Is Google looking for diversity in reviews? [Case Study]
3 mins read

Is Google looking for diversity in reviews? [Case Study]

It makes sense to think that Google would show the most recent review at the top of a business’ profile, right? Well there is some The truth is that newer reviews tend to stay at the top for longer, but that’s not always the case. When you look at reviews, the default sort is most relevant, but what does relevant mean? We decided to see if we could figure out how Google chose which reviews are at the top. The first theory we tested is whether or not Google wants to show different reviews (reviews with different star ratings) at the top to paint an overall picture of the company.

What we noticed:

When you look at reviews for businesses, you often see the most recent reviews at the top. For example, in the image below, Canada’s Wonderland, a theme park near me, has thousands of reviews (43,000) and those that appear at the top were usually written recently (within the last week).

However, this is not always the case. For example in the image below this cookie company (which is AMAZING if you are ever in an area that has a location) the reviews that are at the top are both negative reviews and both are over 4 months old.

This got me thinking, “why does google pick these reviews to be at the top?” The cookie company has a lot of recent reviews, but google is picking these negative reviews to show them at the top. So we wanted to try and figure out what Google considers “relevant” as that’s a very vague term.

The exam:

I originally started testing this with a lawn care customer of ours. I went in every month and saw which reviews were at the top and I started tracking the patterns and changes I was seeing. I’ve checked to see if the order of the reviews has changed and what I noticed about the reviews above. I did this for over a year. But after about six months I started following other companies as you can see in the picture on the left.

Theory:

My first theory was that Google wants diversity in their reviews. So does Google keep one-star ratings higher to show that no company is perfect? And that makes a bit of sense as we often see that a one star rating is the one that stays on top.

Our results:

What we found is that Google no longer weights one-star ratings. The image below shows how many days each rating type stayed in the top 11 spots. Although the one-star ratings have stayed at the top longer than the five-star ratings, it’s not by much. It’s also interesting to note that the four-star ratings stayed at the top longer than the one- and five-star ratings. What is it about these four-star reviews that made them appear for so long? We had a few theories and tested them, but you’ll have to read our next blog post to find out!

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