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Seeing Review Stars? Do They Attract Clicks?

July 23rd, 2013

Google just rolled out a bright yellow five star system of showing review ratings. We wondered how they pulled clicks from the other elements of Google’s interface when someone searched for attorney services.

My Prediction:

My initial prediction was that the star results with the Author Rich Snippets would detract from the #1 ranking and end up with more clicks altogether.

So, we performed a test to get some insight on this new product, and how it performs.


We performed 3 different click tests to get to know the effect of these review stars in three similar, yet very different result interfaces.

Each image that we presented to a user was prompted by the very same question:

You are searching for a personal injury lawyer. Where do you click?

Each image was supposed to have 100 users interact with the presented image after being prompted, but usabilityhub recently changed their whole suite (for the worse in my opinion—their heat maps showing click distribution is much less effective at showing click distribution), and there were actually 140 clicks recorded on each image. The click distribution varies depending on the layout as you can see:


Image shown:


Local Pop-up Image Shown


Where they Clicked:


The new click distribution is a bit harder to read, but you can see that the users in this experiment did not gravitate towards the stars as shown in the click distribution graph below. Keep in mind that the screenshot used did not show the typical map results in the upper right hand corner.

Local Pop-up Click Distribution


Click Distribution:


Local Pop-up Click Pie Chart

Click numbers for Pop-up


Image Shown:


Local Results Review Stars in E


Where they Clicked:


Clicks With Review Stars in E Local


Click Distribution:


Click Distribution Pie Chart

E Local w/stars



Image Shown:


Above the Fold Stars at Bottom


Where they Clicked:


Above Fold Stars on Bottom


Click Distribution:


Above Fold Click Distribution

Above Fold With Review Stars





There are a number of interesting conclusions to make from this data. There is confirmation that local results steal from organic results, and that review stars do have an effect—although it is arguably much less important than authorship photos. This data, however, is another example of how the #1 spot is not necessarily where you need to be anymore. Simply having the best looking listing with authorship + review stars can make a big difference as long as you show up above the fold on the user’s screen.


About the Author

Casey Meraz

Casey is the founder and president of Ethical SEO Consulting in Denver, CO. Casey's specialties are in organic search engine optimization and local SEO. Join +Casey on Google+.

  • http://www.SmallBusinessOnlineCoach.com matthew hunt

    Nice study! I would’ve guessed this. So the name of the game is author markup + local reviews + being above the fold equals more traffic or higher CTR.

    Always nice to see confirmation to what all us local SEO’ers have been preaching forever to be true.

  • http://www.touchpointdigitalmarketing.com/local-seo.html Touch Point Digital

    Interesting study, Casey. Looks like to really get some attention in the SERPs, you should mark up your page with both authorship and review schemas. Just that little “dressing up” to your listing can make a big difference in clicks. Thanks for investigating this. –David

  • http://www.koozai.com/author/andy-williams/ Andy Williams

    Really interesting.

    It’s all about standing out more than just gaining star reviews. A combination of everything simply gives the impression of authority regardless of whether this is the case. Human nature suggests that you are bound to click on a listing that “has it all” over a basic link listing.

    Really enjoyed this post.

  • http://www.anwalt-kg.de Andre Kraus

    very interesting study and good tips, just found that article, thank you, Andre

  • http://kanzlei-tholl.de Dirk Tholl

    Very interesting study! Here in Germany we can´t have both, authorship photos and stars. After reading your study, I will focus on Google authorship photo more than the stars. Thank you Dirk