Why You Need Google Rating Stars and How to Set Them Up

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Google Rating Stars

Google Rating Stars are simply ratings on your website that are shown in search results. There are WordPress plugins that will make ratings widgets appear on your posts and pages and allow  users to rate or vote on your content.  This shows engagement on your site, and if you’re lucky, those ratings will get picked up by Google and other search engines.

Why should you care if stars show up in Google results?

Ratings that show up on Google will very likely increase your Click-Thru Rate (or CTR) within search results.  The stars that show up in the SERPs take up an extra line of space for your website and draw attention to the eye.  Which of the two results below are you more likely to click?

google rating stars example

Even if you only have one rating, it still makes an impact.   And a higher CTR means more visitors to your website and is seen as a positive sign to the search engines to help raise your search engine rank.

What program can I use to show rating stars in Google?

To display stars like the ones at the bottom of this post, I use the GD Star Rating plugin. I personally have setup the plugin to only show star ratings and exclude thumbs and comment ratings.  After installing, if you want to see how your ratings should appear in search results try out Google’s Rich Snippets Testing Tool.  Update: I’ve also been playing around with a premium plugin called MyReviewPlugin which so far seems like a very powerful alternative for building review sites, comparison tables, and showing a combination of editor versus reader ratings.

The cool thing about GD Stars (and MyReviewPlugin) is the results are often picked up by Google.  Unfortunately, GD Stars has entirely too many settings.  So if you want to setup stars like mine, below are the settings I use.  (I plan to show MyReviewPlugin configuration when I launch that as well).  Below are the only screens where I have changed the defaults in GD Stars:

GD Star Ratings - Settings-Features

GD Star Ratings - Settings-Articles

What if GD Stars does not work with W3 Cache?

I’ve installed GD Stars on two blogs and found it conflicts with W3 Cache (a caching plugin) on one blog even though the settings are identical.  On the blog where it doesn’t work, when a post loads, the GD Stars rating widget shows “loading…” indefinitely and never displays.  Note: if you are logged in to WordPress, the rating widget will appear fine to you but your visitors will see the error, so ask a friend to test for you.

I got around this by taking the following steps.  Please note that changing your caching settings incorrectly is an easy way to screw up your blog, so I must provide a disclaimer that I hold no responsibility should things go horribly wrong while you are tinkering with settings.

  1. In W3 Cache, on the General Settings tab, Minify section, change Minify mode from Auto to Manual.
    W3 Cache - Minify settings
  2. Then go to the Minify tab and the Advanced section.  Add /wp-content/plugins/gd-star-rating to Never minify the following pages.
    W3 Cache - Minify exclusion
GD Star Rating
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Why You Need Google Rating Stars and How to Set Them Up, 4.2 out of 5 based on 632 ratings
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40 comments on Why You Need Google Rating Stars and How to Set Them Up

Solar David January 16, 2012 at 10:58 pm

I have plans for this. I have already downloaded the plugin. I might just find time Wednesday, while the Internet goes into it’s one-day strike, to test it on one of my blogs.

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ddiy January 16, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Hey David, are you participating in the strike? I’m too afraid to lose a whole day’s worth of traffic….although maybe everyone will hide under their beds and leave their computers off anyway.

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Dave Clements January 18, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I’m not sure I agree with adding stars where it’s not applicable. For example, I don’t agree that rating articles is appropriate and I think it should be reserved for rating products and the likes, where people searching in Google are going to be looking for a popular opinion on the quality of the product. But that’s just me :)

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ddiy January 18, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Hi Dave, Thanks for stopping by.

GD Stars has so many different options for setting up ratings, reviews, thumbs, etc. it really just becomes a decision for the blog owner as to what variation of the widget they think provides the most value to visitors for different types of content.

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Jai Catalano January 19, 2012 at 9:00 am

5 stars are always best. It’s a bit flawed though unless you have a lot of ratings. We used to have students from our school rate us and of course we were a 5 star school. Anyway I guess in the end of the day it’s all about trying to reach our clients with our best foot forward.

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ddiy January 19, 2012 at 9:36 am

Jai- the interesting thing I’ve noticed is that even with bad reviews, if they show in google results people are more apt to click them than results without reviews/ratings, simply because they draw attention to the eye.

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Carl January 20, 2012 at 10:59 am

The plugin is really good and I am using it for nearly 2 years, however there is nothing to do with Google ratings which appear from Google shopping and not from any external source of rating.

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Sherryl Perry January 20, 2012 at 1:41 pm

I agree with Dave about when it would be appropriate to use this plugin. I wouldn’t use it on my blog but I manage client sites that I think this would be a good fit for. Thanks for sharing.

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Mike January 20, 2012 at 1:46 pm

I’ve been seeing those rating stars more and more lately and I like the way it looks. Thanks for the detailed instruction on how to set it up.

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ddiy January 20, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Yup Mike, you can’t do a search anymore without seeing at least a few results with stars. If you don’t have them it puts you at a disadvantage.

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Mike January 24, 2012 at 8:55 am

Just took your advice and installed the plugin. I really like the way it looks and it’s another way to get readers a little more involved.

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ddiy January 24, 2012 at 9:01 am

Very cool Mike, looks good! Incidentally, I like your AdSense layout (full width in the middle of your post, not the top). How does that convert for you? Are you noticing good results?

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Mike January 24, 2012 at 9:22 am

Thanks! For the AdSense unit, I only moved it down a few days ago so not a long enough time period to judge for sure, but early indications are that it doesn’t convert as well. Traffic is down over the same period though so that’s playing a role too. I moved it after Google’s announcement about too many ads above the fold and I think I took a hit because of that. Most of my best keywords fell a few spaces last week and not I have to get them back up. Amazing how dropping just a few spots can have a huge impact traffic-wise.

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Liz February 23, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Hi Geoff, I noticed that this article has a rating but the stars don’t show up in google’s search results. Did you intentionally set it to not show or is google using some kind of algo to not show the stars when it is the author who rated it himself? hmmm…

I’m planning to put up a review site and I believe a star rating will definitely help with the clickthrough rate. But GD star rating is too complicated, I don’t want to spend time learning it. Plus I’ve heard of people saying the plugin is slowing down their website. I just wanted to put a star rating per item I review and show the rating in google results, that’s all. I think GD’s extra bells and whistles add to the clutter and confuse a lot of users.

Anyway, never mind the rant :) Just wanted to know if you set the stars here not to show up. If so, I’ll install GD using your settings above :)

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ddiy February 23, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Hi Liz, Google makes that determination on a site by site basis and does change it upon occassion. You install the plugin to set yourself up for a chance that they will pick it up. Very similar as to when Google decides to show sub menus under your search results….you don’t have much control on what they decide to do, but you can set your blog up appropriately and hope for the best.

As for setting up GD star rating, it’s actully quite simple, no learning curve. Just use the defaults and make the settings changes I recommend above….should take 10 minutes. I haven’t noticed a slowdown myself and I believe the stars are threaded to load after page load, so it should not make a difference to performance. Good luck and thanks for the comments!

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Sanjan Bikram March 19, 2012 at 9:03 am

Just now i have configured GD on my website by following your method. How much time it will take to come in effect on Google Search pages.

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ddiy March 19, 2012 at 10:13 am

Hi Sanjan, unfortunately there is no way to tell if and when Google will pick up your rich snippets. It’s very similar to becoming ranked in the SERPs. You have to optimize your website for the best results and hope to get picked up. That said, if you are indexed already, I’ve seen GD stars get picked up as quickly as a day or two in some cases.

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Zakir May 2, 2012 at 2:17 am

Right got the idea. But i have another requirements.

How can I integrate facebook connect with this GD star rating plugin?

The idea is: If someone clicks on rating image then it will redirect them to connect by facebook . If they already connected by facebook then it won’t redirect them.

So its basically finding out who are the people (genuine) rated my articles.

What do you think? Any clue how to integrate FB connect?

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Ruben Kos May 15, 2012 at 5:00 am

Thanks for the blog post!

I d love to know about DRUPAL – our website is built that way and I want to know if anyone has any experience with the Google star rating and a plugin for DRUPAL?

Is it best to do it manually or use a plug in?

Cheers

Ruben

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ddiy May 15, 2012 at 8:27 am

Hi Ruben, Unfortunately I know very little about drupal, but perhaps someone else will post an answer for you.

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Ruben Kos May 15, 2012 at 8:34 am

thanks, too bad :(

Q: does using GD star plug in complient with schema.org and Search Engines to find that info as part of the star rating system?

Cheers

Ruben

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ddiy May 15, 2012 at 10:05 am

Ruben, yes it is compliant with schema.org and yes search engines will pick it up (at their discretion). You can test this after installing using Google Rich Snippet testing tool I mentioned above.

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Majid Abed September 21, 2012 at 11:55 am

Hello
If you need google five star rating system
You can use Microdata module for drupal
http://drupal.org/node/1181440
Hope it’ll help you

Your Friend
Majid

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E learning addict June 13, 2012 at 7:42 am

Athough i’m very happy with the results, i can’t make it to work with the categories. Is it even possible to have stars rating for each category also except for posts? Any help will be appriciated

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tina June 13, 2012 at 3:08 pm

hi, do i need the ratings on my website but will i need to add the rating to my homepage or is the the post ratings which will allow the stars to show on my domain name?

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ahmed July 13, 2012 at 9:55 am

hi ddiy, very good trick :) , but i want to apply it to a blogger blog? can u plz help me to add star rating to a blogger blog in google search results?

thanks

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ddiy July 13, 2012 at 10:04 am

Hi Ahmed, I’m not very familiar with Blogger, but I suggest you search for “Blogger Ratings Widget” or “Blogger Ratings Plugin” or “Blogger Rich Snippets”. Then make sure whatever solution you find supports the hReview or hReview aggregate microformats.

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brownstone73 July 14, 2012 at 5:32 am

Hi all, I’m using GD Star Ratings and have a quick question… Is it possible to have to have something like the following inserted into a post, assuming the stars are thumbs:

* * Do you like this
* * Or do you like this
* * Or is this one better

I would like to change the following post to include multiple ratings where users can use thumb ratings to express their thought on the above, example.

Any help with this will be greatly appreciate!

Cheers.

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Remco July 20, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I love this plugin.
Only one thing i just cant figure out, and thats, how to exclude pages from GD star rating plugin.
My Home page and like my Contact. I dont want it to show on that pages.
How can i exclude pages that i dont like/want to rate??

Big BIG thanx!!

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ddiy July 21, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Remco, there should be a couple ways to do this with GD Stars depending on what types of ratings you use. If you are using ratings on articles, you can go into Settings->Articles, Auto-insert ratings code and then uncheck the appropriate boxes. If that doesn’t get the desired result, I believe you can also try unchecking all boxes, and then just use a shortcode to embed only on those pages you want a rating to appear. And if that doesn’t work, you probably need to head over to GDStars and start searching through their documentation. Hope that helps!

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Cuentos clásicos mundiales September 6, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Instant highlight in google. I can´t wait to try it

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Gus September 15, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Hello,

I have an html page and i want to get stars in google results. There is any solution for static html pages?

Thanks

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Johnny September 26, 2012 at 9:50 am

Thanks, great post! I’ll add google stars asap.

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Rehmat October 18, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Is there any plugin to show star ratings for Blogger blog posts? Please help,

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Spot January 8, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Just wanted to give kudos for the excellent review. I’m working through the multitude of options for the plugin now — it’s made a little easier with your post.

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Curtis March 15, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Are there times when Google chooses to not display the star ratings? My page is setup correctly from what I can tell. If I view the page using the Structured Data Testing Tool in Webmaster tools, it shows the stars but not in search results! Please help!

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Geoff March 15, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Hi Curits, yes, all you can really do is make sure it displays properly using Google’s rich snippet testing tool. After that, it’s up to Google whether they decide to display in search results. Keep an eye on it, it can change over time….I’ve had rich snippets appear for a few weeks, disappear for a month, and then come back. It all depends on what Google decides to show.

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Pat March 28, 2013 at 2:13 am

Thanks for the cool plugin. Is there a way to set up the review stars with a website that’s built in dreamweaver?

Regards
Pat

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Louis Foussard June 19, 2013 at 5:29 am

Agreed. GD Star Ratings is difficult to set up.

I am using it on one site… but it was so “painful”… I’ve not done it again.

Guess I need to check out the MyReviewPlugin too.

~ Louie

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Beach Web Design October 17, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I agree that rating articles might not be the way to go, but I also agree that rating anything helps in the serps. Probably if it’s an article about something physical, and not a concept it would be fine, otherwise, what’s being rated, the style of the blog, the tone of the writer?

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