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Aggregate Review Schema – Recovering From a Spammy Structured Markup Penalty

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Aggregate Review Schema – Recovering From a Spammy Structured Markup Penalty

Emily Smith
Aggregate Review Schema – Recovering From a Spammy Structured Markup Penalty

Aggregate Review schema can be a great way for businesses to showcase both the number of reviews and the rating of individual products. Adding this markup to your website will then make you eligible for organic stars to show alongside your search listings, which in turn can improve your Click through Rate (CTR) according to Search Engine Land.

But as always, schema can be tricky. With so many fields from which to choose as well as guidelines being updated frequently, you can quickly find yourself with a manual penalty for spammy structured data.

What is a Spammy Structured Markup Penalty?

A Spammy Structured Markup penalty is a form of manual penalty. This means that someone in the Webspam Team at Google has investigated your site and given you a penalty for not adhering to their guidelines. If you have had a manual penalty, you will be able to find this in your Google Search Console under ‘Search Traffic’ and ‘Manual Actions’.

The penalty notice usually states that your structured data violates the guidelines and includes instructions to file a reconsideration request once this has been altered. The message also tells you which URL the penalty has been applied to. For example, if it is the whole site then the whole website URL will be given. However, if it has only been applied to your blog, then this would be specified. Here is an example of a classic manual penalty for structured markup:

spammy structured markup penaltyA screenshot of a spammy structured markup penalty in Google Search Console

How to Find Your Spammy Structured Markup

The easiest and quickest way to find your spammy schema is by running your site through the Structured Data Testing Tool. Simply paste the URL of the page you wish to inspect into this tool and it will reveal (if any) what schema markup is on that page. If you click on a field, it will also show you where in the code of the site the markup is. This makes it easy to locate when you’re making changes. 

The tool will also show you any errors or warnings. If you have any glaringly obvious issues, you can easily find and fix them without having to spend too much time finding them.

Common Aggregate Review Schema Mistakes

Structured data penalties are almost always down to mistakes. It is easy to accidentally miss a required field or enter the wrong information. The most common mistakes include:

  • Using your overall service score across all pages. To Google, this looks like you are telling them that all your pages have been rated. For example, if you add your overall business score to category or product pages, Google will deem this as misleading for users as this isn’t what the reviews were about.
  • Using product schema, but not using the correct review information. This goes hand in hand with the aforementioned mistake. It is quite common for sites to mark their products up with product schema, but instead of using the corresponding product reviews they use their overall service score.
  • Entering information that is not compatible with that field. This is sometimes due to a typo, however, if you are ever in doubt about what information should be included, you can find the requirements on the website.
  • Not entering BestRating, WorstRating, and RatingValue correctly. BestRating should always be 100 and WorstRating should always be 0. Your RatingValue should, therefore, be your score out of 100. If you collect your reviews based on a star rating, you will need to work out the equivalent e.g. if your rating is 4 out of 5 stars, it would be 80 out of 100.
  • Using third party reviews within Local Business schema. As of October 2016, Google updated their guidelines to say that you should not use third party review sites within your Local Business schema. Local Business schema with reviews is usually used by businesses who want to obtain organic stars against their branches’ pages.
  • Using Organisation schema with reviews on pages other than the Home page. As a best practice, you should keep your overall service score within Organisation schema and only keep this on the Home page.

    Recovering From the Penalty

    The steps taken to recover from your penalty should always be the same:

  • Identify the issue. Use the Structured Data Testing Tool to work out what the issue is. Once you have found the issue, you can start to deconstruct your code to fix the problem. If you cannot find the issue, it is best to remove all schema from your site and start afresh.

  • Use the website to determine what you want your schema to do. Write down each field that you need and what values they should have. Copy your existing code into a Notepad file and make the changes you need to within this file. If you are using JSON you can use the playground tool to write your code.
  • Copy and paste your code into the testing tool using the ‘Code Snippet’ tab. This will allow you to see if your new code passes the guidelines before setting it live on your site.
  • Replace your existing code with your new schema markup. Run the site through the testing tool again to ensure nothing has been missed when copying over from your Notepad file.
  • Submit your reconsideration request. Your request should acknowledge the penalty and should explain how you went about fixing this and what you expected the issue to be. You should also outline any future efforts that you have planned to ensure that you adhere to guidelines. You can then submit your request through your Search Console account.
  • Wait. Your reconsideration request is read by a real person in the Google Webspam team. Google say you should wait a few weeks before expecting a response. Provided your issues have been addressed your penalty should be lifted right after your request has been accepted. 

Happy recovering!

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Emily has over 6 years experience in the digital marketing industry and has worked on behalf of many businesses - from enterprise to start-ups!
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Sunny Agarwal
Hey Emily Would you please help me with my site spammy structure data. I have site in shopify with product schema markup only on product landing pages but still Google deny my reconsideration request for spammy structure data. [link removed by moderator]
Hi Emily! Thank you for the article. Can you provide some proofs that 100 scale is critical for BestRating? This fact is surprising for me. Google uses 1-5 default scale and we see that in their documentation.
Hello Emily, I am working on a news website and lost my featured news box (TOP NEWS) around 7-8 months before, changed my article schema many times, tested it in the structured data testing tool and found no issue with that. Even yet I didn't recover my website and there is no manual action penalty message in the GWT. I couldn't find any solution for that. Can you suggest me what should I do now?
Emily Smith
Kriti Shrivashtawa
Hi Kriti, it's important to remember that these aren't guaranteed by Google and fluctuate quite a lot. If you don't have a penalty against the website then there is a good chance this is a fluctuation. Try not to change your schema too often as this can confuse Google.
Emily Smith
I haven't made any change for last 4-5 months but even it is same. Anything else that I can do to get into the TOP NEWS or featured in News Box? I have checked many sites they have some schema errors even they are in TOP NEWS, I have no error in Structured Data Testing Tool but I don't. The issue is that am unable to understand the exact problem.
Sunny Agarwal
Kriti Shrivashtawa
What are your rankings for keywords because it is all about schema, Google news approved site and ranking
Hi Emily, the structured mark up for my recipe site [link removed by moderator] randomly disappeared one day. The server was throwing a lot of errors and my guess is that this is what led to it. Since then we have removed all errors and ensured that we are meeting google best practises. But the stuctured mark up has not come back which is really impacting our traffic. Any idea about what we can do? Does it make sense to remove the mark up from the entire site and add again. It has been 2 months. Your help will be greatly appreciated.
Emily Smith
Sukhmani Bedi
Hi Sukhmani,

If you have received a penalty in your Google Search Console I would recommend removing all schema and starting again. Then you can submit your reconsideration request. Please be aware that once your reconsideration request has been accepted it doesn't mean that your rich snippets will instantly return. It could take a while for these to reappear.

Emily Smith
Hi Emily, we haven't got any message so I know it isn't a manual penalty. But our rich snippets (ratings for recipes) disappeared 2 months earlier. Any idea what I can do in this scenario? Would have been easier if it was a manual penalty as then we would have been able to send a reconsideration request :(
Emily Smith
Sukhmani Bedi
Hi Sukhmani ,

In this case it's probably just Google fluctuating. You should ensure that your schema complies with Google's guidelines

I've also fallen foul of this issue (my template wasn't display the article year but the structured data plugin *was* showing the year hence the manual penalty. I had my request approved after two days however two weeks later the organic traffic is down 50%, even though my rankings remain the same. Any idea how long this type of penalty takes to lift after your manual action was removed? Thanks.
Emily Smith
Joe Terrell
Hi Joe, I would say give it 4-6 weeks before expecting to see results from the penalty being lifted
Justin Bilyj
I am curious to see if any ORM review magnet services like Brightlocal or will cause sites to have a penalty due to the showcasing of 3rd party site reviews on their own site via a widget. Anyone have a guess?
Nirmal Kumar
Only after reading this article, I get to know that adding wrong markups can lead to penalty.

Does SEMRush use any plugins for markups?
great article!
Emily Smith
Thank you!
I got hit with a warning, resubmitted some "fixed" markup as part of my reconsideration request and then got stung with a manual penalty :(

I just deleted all the markup from my site, submitted another reconsideration request and am now waiting for a response.
Emily Smith
Dave A.
Hi Dave,
Sorry to hear! I agree with you, sometimes if you can't pin-point the problem it's best to start from scratch! Hopefully the penalty will be lifted and you'll be able to find your answer in Google's guidelines
Great article! Do you have any sources for the common mistakes or do you tested it yourself?
Emily Smith
Franz Schmidt
Hi Franz, glad you liked it!

The common mistakes have been ones that I've mainly come across myself through experience, however when doing some research I found an example of someone else that had a penalty for similar mistakes:

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