Want to make your site stand out in the Google search results?

How about some nice, bright, twinkling little stars?

star ratings photo

Or these:

star ratings lawyer serps

Let’s show you how to get those stars… and how not to.

Google reads, understands and displays your stars when you mark them up with Schema: little pieces of code that explain to computers what your data means. For example, a computer knows without your telling it that “5” is a number. What it doesn’t know is whether that number refers to a recipe measurement (5 teaspoons), a rating (5 stars) or an address (5 Main Street). Your Schema code tells your computer which one it is. When the computer (Google, in our case) knows how to define the number, it can do different things with it, like display stars or addresses in special ways in the search results.

It used to be that you could just stick the right code on your site to indicate reviews you had elsewhere. But about 3 months ago, Google changed its policy. Now they only allow you to mark up reviews (to make stars show in the Google search results) when they are reviews generated on your site. If they are reviews written on Google or any third-party site, you can’t just stick code referring to them on your site to get the coveted stars.

If we want to make stars show up for our site in the Google search results, our job is now harder. We have to actually generate the reviews ON our site itself.

What are your options?

[Important note over here: this means you’re going to have to make a choice, at least for any given customer who is only going to have the patience to write one review. Are you going to direct them to your site to get the review (so you can get the stars, and whatever other benefits reviews directly on your site convey) or to a third-party site like Google or Yelp (for the Google Local SEO benefit, people who are more likely to find Yelp than your own site, etc.)? You CAN always copy and paste the Google and Yelp reviews onto your site with proper attribution for the social proof aspect – but you cannot mark it up with code to make it show stars in the search results. So think about which aspect of the reviews is the most important to you, and direct happy customers accordingly.]

WordPress plugins

If you’re using WordPress, there are a whole bunch of “star ratings” plugins. Not all of them will mark up your stars with the right code to show up on Google, though. Here are two that look like they’ll do the trick.

kk Star Ratings

This star ratings plugin has been around for a while, with over 30,000 installs. On the overview page, it only claims that it’s good for WordPress up to 4.4.5, but I’ve seen sites with later versions up WordPress running it (seemingly) without issues. The first example above, in fact, is from a site that’s using kk Star Ratings and is running WordPress 4.6.1.

Yasr – Yet Another Stars Rating

This star rating plugin has less users than kk Star Rating (over 10,000 installs), but it certainly seems like its developer is more on top of it. The overview page says it was last updated yesterday (as of this post’s writing), and it’s good for WordPress up to 4.6.1.

Yasr claims that it integrates Schema markup so that your star ratings can show up on Google search results.

Get Five Stars

If you’re not running WordPress, or you want a heavy-duty review solution that will do more than stick stars in Google results, Get Five Stars is worth a look.

Get Five Stars is a customer feedback platform to easily get customer feedback and encourage reviews on your own site or 3rd party sites.

It was developed by Mike Blumenthal, a big local SEO expert, so you can trust that he’s on top of things and the platform is and will always be updated to meet Google requirements.

At $39.95/month per location it’s not cheap, so it’s probably not worth it *just* to get the stars. But if getting feedback and reviews is a priority for you (and if you’re a local business who wants to succeed online, it’s critical), than it’s certainly worth checking out.

You have your options to star… now go forth and shine!