Google recently announced that it will be reducing the visibility of two types Search Engine Result Page (SERP) Rich Results features:
- FAQ will be largely phased out for most websites.
- HowTo results are deprecated
Read on to see what this means for your Search Strategy.
[TIP] FAQ and HowTo rich results are search result features that may appear if you have FAQ schema or HowTo schema implemented on your webpage. They enhance your search listing by providing additional information to the user directly in the search results.
FAQ Shown Only for Government & Health Websites
Image Source: Google Search Console Documentation for FAQ Schema
What is a FAQ Rich Result?
A feature in Google Search that displays answers from your website's 'Frequently Asked Questions' (FAQ) page directly on the Google Search results (as shown above).
FAQ results are a way for your site to provide valuable information right on the search results page, increasing visibility and authority.
What's changed with FAQ Rich Results?
- FAQ rich results are only for authoritative, government and health websites.
- Eligible sites that meet Google's criteria for a "cleaner and more consistent search experience."
'How To' Rich Results are Deprecated
What is a 'How To' Rich Result?
A previous feature in Google search that provided a visual representation of the steps required to complete the task queried directly in the SERP and could also include images.
What's changed with 'How To' Rich Results?
- In early August, 'How To' Rich results were isolated to desktop only
- On September 14th, Google also deprecated 'How To' results from desktop as well to "continue our efforts to simplify Google's search results."
Why did Google make this change?
According to Google: To Simplify
The purpose of this update is to provide a "cleaner and more consistent search experience."
Seer's Take: To Live Into SGE
It’s worth considering that Google made these changes as they lean more into their Search Generative Experience (SGE), which launched in May 2023.
The goal of SGE is to “take more of the work out of searching” by using AI-powered search results.
Search result features such as FAQ, HowTo, Featured Snippet, and People Also Ask results may end up being replaced by SGE as Google strives to provide a more seamless user experience.
Image source: Google Blog
While Featured Snippets and People Also Ask results currently remain fair game (as of August 2023), it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see those disappear in favor of SGE in the near future.
Should I stop creating educational content?
The shift away from these types of rich results should not be a signal to stop creating educational content.
Addressing relevant user questions is still key if you want to appear in the organic search results or own other search result features. It's also worth noting that if these types of results are going to be cannibalized by SGE, you still want to show up there.
Even if Featured Snippets and People Also Ask questions are also eventually phased out, it’s important to note a couple things:
- From what we’ve seen, organic results still appear under the SGE panel, so they will continue to be valuable.
- Google SGE pulls its output from large language models (LLMs), which gather information from sources all over the web. The SGE panel even pulls in links to external sources, and the Google Blog notes that within the SGE, “you’ll also find helpful jumping-off points to web content and a range of perspectives that you can dig into”. Getting a link within the SGE panel will be valuable, and doing so will likely require you to create high-quality, trustworthy content on your site.
Should I stop implementing FAQ and HowTo schema?
We don’t recommend stopping.
Despite the reduction in rich results, adding schema to your website still helps search engines gather context on the content of the page by improving the overall machine-readability. Perhaps Google SGE will also use schema to better understand website content and inform its output. Schema is one way we can tell Google exactly what our page content covers, so why would we stop using it?
Continuing to include FAQ schema may even increase the chances of your content earning other search result features, such as People Also Ask questions or Featured Snippets, due to the ‘question and answer’ nature of the mark-up.
Search Engine Journal also points out that other search engines, such as Bing, may still use schema markup for the purpose of rich results.
In the announcement, Google stated “While you can drop this structured data from your site, there's no need to proactively remove it. Structured data that's not being used does not cause problems for Search, but also has no visible effects in Google Search.”
Since there’s no risk, relatively low effort, and potential benefits of continuing to implement FAQ schema within your site content, Seer recommends continuing to do so.
Potential Impact on Your Website
The reduction of these rich results may lead to fluctuations in your website’s organic performance. Click-through-rates are likely to take a hit on pages that used to display FAQ and HowTo rich results, which could impact your organic rankings and traffic.
We anticipate that metadata and other types of rich results will hold even greater importance as a way for your search listing to entice users to click through to your page.