Way back in August 2019, Google announced the introduction of three new additions to Schema markup (structured data) that it supports: FAQ, How To and Q&A schema. At the time, we wrote about the likely impact of these new schema types, and this is covered in the post below, however, three years on, we also want to look at the impact of those new schema types and discuss whether it is still a valid tactic for SEOs hoping to drive more organic traffic to their site or to their client’s sites.
At the time of their launch, one of the biggest concerns for SEOs was the likely impact of this new markup on click-through rates. Whilst there were undoubtedly huge benefits when it came to the way pages would be displayed in search results, with those results returning one of these specifically marked-up pieces of content achieving a much larger slice of the SERP real estate, SEOs were concerned that a searcher’s needs would be met by the content served up in the search results rather than them clicking through to the website to find out more.
At Digital Hothouse, we weighed up all the potential benefits and drawbacks for each of our clients, and in the majority of cases, we felt that adding this type of markup to relevant content was the best approach. Whilst there was a risk that fewer people might click through to our client’s websites if their query was answered by the content found in the SERPs, we believed that the additional real estate in the SERP, coupled with the fact that the marked-up snippets could only contain a limited amount of content, meant that searchers would feel more confident in finding the answers they were searching for by clicking through to a website that provided this type of content in the search results.
Since the roll-out of all three types of schema markup, there have been a few revisions to the way that the markup is displayed in the search results. Out of the three types of schema released back in August 2019, FAQ schema has also quickly become the go-to markup used by SEOs to enhance search listings and in many cases, to drive more clicks through to their website or to clients’ websites.
One of the main reasons for the growth of FAQ schema is the fact that it can be used across any type of page, not just FAQ pages. When FAQ schema was first launched, many SEOs applied the markup to existing FAQ pages or created new FAQ pages specifically so they could be marked up. What quickly evolved was the use of FAQs on product pages, landing pages, blog content and more.
When FAQ schema was first launched, you would also often see four or five examples of the marked-up FAQs appearing in the search results. This has since been cut down, with a maximum of two FAQs now being displayed in the search results. This means SEOs have to think about the primary questions they want to appear in the search results when they mark up their FAQs, focusing on those they believe will have the most positive impact and lead to more people clicking through to the website.
Before we dig into some of the more recent updates and results of testing FAQ schema, let’s take a look back at the original post we published back in 2019:
What is Schema markup (or structured data)?
Whilst most SEOs will be well versed with Schema markup, in case you have never heard of it or you are not currently using it, Schema is a structured data vocabulary that defines entities, actions and relationships online. Schema helps search engines to better understand the nature of your content and in turn, serve up a better user experience.
There are hundreds of types of Schema, not all of which are supported by Google (and other search engines) but all of which help to provide context to those search engines about the content you are serving. The most common types of Schema we see include:
- Local Business
These are all types of Schema supported by Google which help to enhance the visibility of websites within the SERPs, ultimately leading to an enhanced user experience. You can find out more about the different types of Schema on the Schema.org website.
Let us take a closer look at the three new types of Schema markup now supported by Google.
Perhaps one of the most appealing Schema types, FAQ markup is reserved for pages that contain a list of questions and answers to any particular topic. This means that the markup is not limited to your FAQ section – if you have FAQs that sit on your product pages, you can apply the FAQ Schema to those questions and answers.
One of the reasons why the FAQ markup is so appealing is the amount of real estate companies can capture in the SERPs. By applying the FAQ Schema, you can create extremely rich results which can help you to dominate the SERP. If you already have content that ranks well and contains FAQs, adding this markup can help to push competitor listings further down the results page.
However, before you go ahead and start adding FAQ content to all your pages, remember this: by providing rich data to be displayed in the SERPs, you are potentially taking away valuable organic clicks from your website (see below). People may no longer need to visit your website if they can find everything they need direct from the SERP so you may want to closely consider the use of FAQ markup and the pages it will be rolled out on.
Pro Tip: a really great tip from Lily Ray at Path Interactive is that you can add links to your FAQ answers, providing another opportunity for users to click through to your website. These should only be used if the link adds value to the answer and that link must also be present on the web page, not just in the markup.
Another new type of Schema supported by Google is HowTo which can be used on pages containing instructions on ‘how to’ do something.
Like all of these three markup types, HowTo markup comes with specific ‘dos and don’ts’ that need to be followed, otherwise, you could find yourself on the wrong end of a Google Manual Penalty. You can check out Google’s Developer Tools website for more guidance on the rules around applying HowTo Schema to your site.
Similar to FAQ Schema, HowTo markup presents a good opportunity to maximise your SERP real estate. There are two different ways that content marked up with HowTo Schema displays in the search results: image thumbnails and an accordion that displays chronological steps. Both present good opportunities to display your content directly within the search results, however as with FAQ markup, you should try some tests around the use of HowTo markup and the impact on your clicks and rankings. If people no longer need to visit your site to find out ‘how to’ do something, then you may notice a sharp drop off in your organic traffic.
It’s important not to confuse FAQ and Q&A Schema when you are marking up your content. The biggest difference between the two is that Q&A Schema is applied to content where users are given the opportunity to submit answers to questions. FAQ content on the other hand is purely for static content which is created by the website owner with no user contributions.
Another distinguishing factor for Q&A Schema is that it should only be applied to pages that contain a single question as the main focus of the page, not a variety of questions. Q&A Schema is therefore really good for forums and other online messaging boards – sites like Quora are perfect for this type of content and Schema markup.
Q&A Schema doesn’t take up quite as much real estate as FAQ and HowTo markup, however, it does present a highly visual and rich results within the SERPs. Google recommends linking each individual answer to a question in order to improve the user experience and allow users to click through directly from the SERP to specific answers displayed, rather than clicking to the question page and having to trawl through all the answers.
What do the results say?
Since their launch in 2019, we have seen many changes to the way that FAQ schema in particular is displayed. Whilst we have seen anecdotal evidence of the results of implementing FAQ schema to content on our client’s websites, thankfully, there has been testing carried out on a much larger scale by some of the industry-leading sites including SEMrush and Search Pilot.
These experiments were created to test whether or not FAQ schema has a positive impact on the overall click-through rate of sites displaying the markup in the search results.
SEMRush’s test involved removing FAQ schema from an e-commerce website that already had FAQ markup appearing in the search results. They wanted to test whether removing the FAQ schema would lead to an increase in the overall click-through rate or whether there would be a negative impact.
The e-commerce website in question hypothesized that FAQ schema was having a positive effect on organic traffic, but they wanted to validate what would happen if they remove the FAQ structured data.
Using SplitSignal, they discovered that removing the FAQ schema resulted in a negative effect of -5.3% on organic clicks to tested pages.
Search Pilot has also carried out extensive testing of FAQ schema. Over various tests, they found that adding FAQ schema has most consistently led to positive outcomes in terms of CTR, with 67% of all FAQ schema tests that they have run having been positive.
Search Pilot’s testing, however, has also led to findings that suggest that FAQ schema is not necessarily the silver bullet that all SEOs hope for. Their testing revealed that uplifts tend to be higher on mobile than on desktop which is not a great surprise given the amount of additional real estate FAQ markup takes up on mobile devices.
They also found that since the launch of FAQ schema, things have changed a little. Initially, multiple types of schema markup could be displayed on a single listing in the SERP. This would typically mean review and price schema on e-commerce sites would display along with FAQ markup. This, however, changed in 2021 and now, Google will only display one or the other. This means that for some e-commerce sites, the value of displaying price and review schema in the SERPs may be much more than FAQ schema for example.
The questions you include within the markup also impact the CTR. Now that Google only shows two FAQs, choose the first two questions in your list wisely if you choose to include more than two on a given page. Search Pilot found that including an FAQ which included keywords with higher search volume led to a small increase in organic traffic.
FAQ schema is still an important strategy for SEOs to pursue and many of the tests show positive results when it comes to both CTR and organic traffic. As we have discussed, you need to carefully assess which type of markup is likely to lead to the most positive impact on your CTR, as well as test the order in which you display the FAQs on your pages, however, with some testing, you should be able to generate positive results as long as your questions are adding value to your visitors and to people searching.