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:
A 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 Schema.org 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 Schema.org 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.