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rich results google search

Google downgrades visibility of HowTo and FAQ rich results

2023 appears to be a turbulent time for websites concerned about Google, which announced that it is downgrading the visibility of two forms of rich results: the HowTo and the FAQ.

FAQ-rich results are going to be phased out for a majority of websites. Meanwhile, HowTo is being completely removed from search results on mobile devices.

This article explores what this means for companies that have previously optimised their pages to benefit from rich results. As one door closes, another opens as a new opportunity for brands to prosper online.

What are Google rich results?

Google rich results are a search feature that prominently features webpage content and enhanced listings. As a result, rich results often provide extra traffic to those who have optimised their pages for it.

These two forms of rich results depend on structured data to trigger them, requiring extra work on the part of website content editors and developers to become eligible for these kinds of rich results: 

  • HowTo rich results are a specific kind of structured data that shows images and the steps for accomplishing a task.
  • FAQ rich results required publishers to create Q&A content specific to FAQs, including structured data for it.

Who still benefits from FAQs?

Google announced that it will only show FAQs from high-authority official government and health websites in order to provide users with a more reliable experience.

This news will be a setback for content writers who took care to add FAQ content and the necessary structured data to their pages.

For those that have previously implemented structured data, Google advises:

“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.”

Why are these changes important?

Websites may experience a decline in clicks from Google Search. Google Search Console performance reports will show the decline in clicks and analytics will show a drop in traffic.

Google explains: 

“This will be visible in the metrics shown for FAQ and How-To search appearances in the performance report, and in the number of impressions reported in the appropriate enhancement reports. 

This change does not affect the number of items reported in the enhancement reports. The search appearances, and the reports, will remain in Search Console for the time being.”

Do I need to remove my structured data?

There is no need to sift through website pages to restructure its data. While Google may be ignoring this data going forward, it is possible that other search engines still use it.

Structured data that’s not being used does not cause problems for Google Search, but it also no longer has visible effects in Google Search.

It’s still useful to maintain HowTo structured data because it’s not disappearing entirely. It will still be shown on desktop devices and is only going away for search results on mobile devices.

In summary

In regards to FAQs, Google is clearly prioritising more verified information for its rich results. Unless websites are government-run or health websites, FAQs should no longer be a focus for website managers and content creators.

HowTo’s are still relevant for all websites, they aren’t visible to mobile devices but still appear on desktop device searches. 

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