Google updates Merchant Center Policy: Includes Guidance on AI-generated Reviews

by | Published on Aug 11, 2023 | SEO

Relying on automated content for product reviews can lead to significant consequences. While automation might seem efficient, it often lacks the nuanced understanding and authenticity that human-generated reviews provide. Automated reviews can come across as generic and impersonal, diminishing the trust and credibility that genuine feedback carries. Moreover, these reviews can be easily recognized by consumers, potentially damaging the reputation of the product and the brand. The risk of inaccuracies or biased information is also higher with automated content, as it might not accurately reflect the diverse experiences and preferences of real users.

Google recently updated its Merchant Center Policy, effective August 28, 2023, saying that reviews produced by automated software or AI applications are prohibited and should be marked as spam.

Google’s policy states, “We’re adding a new policy on Automated Content:

We don’t allow reviews that are primarily generated by an automated program or artificial intelligence application. If you have identified such content, it should be marked as spam in your feed using the attribute.”

This brings home the significance of genuine human-generated content provided by experienced digital marketing service providers.

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Other Updates with Product Rating Policies

Google has also clarified its other product rating policies in its latest update, which include:

  • Spam: We don’t allow spam content. Ensure any content known to contain irrelevant, repetitive, or nonsensical text is marked as spam in your feed using the attribute.
  • Dangerous products or acts: Don’t submit reviews of regulated products that can cause damage, harm, or injury. For example, don’t submit reviews of guns, tobacco products, or regulated drugs. Additionally, don’t include content that depicts or provides instructions to complete activities that are dangerous and/or widely illegal.
  • Phone numbers, email addresses or URLs: Don’t submit phone numbers, email addresses and links to other websites in the review content.
  • Personal and confidential information: Don’t submit reviews that contain personal information, including but not limited to full names, credit card information, national insurance number, driving license information, etc.
  • Keep it clean: Don’t submit reviews that use obscene, profane, or offensive language or include content that depicts scenes of violence, serious injury or death, contains personal attacks, or are defamatory.
  • Conflict of interest: Don’t submit reviews that were paid for or are otherwise inauthentic. Reviews are most valuable when they are honest and unbiased. We remove reviews that we believe have conflicts of interest and/or have been written by employees or people with a vested interest in the product. Only submit reviews that were honestly solicited from customers who made a purchase.
  • Illegal content: Don’t submit reviews that contain or link to unlawful content, such as links that facilitate the sale of prescription drugs without a prescription, illegal drugs, counterfeit products, or illicit weapons. This content is not allowed.
  • Malware & Phishing: Don’t submit reviews containing links to malware, viruses, or other harmful software. We don’t allow phishing or other content that harms or interferes with the operation of the networks, servers, or other infrastructure of Google or others.
  • Copyrighted content: Don’t submit reviews that infringe on others’ rights, including copyright. For more information or to file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) request, review our copyright procedures.
  • Trademark infringement: Don’t submit content that uses a trademark in a way that’s likely to cause confusion about the origin of the product being reviewed.
  • Plagiarism: Don’t submit reviews containing appropriation of content created by another person or entity.
  • Sexually explicit material: Don’t submit reviews that contain sexually explicit material. We also don’t allow reviews that sexually exploit children or present them in a sexual manner. For this type of content, we remove the review, shut down the product reviews feed, and send a report to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and to law enforcement.
  • Hate speech: Don’t submit reviews that advocate against groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, nationality, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Violent language, terrorist content, or content intended to incite and encourage violent acts or extremist behavior, are not allowed in reviews.
  • Cross promotion of other products/websites: We don’t allow reviews that include promotional content for other unrelated websites, products, or services. If you have identified such content, it should be marked as spam in your feed using the attribute.
  • Off-topic reviews: We may remove reviews that primarily seek to discuss other topics unrelated to the product itself. This includes comments about shipping and delivery, experiences with particular retailers, political or social controversy, attacks on others, or don’t represent a first-hand experience with the product. This also includes merchant responses to reviewer comments.
  • Impersonation: We don’t allow reviews from people claiming to be someone that they aren’t.
  • Language: Reviews should be submitted in the original language they are written in. Google will display reviews in the original language with an option on the Shopping page to be translated to the user’s language.
  • Duplicate content: Each review should only appear in one feed and only once in that feed. If a review applies to multiple variations of a product, this should be designated by including multiple unique product identifiers and URLs with the review. The same review shouldn’t appear in feeds from different retailers. The retailer should own the review and shouldn’t send Google content syndicated from other sources. In the case of duplicate reviews in multiple feeds, we may blocklist one or more of the reviews or entire feeds.

How Does Google Enforce Product Policies?

Google has also described how they enforce product policies. To ensure adherence to the policies, Google employs a hybrid approach that combines automated and human assessments. Their enforcement mechanisms employ machine-learning algorithms to safeguard both users and merchants, upholding the integrity of the shopping platforms. Instances that demand intricate analysis, nuanced judgment, or involve heightened severity are entrusted to their specialized experts, who conduct evaluations that extend beyond the capabilities of algorithms alone, particularly when a comprehensive understanding of contextual nuances is essential.

The search engine giant will take decisive measures against content and reviews that breach their guidelines. Their actions encompass disapproval of violating content or reviews, issuance of warnings, or suspension of accounts in cases of repeated or severe infringements. The firm’s commitment to upholding policy standards remains unwavering, especially in the face of recurrent violations.

In response to policy breaches associated with images, Google has introduced an enhancement: they will now proactively block any corresponding review content that raises flags for policy violations. This additional measure would further fortify their efforts to maintain a safe and compliant environment.

As search algorithms and consumers become more adept at detecting automated content, there’s a growing chance of content being flagged as spam or facing penalties from platforms. In the long run, relying solely on automated content could erode customer trust, hinder brand growth, and undermine the authenticity that meaningful reviews bring to the table. An experienced digital marketing services company will stay abreast with such updates from search engine giants so that they can help businesses optimize reviews and increase traffic and business.

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