Google’s solution to search results dominated by FAQ Schema
When FAQ Schema first launched, it was an exciting time for SEO. But the excitement soon turned to frustration (for some), with the guidelines for implementation being so broad they applied to just about any page on the web.
Earlier this year, I wrote an article about how to add How-to Schema to your content. I followed that up with a piece on FAQs for FAQ Schema.
Both involved a fun experiment that I referred to as “Schema Inception,” where I explained how each functioned, while marking up the content with the corresponding JSON-LD script.
A section with my FAQ Schema post related to guidelines for implementation, cited from a conversation I had with Google.
The example used in my question was about whether a page that wasn’t specifically about “FAQs” (i.e. a page about “car insurance” more generally) qualified for the markup. The response was yes, the page did qualify.
Since I published this post back in May, uptake on the feature has skyrocketed:
The above shows growth over the past 30 days in the MozCast 10K query set. As you can see, the increase has been steady, which has been apparent to many in the industry.
But will that trend continue? And how is Google policing this feature to ensure 10 blue links don’t turn into 10 FAQ this-result-stinks?
These questions and more will be answered in this post, including examples I’ve come across in the wild or had shared with me by the SEO community.
Google’s solution: A maximum of 3 FAQ results, appearing on the first page only
That’s the answer to both questions. Google will only show a maximum of three FAQ results on the first page. But keep reading, there’s more to the story. Knowing how this happens could avoid a lot of confusion.
The idea of a three result max was first proposed by Peter Mindenhall, spurred on by a question from Andy Simpson. But to add to this, there appears to be a first page filter at play, rather than just the query.
Looking at SEMrush historical data, I can see that since the feature launched, there hasn’t been more than three FAQ results on the first page. This makes me think that the filtering was a feature right from the start.
Let’s explore this idea further first, then we can get into the trend predictions for the FAQ SERP treatment for the foreseeable future.
So for a standard SERP with 10 organic results, here’s what this could look like for some categories which are using FAQ Schema heavily:
The above screenshot shows 5 out of 10 results, with results 1, 2 and 5 using the markup. Results 3 and 4 are not using it, so there’s no FAQ SERP treatment.
If for instance result 4 was using the markup, this would mean result 5 would not receive the SERP treatment for this particular query (despite no technical issues on their end).
But this is not just exclusively for the 10 results on the first page, the same applies for if your search settings are set to 100 results per page.
There are however no hard and fast rules for this effect. I’ve seen edge cases where a result may not show, even though it’s appearing on the “first page.”
So in short, if you’re not ranking on the first page, then you’re unlikely to be given the opportunity of receiving the SERP treatment. And for the vast majority of searchers, this is a top 10 situation.
If you’re ranking in the top 10 and you’re using FAQ Schema and there is less than three results above yours with the treatment, but your result isn’t appearing, then it could be something unrelated.
A few possible scenarios include:
- Google has decided to filter out your result because the query match isn’t relevant enough with the content on your page
- The guidelines for implementation are being breached in some form (maybe your content is too promotional in nature)
- There is a technical issue with your implementation. Use Google’s Rich Results Test and Structured Data Testing Tool to troubleshoot.
Will the trend of FAQ Schema eventually reach outer space?
Based on the dataset from Moz, it’s unlikely that the trend will continue at the same rate as actual FAQ Schema implementation.
The Moz graph shows when the SERP treatment is visible in search results. But remember, there’s only a max of three results that can show for a query.
This means once the 10K query set reaches a (hypothetical) three results per query, that will be the maximum that the tool can report on.
In terms of actual implementation of the markup, this will likely continue to rise. But if your page ranks lower than position 10 for any traffic-generating query, then it’s effectively a waste of time.
If you’re in that boat, focus on improving the rank of your page, then potentially explore the use of FAQ Schema. But remember, results aren’t guaranteed with this markup.
I’m still not a big fan of this markup. I don’t like that sites that didn’t previously have an FAQ section on their site now suddenly do, just so they can receive the SERP treatment.
It is a bit more comforting to know that 10 blue links won’t become 10 FAQ this-result-stinks. Instead, the smell will continue to be a more diluted version…
I don’t blame publishers for going overboard with this markup either (*cough* booking.com), when you’re faced with something like this above your page:
Any opportunity to get more space in search results is going to be taken advantage of, especially if it pushes organic result #2 lower down the page.
On this note, has anyone else noticed that the combination of FAQ Schema and a reviews snippet has become much more rare since the reviews update? That’s a big change.
Jonathan Jones explored this in a recent post on his blog, which I would recommend checking out.
Here’s one result that’s using a combination of Hotel Schema and FAQ Schema:
I suspect this combination will disappear for the above page at some point, due to the reviews update. Let’s wait and see what happens.
If you have a question about any of this, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.