Google recently launched a new update that limits the number of FAQs that appear on the first page of search engine results pages (SERPs). This new development received both acclaim and criticism from marketers and business owners. To understand this mixed reaction, let’s begin by defining FAQs and explaining why they matter.
What Are FAQs?
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) are a list of questions and answers commonly asked about various topics such as product features, shipping and handling, and return policies. Business owners and digital marketers use FAQs to provide visitors with in-depth information that will improve their customer and user experience.
FAQs are practical search engine optimization (SEO) tools that also influence a website’s Google search listing. The search results often include an FAQ rich snippet, which is a structured mark-up including questions and answers related to the user’s search query. The user can click on each question to unfold the solution on a linked page, increasing traffic and engagement.
However, Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed on Twitter that FAQ-rich results are now limited to two per search listing. Sullivan further indicated that the development was not meant to sabotage the search results, but rather to improve the relevance of the results. Since the update is still rolling out, the number of FAQ-rich results differs across the world.
Why Did Google Limit FAQs?
The popularity of FAQs as SEO tools has prompted many websites to start using them, which has increased the number of FAQ results showing on the SERPs. As a result, this has provided searchers with many questions and answers that were irrelevant to their interests, causing confusion and frustration. Google’s algorithms are structured to meet searchers’ needs, and a negative user experience undermines this goal. Thus, by limiting the number of FAQs shown on the results list, Google hopes to provide users with alternative links to pages featuring more relevant content related to their interests.
In most cases, FAQs are created from a marketing standpoint and may fail to present in-depth information on frequently asked questions. In this case, the marketers and customer service teams use them as a tool to provide important information to potential and existing consumers without considering what they are interested in. Thus, when these pages dominate the organic search results, they limit consumers’ access to relevant content that directly answers their search queries.
Google’s John Muller explained that limiting FAQs to two per page aims to create features that improve the usefulness of rich results. Muller stated that Google avoids overloading the search results by frequently fine-tuning how often such types of structured data are shown.
Another reason that prompted Google to limit the FAQs in the search results was to increase the visible number of websites on the first page. FAQs take up space on the first page of search results, pushing other relevant sites lower and onto the second page. A report by Marta Kagan indicates that 75% of Google searchers do not scroll past the first page of the search results. By limiting the structured data results, Google provides searchers with more options on the first page to browse and gain relevant details associated with their specific search queries.
Also, the competition to rank highly on the first page reflects marketers’ enormous efforts to attract clicks and traffic that benefits their respective companies. Although Google’s algorithms are structured to fit searchers’ needs, this new feature will increase a website’s chances of showing up in organic search results.
There were some arguments that these changes were implemented in response to many companies and websites manipulating FAQ rich snippets to take up space on the search results page. Previously, the search results page had up to ten FAQs from high-ranking pages. As a result, FAQs were being used as an SEO strategy to push competition further down the search engine results page.
However, Danny Sullivan responded that Google’s decision to limit FAQs wasn’t targeting this competitive “strategy” but instead was a natural move to display the structured data. He provided an explanation, indicating the following:
“I’ve seen several people suggest this is something we did because of SEO gaming. It’s not. SEOs couldn’t game how many we displayed. Our automated systems did that. We just review things all the time and determined showing up to two was most useful when we show at all.”
Sullivan further explained that FAQs are not always valuable for increasing a website’s visibility. Google’s automated system must determine that the FAQ content is helpful. In response to a question regarding why a particular FAQ may appear over another, Sullivan tweeted that, like any other structured data, the FAQs showing on the search results must have been determined as useful by Google’s systems. Since not all FAQs appear on the search results pages, Sullivan explained that the technique is not always the best SEO strategy.
What Is the Implication of the Google FAQs Limit on Your Marketing?
Despite this change, digital marketers can and should continue using the structured data FAQ. Limited FAQ-rich results do not influence how websites implement FAQ pages to provide potential and existing customers with appropriate answers to commonly asked questions. However, it does imply that internet users may not necessarily see all the questions and answers unless they click on the URL.
According to John Muller and Danny Sullivan’s explanation, the updated Google algorithm systems intend to improve searchers’ experiences by providing the most valuable pages on the SERPs. Therefore, the two FAQs appearing on the first search results page will give the most relevant answers to the searcher’s queries. As a digital marketer, you should optimize your content to ensure your FAQ shows as a rich snippet featuring or referring to relevant content within your site.
This new limit increases competition for websites publishing similar content. Previously, top-ranking websites had several FAQ questions, which pushed other sites below them to the next page. However, with this change, the listing will be more condensed, allowing competing pages on the second page to be more visible on the first page. Thus, the change means more visibility for businesses and increased competition for the top-ranking websites.
Does Google’s New Limit Change How You Work with Structured Data?
The key to optimizing for Google’s new features is to stay up to date with new information. John Muller and Danny Sullivan identify this change as a natural development intended to improve how the search engine works. As a digital marketer, you should closely follow the information provided by Google and other marketers to adjust your website accordingly.
We can theorize that having multiple types of FAQs can help outperform your competitors since they respond to different searches accordingly. The key is to track user searches and adjust the FAQs to match users’ interests. Google recommends that the FAQ page should not be used for advertising, however. Therefore, instead of creating questions and answers from a marketing point of view, base it on searchers’ actual needs. This perspective supports that the content within an FAQ needs to include relevant keywords the target audience is searching.
The best point of action is to develop quality, optimized content and website information to increase the chances of qualifying your answers as FAQ-rich snippets. If you need help understanding the changes made to Google’s algorithm to maximize your marketing efforts, be sure to reach out to an experienced SEO agency to help you navigate today’s ever-changing online sphere.