One of the most common things that people are confused about is Google review rating. Many people wonder why Google is showing 4.8 rating when they actually have worked hard to maintain 5-star rating of their business. This is a major concern for many businesses especially for those who own Google-listed businesses. We all know how important it is to maintain good ratings, especially when it comes to local SEO. Bad ratings can really hurt a business regardless of how well it is ranking on search engines. Well, while this is a major dilemma for many, you need to understand the way Google calculates your review score in order to understand if it is really hurting your rankings or not.
Here’s what Google says on its help page:
We calculate an overall rating based on user ratings and a variety of other signals to ensure that the overall score best reflects the quality of the establishment.
Well, yes you read it right, Google is not really calculating the score like you actually thought. Most people think Google takes out an average of all their reviews, but sadly that’s not the case. For instance, if you have 10 reviews, each giving you 5 stars, you would be expecting a feedback score of 5, but probably you’ll have 4.5 or 4.8. Obviously, this will concern you as you have worked hard to maintain that feedback score yet you are not getting the digits.
According to many SEO experts, Google also takes into account other type of opinions around the web regarding your business. In other words, this means that any negative feedback on any major review websites may hurt your review score as well. But, then again, what if there are no negative feedbacks elsewhere as well? What then? How can you possibly know why your feedback score is lower than what is obvious to you?
Here’s something to ponder over before we go to the maths:
How would you compare a business with just one 5-star review to a business with fifty 5-star reviews and two 4-star reviews? Is the former business better than the latter? Shouldn’t experience and more number of reviews count as well? If the latter was to be given priority, every new business that comes in will rank higher than the former businesses. Why? It’s simple – the more time you spend in the industry, the more are your chances or earning negative reviews along with positive reviews. Obviously, not all your customers will be the same and despite of your best efforts, sometimes you will earn negative feedbacks or even just 4-star feedbacks with your customers thinking they have given you a great deal of positive feedback. So, should this be taken into? Or more appropriately, does Google take this into account?
Well, there are theories that in order to equate a new business with an already online established business, Google does take the age into consideration. So, again, as per the experts, Google’s algorithm for reviews actually has function for this.
Google is not Taking Your Feedback’s Average:
First off, let’s establish the obvious fact that Google is not using the standard average formula to calculate your average feedback score. Instead, it is using more like a Bayesian average method.
Bayesian Average Definition:
Right now, you must be perplexed, wondering what is exactly is this Bayesian Average method. The Bayesian Average Method takes into consideration not only the given data set but it also takes into consideration other variables that might have an effect on the overall health of a data set, which means that the data set of your reviews is tied up with other variables that you are unable to see clearly.
So, How Does This Exactly Work?
Honestly, no one except Google has the exact answer. But, what we know so far is the fact that Google takes the data set of a new business (the one with fewer reviews) and places it on a larger data set. This way, the review score you see is not only the representation of your current reviews but also your future reviews, which are not up there yet. That is unfair you may scream? Not really. What this does is it gives you an average of not only your review score but also your age. It gives you a representation of how your business would look if it had more reviews.
How Do You Fix It?
Unfortunately, in this case, there is no ideal scenario. There is nothing really you can do to achieve 5-star reviews, regardless of what you do, how hard you try. And, don’t worry, other businesses are being ranked the same way. If your competitor has ten 4-star reviews then probably it will score lesser than your ten 5-star reviews.
Keep up the Good Work!!!
Yes, like most of Google’s SEO related strategies, even this one is not transparent. No one knows if Google will ever make their processes transparent. But, come to think of it, it is a positive gesture after all. What if your business has survived the ups and downs of the market and has managed to acquire 4.5-stars out of 100 feedbacks, yet a new business with just a few 5-star reviews beat you? That would be truly unfair. Therefore, in order to maintain this balance, one could say that this formula is actually of use after all.Don’t be disheartened and forget about reviews. You need to maintain them. Keep encouraging your clients to leave positive feedback. When your reviews hit the benchmark (10, 20, 100) in your industry, Google will calculate your actual average without ‘other factors’ and provide you with an average of your review score.