Google’s algorithms rely on more than 200 signals for ranking, but is BBB rating one of them?
Google has denied it on at least three separate occasions. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they completely ignore it either.
Let’s examine the evidence.
The Claim: BBB Rating Isn’t a Ranking Factor
We’ll start by taking a look at precisely what a BBB rating is and what it measures.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a nonprofit, non-government organization that examines companies’ trustworthiness. The idea is to uphold certain standards across the board and allow customers to feel confident in their dealings with different businesses.
Companies are ranked on a simple A+ (highest) to F (lowest) letter-grade scale representing BBB’s degree of confidence in the business and how it interacts with its customers.
This rank is based on a score that measures factors such as:
- The type of business and whether it might be operating in violation of the law.
- How long the company has been in operation.
- Advertising issues (e.g., inaccurate claims).
- The transparency of the company’s business practices.
- Any failures to honor commitments to BBB, including mediation settlements and arbitration awards.
- Complaint history, which covers the number and nature of any issues raised against the company as well as how long they take to resolve them.
- Licensing and government actions taken against the company.
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Enterprises looking to get BBB accreditation must meet several initial eligibility requirements and pay an annual fee directly to the bureau.
The Evidence for BBB Rating as a Ranking Factor
Search Quality Raters Guidelines (QRGs), given to Google contractors who run manual evaluations of search engine results pages (SERPs), ensure that the algorithms are doing what they need to be.
In July 2018, Google made substantial changes to their QRGs and placed a larger focus on user safety regarding sites they prioritized in ranking.
On August 1, 2018, Google rolled out a broad core algorithm update that impacted many sites.
Many previously popular health and medical sites took a drastic ranking dive. SEO experts at the time noted a correlation between these and poor BBB ratings.
Beyond that, BBB, alongside other third-party review sites, are frequently mentioned in the QRGs as an indicator of trustworthy sites.
“For businesses, there are many sources of reputation information and reviews. Here are some examples: Yelp, Better Business Bureau, Amazon, and Google Shopping.”
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It adds, “please consider very low ratings on the BBB site to be evidence for a negative reputation,” which serves to highlight the importance of BBB rating for Google.
The Evidence Against BBB Rating as a Ranking Factor
In 2017, a Twitter user asked about the SEO benefits of adding Accreditation Badges (Trust Seals) to their site. When another user said that he doubted it, Google’s Gary Illyes responded, “I can confirm your doubt.”
Then, in 2018, Google’s John Mueller was asked the following in a video hangout:
“In the past, you explained that Googlebot or Google is not researching author backgrounds expertise, etc. Can you say the same thing for site reputation and Better Business Bureaus scores? For example, some believe that BBB ratings and reviews are used algorithmically with the latest core updates. That doesn’t make sense since the BBB is only for the US, Mexico, and Canada. I can’t imagine that Google would use a single source like that algorithmically when its algorithms are mainly global in nature.”
“I would venture to guess that you are correct that we wouldn’t use something like the BBB score for something like this. As far as I know, that’s certainly the case.”
He went on to add:
“There are various kinds of issues with regards to some of these sources of information about a business, about a website, and we need to make sure that we’re really reflecting what we think is actually relevant for users. Rather than blindly relying on some third parties’ ratings.“
See that discussion at 15:30 in the aforementioned video.
In 2020, Google’s Danny Sullivan was crystal clear in his response to another Twitter claim that Google uses BBB ratings to determine whether a site should rank.
“No, we don’t use BBB ratings as a ranking factor,” he tweeted.
BBB Rating as a Google Ranking Signal: Our Verdict
While the importance of trustworthiness for Google rankings is well established, there is no evidence that their algorithms consider BBB ratings a ranking factor.
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In fact, it wouldn’t really make all that much sense for them to do so given that BBB is only for the U.S., Mexico, and Canada and also requires that businesses pay for accreditation.
That doesn’t mean you should completely disregard BBB ratings.
Their prominence in the QRGs suggests that while BBB ratings may not be a direct ranking signal, Google respects them as a reliable measure of a company’s trustworthiness, so much so that they have factored them into their algorithmic quality control.
Featured image: Paulo Bobita/SearchEngineJournal