Recent buzz in the SEO community has revolved around the significant changes to Google search engine results page with the release of a Google Core Algorithm Update on August 22nd 2023 and changes to FAQ and HowTo rich results.
Google Search Results Changing: A Cleaner Look
On August 8, 2023, Google announced changes to the visibility of FAQ and HowTo rich results. Specifically, FAQ rich results will be shown less frequently across search result snippets and HowTo rich results are limited to desktop devices only. Google stated that the reasoning behind the announcement is “to provide a cleaner and more consistent search experience.”
Did Google’s HowTo and FAQ Rich Results Really Change?
Yes, Google’s HowTo and FAQ rich results did change. For most websites, the change occurred in late August or early September. By the end of August 2023, many FAQ and HowTo rich results had been removed from Google Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs), including several that were showing up for Americaneagle.com that are no longer displaying on Google search results. By September 7th most FAQ and HowTo rich results are now gone. This is dependent on the search terms and industry.
Example of Google Removing FAQ Rich Results
Here is a screenshot of the FAQ schema rich results presented on August 16th.
Here is a screenshot of the same page from September 7th, now missing the FAQ rich result.
Does This Mean We Shouldn’t Use FAQ Schema?
Schema, even if it does not impact the visible search results, will help Google to better understand your webpage’s content and has been shown to also impact rankings. With this in mind, we will continue to recommend and deploy FAQ schema for key pages, but may not be as high of a priority as other schema markup that does impact rich snippet results.
The Impact on FAQ & Google HowTo Queries
So, what do these changes actually mean? Now, FAQ rich results (from FAQ page structured data) are only shown for high-quality, authoritative government and health websites, according to Google. This means that for all other websites, rich results will not be shown regularly.
The primary impact of this is that the user needs to visit the website to read associated FAQs, but organic results may have a little less visibility to users. That being said, click-through-rates (CTRs) may actually improve with a cleaner looking result page.
As for HowTo structured data, rich results are only shown for desktop users, not mobile device users. In its announcement, Google said that “with mobile indexing, Google indexes the mobile version of a website as the basis for indexing: to have How To rich results shown on desktop, the mobile version of your website must include the appropriate markup.”
Another Change to Google Search Results That Helps
A caveat to this change is that Google made other updates to search results and is featuring many more sitelink extensions that align with on-page topical headings. In this example, we see Google has selected three sections of our Kentico Development Services page to highlight with Sitelinks. This is occurring much more frequently and is likely associated with Google’s Core Algorithm Updates. This corresponds with Google wanting a cleaner result page, while still wanting to enhance results for user experience.
Monitoring Your Google Search Changes 2023
If your website is impacted by the new changes, there shouldn’t be much of a change to traffic to your website. This doesn’t seem to have impacted corresponding rankings at all, so your organic search traffic likely will not change. You can Google Search Console reports for schema to see what pages Google has crawled that contain FAQ schema. You can then view these pages to see if your results have changed to remove the FAQ schema. Despite these changes, there’s no need to remove structure data from your website. “Structured data that’s not being used does not cause problems for Search, but also has no visible effects in Google Search,” Google explained.
Delving Deeper: Understanding Google Rich Results
If you’re reading this and aren’t really sure what rich results are and what the changes will be, continue reading. Google rich results, also known as rich snippets or structured data, are enhanced search results that provide more information to users beyond the basic title of the page, URL, and meta description. Rich results were created to ensure that the search results populated are informative, visually appealing, and allow users to better understand what a specific webpage contains before clicking it. This type of enhanced search results is achieved by adding structured data markup to the HTML of a webpage.
Structured Data Markup: The Building Blocks of Rich Results
Structured data markup is a standardized format that provides additional meaning and context to what’s on a webpage. This markup enables search engines to better understand the page’s contents, attributes, and relationships. As a result of this understanding, search engines, like Google, are able to display more detailed and relevant information in the search results.
Google’s Global Rollout: FAQ & HowTo Updates
Google’s update was rolled out globally, in all languages and countries. Remember, it’s not considered a ranking change, so it’s business as usual for now. Google did say that there will be a small holdback experience, which corresponds with what we’re seeing with updates to search engine result pages (SERPs) in late August and early September. As Google continues to make updates to search results and rich results, it will be interesting to see the impact it’ll have. Stay tuned!