On August 8th, 2023, Google announced that FAQ and How-to rich results would be shown less frequently in the SERP in the next week to provide a “cleaner and more consistent search experience.”
FAQ rich results will only be available for “well-known, authoritative government and health websites”. Other sites won’t receive FAQ rich results “regularly” (which is not the same as saying “ever”). We have yet to see what Google considers an authoritative site or health site, but this is one of the many questions we endeavour to answer in the coming weeks.
How-to rich results, on the other hand, will exclusively appear on desktop and no longer be visible to mobile users. That said, with Google’s mobile-first indexing, websites should still include HowTo markup on both their mobile and desktop site to achieve the How-to rich result on desktop.
Even though this change will not have an impact on search rankings, websites that leverage FAQ and How-to rich results will likely see a decline in traffic and impressions from these rich results on the Google Search Console performance report.
This announcement garnered strong reactions from the SEO community, as many mourned the loss of some of their best-performing (and content-heavy) rich results. In response to some of the tweets, John Mueller referenced “the tragedy of the commons”, and other SEOs remarked on the overuse of FAQs, in particular, as “spammy”.
Independent of abuse / over-use, things can change on the web / with users / with focus shifts, and it’s important to clean up from time to time. (And it’s a good reminder to read up about the tragedy of the commons :-)).
— John Mueller (official) · #MaybeABot (@JohnMu) August 8, 2023
But Mueller also recommended SEOs “really focus on structured data to make your pages eligible for a specific treatment in search. Additional structured data can be useful to understand the content better, but [he] wouldn’t assume there’s a visible effect / ranking change.”
What Schema Performance Analytics is Showing
We are monitoring the industry data from Schema Performance Analytics on a daily basis to see when the changes announced take place.
We have seen varied results after August 8th. We have seen drops in FAQ performance in some of our clients.
As of August 14, we’ve seen a decline in FAQ performance on mobile for customers in the Healthcare Industry, while FAQ performance on desktop remains stable. Stay tuned for more updates on FAQ performance.
Schema App Perspective on this Change
Here are our key takeaways from this change:
- Focus on targeting a diverse range of rich results.
- Continue adding connected schema markup to support machine understanding.
- Create quality content that prioritizes a human audience.
These three recommendations are already considered best practices here at Schema App and what we already work on with our customers.
Focus on targeting a diverse range of rich results
At Schema App, we’ve seen lots of fluctuations from various rich results over time. As such, we always recommend diversifying the rich results in your portfolio.
Google’s goal is to provide searchers with the best quality results, and we’ve seen them make countless changes to the algorithm or the SERP to inch closer to that goal.
Whenever Google makes a change like this, we’ve been able to detect the drop in performance and test solutions to help our customers overcome them. For example, FAQs not being granted unless questions matched keywords exactly or videos needing to be the main content of the page to achieve a Video rich result. Our approach to this announcement is no different.
FAQ rich results have historically performed well for many of our customers. It brought more website content to the SERP and allowed the inclusion of HTML to improve the readability of the answers and embed hyperlinks. We will continue to monitor FAQ rich results to see who Google awards this rich result to and look for opportunities for our customers to qualify for it.
In the meantime, our customer success managers will work closely with our customers to identify other rich result opportunities and ways to improve their content to achieve a wider range of rich results.
Continue adding connected Schema Markup to support machine understanding
At its core, Schema Markup is a code that helps machines better understand the content on your page.
As Google and Bing accelerate their AI search capabilities, they will need to overcome the challenge of AI hallucinations to achieve a reasonable level of efficacy. By adding Schema Markup to your site, you can provide search engines with reliable, structured content that they can use to train and hone the accuracy of their Large Language Models.
Google might have eliminated the FAQ rich result but there is still an opportunity for your organization to appear in their Search Generative Experience (SGE).
If you want Google to provide an accurate answer regarding your organization in their new AI search experience, adding robust, semantic Schema Markup on your site is necessary. Doing so will allow your organization to generate a marketing knowledge graph from the content on your site. AI search engines can then use this knowledge graph to provide users with more accurate information about your organization.
We will be sharing more insights on the situation as Google rolls out the changes to FAQ and How-To rich results in the next week. Our team is also actively testing various alternative solutions to ensure our customers continue to see great results from implementing Schema Markup.
If you have more questions, please reach out to your assigned customer success manager or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Martha van Berkel is the co-founder and CEO of Schema App, an end-to-end Semantic Schema Markup solution provider based in Ontario, Canada. She focuses on helping SEO teams globally understand the value of Schema Markup and how they can leverage Schema Markup to grow search performance and develop a reusable content knowledge graph that drives innovation. Before starting Schema App, Martha was a Senior Manager responsible for online support tools at Cisco. She is a Mom of two energetic kids, loves to row, and drinks bulletproof coffee.