Facebook Drops Rich Snippets from Search Results

Facebook rich snippets and their review stars no longer seem to be appearing in Google search results.

The change was noticed on Twitter by New York Internet marketing consultant David Markovich, who pointed it out yesterday.

According to Blue Nile Research, rich snippets can provide a 26 percent extra life value in clicks resulting in a greater impact on search results than having the top position. Yelp and YP search results still show the review stars. 

Between referral traffic, digital assistants and its add a link feature, Facebook has become a much more serious competitor to Google in recent months. However, Bryan Adams, chief executive of Liverpool agency Ph. Creative, doesn’t think a rivalry is the reason for the ratings removal. Adams thinks it’s likely that Google simply doesn’t trust Facebook reviews, given how easy they are to purchase. The first hit on the “buy Facebook reviews” Google search sells 2,000 reviews for $225 and 100 reviews for only $16.99.

“People do buy these Facebook ratings to synthetically create a perception of social proof and credibility,” Adams says. “If these ratings were affecting the CTR to Facebook from Google, it would be a risk to Google and the service they look to uphold for their customers.”

Adams adds that if his suspicions are correct, Facebook may have a problem, given how seasoned Google is when it comes to dealing with abuse and misuse of its algorithm. At the same time, the potential violators will benefit. While they will lose the boost of having their pages padded with so many positive reviews, Google removing the rich snippets saves them from possible penalties.

Google has had a form for reporting spammy rich snippets for years. Last year, the search giant took it further and started penalizing sites for rich snippet spam. Repeated spammers are also subject to harsher penalties.

According to Roger Rogerson – who regular Search Engine Watch readers will know as the knowledgeable, always-opinionated name from our comments sections – untrusted reviews may be the reason. He acknowledges that there are other possibilities, as well.

“Unused and unpopular features get pulled. Google may think no one really looks at the ratings for Facebook,” he says. “If Facebook made alterations to its codebase and altered the Open Graph or structured data, that could do it.”

He adds that it could also simply be a bug. Google may have tweaked something, causing the ratings to disappear, only for them to reappear a few days from now. Ultimately, Rogerson says, “There are likely other reasons, but the only people that would know are Google and Facebook. And I doubt anyone there will tell you.”

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