Matt Cutts blog published a post this week on noresults review pages. These are pages that show up when searching for “[insert product] reviews”, but the page simply says “No reviews are available. Be the first to review this product!” This definitely creates a poor user experience.
This problem was a top complaint to the Google spam team and it looks like they are being true to their word to fix it.
A client is currently going after several “[insert product] reviews” keywords. The volume on four keywords totals over 2500 searches/month. Nothing monumental, but nothing to ignore as it is relevant traffic we know our client deserves. Several sites outrank our client that don’t have any reviews for these products.
Google’s spam reporting site was linked in the post, so I decided to give it a go and see what type of impact reporting four guilty sites would have on their rankings. Reports were sent in on Monday. Nothing changed Tuesday. Nothing changed Wednesday. Thursday morning the four sites dropped an average of 60 places. Other sites that were not reported remained consistent in their rank.
The sites reported most likely had a huge bounce rate when users clicked through & found no reviews to read. Straying from the point, they all deserved to be booted out of top 30 results.
How hard is it to have reviews written about a product? Writing reviews can be outsourced through services like MechanicalTurk, written (and disclosed) by members of the company, or a “review the product you purchased” link can be inserted into a delivery confirmation or service followup email.
I can’t think of many easier ways to move a client four places within three days without making any changes to the site. Recommendations on the optimum number of reviews has not been tested. I would error on the side of caution and have more reviews if your site has only one review for a product or service. As seen here, Google is enforcing the fact that sites with actual reviews will help create a better user experience.