated by a variety of means, among which are authors’ biographical pages, profile photos, links to other publications, and social proof. According to Google, the highest form of E-E-A-T is an article written by a go-to expert in a field on a well-reputable website from the industry.
3. Present Original Visual Evidence of Your Experience of the Product
Let’s face it. There are multiple websites that provide free stock images that could be used for articles that lack original photographs. However, Google more and more favours product reviews using original, proprietary imagery, which is unique to the specific product review page.
This is again a preventive measure against websites using content copied from the product creator’s website, as well as generic images – which is a signal that the review might not be genuine.
In turn, you should write reviews that provide your unique experience not only as an expert, but also as a real user. This is an area where many online reviews fail to deliver.
Here’s a great example of a website taking unique pictures of the product being reviewed:
It’s not only about real pictures, though. What really helps a good-quality product review page is a custom video that shows the whole experience of using a product – from unboxing to demonstrating specific features.
Linking to other people’s YouTube channels is definitely not enough.
4. Provide Quantitative Measurements of Product Performance
What really captures highly motivated buyers is a set of facts and figures – quantitative metrics of how the product performs in real life.
Let’s come back to the example of earbuds. Some of the desirable key points could be:
- Build quality – how durable are they? Are they made from high quality materials that will last long?
- Sensory features – does the material feel cheap? Are they nice to touch?
- Sound quality – how do the earbuds perform on different music styles? For example, Hip Hop or Rap music tends to be heavier on the bass in comparison to other genres, so you should consider explaining how the product performed based on these tests.
- Pricing – how do they compare to alternative products at a similar price point?
- Design – do they look nice? are they easy to carry? do they come in different colours or styles?
- Battery Life – how many hours of music can you listen to before you need to charge them? How long does it take to charge the battery?
- Fit – are they comfortable to wear (for long periods of time)?
- Additional features – are they waterproof? Do they have noise-cancelling functionality?
5. Compare the Product to Its Competition
Most reviewers focus solely on describing the product they write about. Such an approach doesn’t provide any significant value to the people reading reviews, as there is no reference point.
What can attract potential customers is comparing the product’s quality in various categories to its natural market competitors.
Focus on the core features of the product and say why it’s better than its multiple alternatives available to the reader. One of the indispensable elements of a product’s success is how much it is better in key aspects.
Take the example of the Dyson Airwrap hair styling tool. The core feature that sets it apart from other hair styling tools is its use of air to style hair, rather than high heat. This unique technology uses a high-speed jet of air to wrap hair around the barrel of the tool, creating curls or waves without causing heat damage.
Highlighting such a feature alone could provide genuine value to the user looking for a unique solution and help them make a conscious purchase decision.
6. Highlight the Pros and Cons
A product review should not be one-sided. Just like a good academic essay, even positive reviews need to have a decent counterargument – which can later be refuted.
One of the most appealing ways to present advantages and disadvantages in reviews is a summary box of all the pros and cons. It should be clear to read and visually pleasing. Such boxes usually answer questions like: do the good sides outweigh the bad ones? or do negative aspects bother me so much that I won’t make a purchase decision?
The trade-off between what’s good and what could be better is definitely one of the key decision-making factors for potential buyers.
A great review will guide the reader and try to explicitly show which elements of the feature list are really important, and if buying the selected product makes sense.
7. Describe Product Evolution
When reviewing new versions of software products or – let’s say – a brand new flagship phone – it is crucial not only to cover comparable items, but also to show how the new release relates to the previous models or versions.
Of course, everything depends on the product’s category, but if you want to deliver a persuasive review of a new iPhone, it is mandatory to describe the product’s evolution. List features that were not present in the previous model, which metrics have improved, which elements were changed, and which were abandoned. Always compare products not only with the direct competitors but also with the previous generation of the same item.
If you had already published a review of a previous model, link to it internally and relate to all the pain points listed there. Has the manufacturer worked on them? Is the performance better? Has the brand-new iteration met the expectations of the public?
Here’s an example of how you can do this:
All these pieces of information can be decisive when making a decision whether to buy a product or not.
8. Identify & Highlight Key Decision-Making Factors
The key to writing a good review is to be aware of what really influences the potential buyer to make the purchase decision. Different product categories will have different key decision-making factors.
For example – if you want to review a car – you should focus on features like fuel consumption, safety, or loading capacity. However, always keep in mind point 1: target audience. If it’s a sports car, a much more important decision-making factor will be acceleration or top speed and not how many bags you can put in its boot.
For luxury, high-value products, like jewellery or watches, it is important to focus on things like brand reputation, certifications issued by reputable institutions, style, design and material quality.
Nailing the holy trinity of product category, subcategory, and target audience is a game changer in writing product reviews that carry value.
9. Add Links to Other Useful Resources
For Google, links are a complicated network of online reputation relations. That is why they serve a dual purpose.
Not only do incoming links increase the authority of a web page, but also outgoing links can be a signal that the presented information comes from a quality source.
Links to the manufacturer’s website can also provide the user with additional information and show them where they can expand their knowledge about the product. Among others, further types of linked extra resources can consist of white papers, ebooks, professional customer research reports, etc.
For more advanced websites with larger budgets, it is a good idea to produce such additional materials on their own. These resources can also serve as link magnets and be used in both outreach and digital PR campaigns.
Consequently, it can vastly improve the website’s and brand’s authority in the industry.
10. Add Links to Multiple Sellers
The internet is a diverse amalgam of users, each of whom has different priorities, views, preferences, and habits. They use different shopping platforms as well. For example, limiting buying opportunities in the review only to e.g. Amazon links will render the article useless for people who don’t have an Amazon account.
Google guidelines explicitly state that there should be multiple sellers available to the potential buyer, so that they can choose the one of their preference. It is in fact one of the factors that can differentiate a great, helpful article from other reviews.
Another important argument is that people who read reviews want to be able to compare prices at different vendors.
Providing a buying link from just one seller is clearly a signal that you’re more interested in the affiliate commission and not in genuinely helping the user.
A Note About Affiliate Links
One thing we should make clear is that Google doesn’t target affiliate websites just because they exist. Spam policies and affiliate recommendations clearly state that good affiliate sites shouldn’t be afraid of algorithm updates and, in fact, are likely to get more visibility and better rankings due to outperforming thin affiliates.
Good affiliate sites provide value to the user by giving them something that others don’t. Links to multiple sellers, real product reviews, well-documented testing, scrupulous product comparisons, and honest star ratings are signs of a well-maintained affiliate site.
It is also vital to take care of the UX aspect of the website. Although it is not directly a ranking factor, Google recommends implementing clear navigation of products and categories, so as not to confuse the potential buyer.
The final precaution every affiliate marketer should take is to be open and transparent when it comes to affiliate links. They should not be hidden behind a redirection or pretend something they’re not. A disclaimer in the footer that the user has landed on an affiliate site is also advised.
The Bottom Line
Taking everything into consideration, writing amazing product reviews might seem hard, but it’s in fact quite simple if you follow our checklist and Google’s general guidelines.
Summing up, all you need to do is to keep your content as authentic and helpful as possible. Remember to write from a genuine user’s perspective and make sure you have authority in the field, which can be supported by social proof.
In the first few paragraphs write a general introduction and refer to previous models or generations if applicable.
Don’t forget to provide proprietary product photos, cover comparable products, describe key choices, and include a summary box with pros and cons, as well as honest product ratings.
Following the steps outlined above will enable you to write product reviews that will be helpful for the website visitors, and make sure your website doesn’t suffer from the next Product Reviews Update.
If you need help with writing product reviews, or require any other type of content creation or SEO support, don’t hesitate to reach out.
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