Google has returned to showing third party reviews in search results. In 2016, the company added third-party reviews to the “Reviews” section. In December 2017, Google expanded where it shows third party reviews. Now third-party reviews can show up in the Knowledge Graph, which is better known as the card that shows up on the side.
While Google likes providing users with as much information from as many sources as possible, this comes as a bit of a surprise. As part of the company’s 2012 antitrust settlement with the FTC, Google agreed to allow third-party review sites to block it from featuring their content in “vertical search offerings” without being removed from Google’s search results completely. Even though that settlement expired on December 27, this development comes as a bit of a surprise because Google says it will continue to adhere to the main terms and because Yelp told the FTC that google used Yelp photos in search results, breaking the company’s legally binding pledge.
Despite all this, Google claims to have made changes. Previously, third-party review sites had to opt out of having their content featured as a snippet in Google’s search results pages. Now, a third-party review site must opt in. This is probably why Google started this test with the hotel industry and sites like Booking.com, Priceline.com, and TripAdvisor, which are more likely to be receptive to partnering with Google.
In the long run, will this make a difference? Probably not. Google quietly added third-party reviews to the “Reviews” section and only those who were looking for the update noticed. While adding third-party review to the Knowledge Graph may be more noticeable to the general public, we’re so accustomed to Google taking snippets from other sites that we don’t always realize when the company does it. All this addition does is give Yelp a reason to complain about how Google is monopolizing the online review compilation industry.