How To Recover FAQ Rich Results (aka FAQ Snippets)

What’s the TL;DR summary?

  • In mid July 2020, Google became more discerning in what FAQ rich results it shows
  • Analysis shows FAQ’s that don’t closely relate to the searcher’s query don’t show anymore
  • Creating FAQ questions that have a strong correlation to the ranking terms for the page result in recovery of FAQ Snippets/Rich Results for those terms
  • Simple process to recover using Google Search Console Performance Report data:
    1. Filter by target page
    2. Filter queries by position less than 15-20 (FAQ rich results only show on page 1)
    3. Sort by impressions descending (to maximise FAQ snippets showing)
    4. Use the terms listed in your FAQ questions

What Happened to FAQ Rich Results in July 2020?

Around Mid-July 2020, A number of SEO’s around the world began reporting a sharp decline of FAQ’s in the SERPS. As FAQPage structured data is one of the key capabilities of our SEO Rich Snippets App for BigCommerce we were understandably concerned and set out to see if this had occurred for our own customers. A number of them had really invested effort with FAQ’s and marked up many of their category, brand & blog pages so it would be easy to ascertain any impact.

Alas, it became readily apparent that they too had been significantly affected with major declines in most. Below are some examples of their sitewide FAQ Rich Results Metrics in GSC – Ouch!

Why Did FAQ Snippets Disappear?

After first checking if there were any validation issues with the FAQ structured data (there wasn’t), I set out to discover the “new” criteria for showing FAQ Snippets. By comparing the FAQ snippets which still showed and those that disappeared, I began to see a pattern emerge at a page/query level where the FAQ is now required to contain questions that are relevant & ranking for the page. Those FAQ’s that fit that criteria were unaffected, whilst FAQ’s that didn’t match, no longer appeared.

How do you Recover FAQ Rich Results in the SERPs?

I contacted a few of our customers that were significantly affected, asking them to add some questions that included the search terms that the pages ranked for. Within minutes of reindexing, we began to see FAQ Snippets reappear. This trend has continued – the following GSC charts show individual page recovery from the 3 different sites shown above.

*The last example here was slightly different in that an FAQ added never displayed FAQ Rich Results until ranking terms were added to the questions

Why is Google reducing FAQ Snippets?

Quite frankly, Google was handing out FAQ Snippets like candy prior to mid-July. This led to many non-relevant FAQ’s appearing in searches which now no longer occurs. In our opinion, this has improved the user’s search experience. Interestingly, different questions can appear for the same page, depending on the search query used. This highlights the possibility of having a collection of questions that deal with different facets of the page, with Google showing those relevant to the search.

Our analysis of this new behaviour was seemingly substantiated by Google’s John Mueller in the English Google Webmaster Central office-hours from August 7, 2020:

With regards to the FAQ markup in general, one of the things that I’ve noticed people talking about online is that we’re showing fewer of these in the search results. And that’s something from my point of view, that’s kind of natural development, where we try to find the right balance between showing these everywhere and showing these for pages where it kind of makes more sense. And that’s something that generally doesn’t have any kind of effect from the markup that you have on the pages themselves. It’s really more that suddenly everyone has added FAQ markup to their pages and we can’t show every search result with FAQ markup. So we have to kind of fine-tune which of the ones– which queries, which pages we should be showing the FAQ rich result types for.

John Mueller, Google

Which questions should I add to show FAQ Snippets?

We suggest the following simple process using the Google Search Consoles Performance Report:

  1. Filter by target page
  2. Select Queries tab
  3. Filter by position less than 15-20 (FAQ rich results only show on page 1)
  4. Sort by impressions descending (to maximise FAQ snippets showing)
  5. Use the terms displayed in questions*
    *extra filtering out of terms that are irrelevant or better suited to another page may be required

Did you notice anything else new about FAQ Rich Result behaviour?

Yes, here’s some things we noticed along the way but weren’t investigated thoroughly, so please let me know if wrong!

  • Google no longer shows the “Read More” dropdown for extra questions (except for site searches)
  • Often 2-3 questions are chosen, but 4 questions are still achievable for some searches
  • Google chooses from the list of existing FAQ’s based on relevance, not position within FAQ
  • Emoji’s in questions are hit and miss – in one case a shrug 🤷‍♀️ displayed, but not other people-based emojis. I suspect it’s a relevance thing.

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