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March 28, 2022

How Google Decides What Reviews Are Most Relevant

Google Reviews: Learn how Google selects which reviews are actually the most relevant to your business's local search results and Google Business Profile.

Romance doesn’t have to die after Valentine’s Day. There’s still time to take your boo out for a romantic dinner date. But where to? You head to Google and search: “most romantic restaurant near me,” Yeah, you think to yourself, I’m a great partner.

Picking the right spot is always a challenge, though. So you may just let Cupid's arrow defer to Google reviews when guiding your primrose path to amorous nutritional entanglement.

Many restaurant options will populate Google’s Local Search results, ranked in order of which ones the algorithm thinks you will like best. Cupid who?

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It seems you have a couple of (expensive!) options: Italian, Steak, American - you like your options. So you turn to the Google reviews. As do we all.

As much as I want this to be a story of how your date turns out, it’s actually a yarn about reviews. Specifically how Google determines which reviews are most relevant for you. 

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When you choose a restaurant and go to its reviews, you’ll see that the page it brings you to doesn’t show all the restaurant’s reviews. It shows you the most relevant ones. Google automatically sorts by “Most Relevant” instead of “Newest.” For this restaurant, you can see that the first review that pops up is Donny P’s 5-month-old write-up. 

There have been dozens of newer reviews about this restaurant since Donny posted. Why would Google feature a review from half a year ago?

Google’s algorithm is an ever-evolving beast that digital marketers and Local SEO experts are always chasing. Today we will share our insights on the criteria involved in how Google currently (2022) decides what reviews top the ‘Most Relevant’ order. 

As we’ve discussed, Google wants to help you make the best decision possible, so it wants to give you helpful and relevant information as you make your decision. Recent reviews, while helpful in the sense that they provide timely customer feedback, may not end up offering useful content. 

Google aims to offer you useful information and relevant facts about what it’s like to be a customer or guest at a business. Recent reviews will not always necessarily offer this. 

What makes a review relevant or useful, according to Google? 

  • Review Length: taking up at least 200 characters, a longer review is deemed more relevant as Google assumes that more content = more useful. For a restaurant, there may be longer descriptions about the best dishes, details about the service, or suggestions on parking and reservations. The length of a review correlates with its position on the “most relevant” list. 
  • Specificity: Not unrelated to length, a specific review is considered more useful than a general review. Specificity is related to length in this case because a review that tells a specific story will likely be longer than a review that shares a general thought about one’s experience. When an individual shares precise feedback about the highlights and details of their time at an establishment, their review will likely be considered more relevant.
  • Written Locally: Some reviewers have more reviewing experience than others and can become ‘Local Guides’ on Google. These local guides are considered to be experts in the field of business judgment, at least in their area. They’ve dined at many restaurants, left many reviews, and hold many, valuable opinions. In Google’s eyes, a review that is written by a local guide is feedback to be trusted.
  • Incorporating Keywords: This factor likely relates to specificity, but we must acknowledge how keywords play a part in relevancy rankings. Dropping keywords in your review (ex: restaurant, Italian dishes, best customer service, most romantic) will lead to a higher ranking than a review that merely shares how the author had a “pretty good time.” If you are performing a google search for a restaurant and include keywords like this, chances are Google will show reviews with as many matching keywords as possible.
  • Pics Or It Didn’t Happen: Photographic evidence often is included in the Most Relevant reviews, in part because they are somewhat rare, depending upon your industry. Photos are helpful to prospective customers, as they catalyze decision making. Photos also build trust between the reviewer and reader, proving that the reviewer was really there and had the right to form the opinions they did. As they say, seeing is believing.

Can you find all of these elements in Donny P’s review? 

We’ve been talking so far about positive reviews, but negative reviews are not omitted from being considered most relevant. If a negative review is lengthy, specific, local, keyword-inclusive, and has the pictures to back it up, it will surely be considered to be featured on a GBP’s Most Relevant page. Google wants prospects to know when a business receives specific and useful, albeit critical feedback. 

Whether you’re scouting out your next date night destination or you’re wondering why a certain review is always featured on your own business’ page, we hope you’ve gained some understanding as to how Google decides which reviews are most relevant. 

The key to maintaining a Google Business Profile with the most relevant information to build trust with prospects and turn them into customers is to always be generating more reviews. We encourage businesses to consider automating review requests for the best results.

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Keaton Smith

I’m a writer, philosopher, climber, mountain biker, and a fried-egg enthusiast. Before joining Widewail as a Review Response Specialist, I attended Middlebury College and studied Philosophy and Art History. I grew up in Michigan, but I fell in love with Vermont while in school.

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