In the dynamic landscape of SEO staying ahead of algorithm updates and search result feature changes is crucial to maintaining a strong online presence. The latest development causing ripples in the SEO community comes from Google's decision to downgrade the visibility of FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) rich results in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Announced on Google’s Search Central Blog on August 8th, 2023, the update comes hot on the heels of Google’s plans to introduce an A.I. response to their SERPs. In this article we cover Google’s rationale and the real-world impact of the FAQ rich snippet’s demise.
What are Google rich results?
A Google rich result (aka rich snippet or SERP feature) is any search result that differs from a standard blue link result. Rich results or SERPs features normally include other data taken from website pages or organic assets such as images, videos or additional text.
An FAQ rich result is a question and answer result that appears in organic search results pages (SERPs). The primary goal of these (and other) rich results is to enhance user experience by streamlining the search process, eliminating the hassle of browsing multiple web pages to find specific information.
FAQ snippets can lead to serious gains for website owners as it positions their site as a credible authority on the searched topic – a crucial first step in building trust among users.
On the surface, it seems to be an everybody-wins situation, which begs the question… why is Google reducing the visibility of FAQ rich results?
Why is Google reducing the visibility of FAQs in SERPs?
In typical Google fashion, the company’s reasoning behind the move away from FAQ rich results is vague, but there’s a lot we can extrapolate from their big-picture explanation.
The unexpected move comes almost entirely down to Google’s desire to develop a truly seamless search process for users. In their own words, it’s ‘to provide a cleaner and more consistent search experience.’
What does this mean? Well, it means we must come to terms with the idea that FAQ rich snippets are not as perfect as they seem. Sure, they’re great for site owners looking to boost visibility, credibility, and CTR, but users do not always enjoy such value on their end.
For instance, the length restrictions of FAQ rich results are often called into question. Google only has so much display real estate to work with, so answers often end up overly compacted and simplified resulting in them no longer being helpful. In addition – it may be that Google has taken this decision to prevent websites from over optimising and exploiting this type of rich snippet to boost visibility in organic search results.
We, and others in the industry, also feel this decision is likely related to the news of Google’s generative A.I. search response, announced earlier this year. We predict that continued developments in AI search results may have been a major contributor to Google taking the decision to downgrade this type of rich snippet.
And let’s not forget that advertising is crucial to Google’s business model, so it could well be that tests have shown a search results reshuffle has the potential to bolster ad revenue.
Where is this happening?
The visibility of FAQ rich snippets has been reduced to near zero on a global scale and in all languages. It’s a sign that Google has a lot of faith in its decision and that the change is here to stay.
Side Note: If you’re still seeing FAQ rich results, it’s because Google is performing a ‘small holdback experiment’. You can expect to follow the rest of us into the new world of Google any day now.
Who will still benefit from FAQ rich snippets?
FAQ rich results are not completely disappearing. Google is reserving the privilege for ‘well-known, authoritative government and health websites.’
Eligibility will be assessed automatically by Google, and if your site fails to meet their strict requirements, your rich results, as Google puts it, ‘will no longer be shown regularly.’
What impact will this have on your site’s performance?
While it’s too early to say with absolute certainty, FAQ metrics in Google Search Console will be affected by the removal of FAQ rich results from SERPs.
Google themselves have said as much, warning that enhancement reports will also register far fewer FAQ impressions. However, we can rest assured that search appearances and the reports themselves are here to stay for the time being.
In terms of long-term impact, those with a high amount of FAQ rich results will experience reduced click-through-rates, and, consequently, slight dips in traffic. Although, we expect Google will replace the FAQ rich result with another efficient, user-friendly form of navigation that compensates for the absence of the snippet we’re accustomed to now.
Should you abandon FAQs in your content marketing strategy?
As far as Google is concerned, the primary goal of your content marketing strategy, besides generating revenue, should be to provide value to users, a sentiment confirmed by Google’s 2022 ‘Helpful Content’ update.
With this in mind, it is still worthwhile using the FAQ format on your site, as this content and these types of pages can still be an efficient way of helping your users learn more about your business, products and services.
Should you retroactively remove FAQ structured data from your site?
Whether you remove FAQ schema from your site is largely inconsequential in Google’s eyes. Even though it no longer has any visible effects in Google’s SERPs, ‘structured data that’s not being used does not cause problems for Search.’
As a result of the above, and below two reasons – we advise against prioritising removing Schema from your website:
Unless you have a way of automating mass schema removal, it can be very time consuming
If Google is distancing itself from FAQ schema, it doesn’t mean that other search engines are, so it’s worth leaving them be, just in case
This wouldn’t be the first time a Google update has left site owners with a sense of digital whiplash, and it certainly won’t be the last.
The key to enduring these events is the ability to adapt, developing new strategies that lean into Google’s grand plans. If you require support in developing your SEO or content strategy is order to be able to adapt to Google updates, contact us today.