Google’s April 2023 reviews update has finished rolling out on April 25, 2023, bringing to an end what seemed like a fairly significant update to many publishers who were affected.
Any anecdotal search ranking fluctuations seen after that date should be assumed to be a part of the daily ranking churn.
The announcement was issued on Google’s official Search Status Dashboard.
This is the understated announcement to what was a consequential update to many:
“Incident affecting Ranking
Released the April 2023 reviews update.
Incident began at 2023-04-12 09:00 and ended at 2023-04-25 11:24 (all times are US/Pacific).
DATE TIME DESCRIPTION
25 Apr 2023 11:24 PDT
The rollout was complete as of April 25, 2023.”
Google April 2023 Reviews Update
The April 2023 reviews update was notable for the fact that it now affects more than just products.
It’s an algorithm referred to by Google as the “reviews system” that examines webpages that recommendations of products, services, destinations, games, movies and other things.
The official guidance on Google’s reviews system algorithm states:
“The reviews system is designed to evaluate articles, blog posts, pages or similar first-party standalone content written with the purpose of providing a recommendation, giving an opinion, or providing analysis.
It does not evaluate third-party reviews, such as those posted by users in the reviews section of a product or services page.”
The reviews system works on a page by page basis but it can switch to a whole-site evaluation if the primary content of the site is reviews.
Google wrote a guide called, Write high quality reviews in order to help publishers understand how Google identifies a good quality reviews.
The guide is important to read because the purpose is to help those who want to rank in Google Search and other surfaces, with a long list of best practices that need to be followed.
The update began on April 12, 2023 and it ran until 11:24 AM PDT on April 25, 2023.
One WebmasterWorld forum member offered their assessment of the reviews update in a reaction to the announcement of end of the rollout:
“Umpteenth review update is finished:
Nothing positive to say, so I won’t for now.”
This is not surprising because there were quite a few complaints about this update.
The previous day on April 24, 2023 there were a few in the forum sharing how badly this update went for them.
One member posted:
“Seeing big drops again. We recovered to the same levels as before the March core update now taking big swings again.
Our mobile traffic is up a bit and desktop traffic is way down.
Conversions seem to be steady but much less impressions and clicks shown in GSC.
Not sure what’s going on but I could really use some stability for a while.
Our company is going through a lot at the moment and this is certainly not helping.”
And another forum member responded:
“The entire extent of my traffic loss is USA / Canada, and concentrated in a few high traffic parts of the site.
USA is -45% this morning, and my most important landing page is -88% today.
The home page seems to be recovering, as are a couple of other landing pages…but it’s up and down.
I do not understand why such steep losses…I search and find myself right where I always was, no ranking changes reported…but GSC shows a big divergence between clicks (way down) and impressions (increasing).”
Google Update Rollout is Finished – What Do You Do Now?
Sites affected by the reviews system update may need to honestly assess their content and methodologies.
I say may because this update was focused on reviews. So if the affected pages do not contain your reviews or opinions then something else might be the cause.
Reviews by third parties, like user generated reviews, are not evaluated as part of the reviews system algorithm.
Identify which keywords and corresponding pages were affected to identify if drops in traffic correspond with affected webpages that contain reviews.
Google’s recommendations emphasize that reviews should be based on real evaluations of the services, products or things being reviewed.
Experience with what is reviewed is key to doing well with the reviews ranking system.
Things like measurements, comparisons, if applicable, are important. Original analysis and signals of expertise are also important.
Google’s documentation on this ranking system says:
“The reviews system works to ensure that people see reviews that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products, services or other things.
The reviews system is designed to evaluate articles, blog posts, pages or similar first-party standalone content written with the purpose of providing a recommendation, giving an opinion, or providing analysis.”
An important and likely frustrating quality about the review system is that it’s not a continually updating algorithm.
Sites that are affected and apply fixes may not see a ranking change until the next update.
If the affected webpages appear to be fine to your eyes then it may be time to have someone not associated with the site give it a look.
Having someone else look at something can help one spot things that aren’t apparent. When I’m in doubt I get in touch with friends for what I call a reality check.
Featured image by Shutterstock/Ivelin Radkov