Google has announced that it is reducing the visibility of FAQ and HowTo information in its search results. The changes are expected to be rolled out globally over the next few days.
Google says that going forward, FAQ rich results will only be shown regularly for ‘well-known, authoritative government and health websites,’ with its algorithm automatically determining which sites fall under those categories.
Under Google’s revised approach to displaying rich snippets, HowTo rich results will no longer be displayed in Google’s mobile search results — they will be shown exclusively on desktop devices.
Do these changes make removal of Schema necessary?
Given these changes, many site owners who currently make use of FAQ and HowTo Schema markup may be wondering if they need to remove this code from their websites. The answer, according to Google, is no — the company’s advice on what to do with FAQ and HowTo structured data is as follows:
“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.”
Another reason to leave your Schema in place is because Google is not the only search engine out there — others may continue to use your Schema to show rich results in SERPs, or to help them index your content more accurately.
And finally, it’s worth pointing out that Google is saying that FAQ and HowTo rich results will no longer be shown regularly for most sites. That doesn’t mean they will never be shown — so to have some chance of your FAQ and HowTo information being surfaced in SERPs occasionally, it’s best not to delete the relevant markup for it.
The overall impact
It’s hard to predict exactly what the overall impact of this change is going to be — it will depend in no small part what Google replaces the FAQ or HowTo data in search results with.
For example, if the company decides to replace your FAQs with jump links (see screenshot below for an example), then the change could conceivably drive more clicks to your website (depending on whether or not you had included hyperlinks in your FAQs or not).
But the removal of FAQ and HowTo information from SERPs will result in more search results being displayed on screen at once — meaning that the competition for clicks will be higher. So equally, this change could lead to a reduction in traffic — it will depend on the context involved and the type of site you operate.
Google’s rationale for the FAQ and HowTo changes
As ever with Google, it’s hard to divine exactly why the company is rolling out these changes. Google states that they are part of an attempt to “provide a cleaner and more consistent search experience” — but this a fairly opaque explanation of why they are being made.
The aim may be to provide users (particularly mobile ones) with more immediately visible results to click on, or it could be to tackle abuse of FAQ and HowTo rich snippets by SEO-savvy website owners (both can be used to push other results further down the page or, where mobile search results are concerned, even below the fold).
And of course, given that Google’s business model is based around advertising, there may well be a revenue generating rationale behind the decision — it’s entirely possible that this way of presenting search results has been previously tested and, for whatever reason, shown to generate more ad income for the company.
Either way, site owners who make use of a lot of HowTo or FAQ Schema markup on their site are likely to see some significant changes to their traffic over the coming days — and not necessarily positive ones.
Related news: Google rolls out its August 2023 core update