Tutorial: CTR Boosting with FAQPage Snippets!

You have probably already noticed that the search engine Google has introduced a new type of content. These are so-called FAQ pages, i.e. a list of questions and answers that you can mark up for Google using structured data within your website. The data type was presented at a Google event in Singapore in mid-2018 and was officially introduced in May 2019.

My colleague Finn has solved this really cleverly by implementing the FAQPage datatype. For example, a #2 ranking is turned into a de facto #2 and #3 ranking and the actual number 3 slides down a bit. Especially in the mobile version the whole thing looks even more impressive.

Of course, this is only a real lever if you are already at position 1, 2 or 3 for a keyword and can take up much more space in the SERPs with the additional FAQs. I don’t think that you can automatically achieve a better ranking by integrating the FAQs.

How can I use the FAQPage scheme for my SEO?

My strategy is as follows:

  1. Select a search term for which you already rank in the top 3.
  2. Look in the SERPs for user-questions-also-boxes and via HyperSuggest’s wh-question module for questions about your keyword and choose questions that make sense for you.
  3. Answer these questions in a way that adds value and really helps the users.
  4. In your answers, create an incentive or reason to visit your site anyway, for example by referring to an important checklist or similar. (By the way, I’m currently testing whether you can include links in your answers via HTML code. I have actually already seen this in a US example somewhere).
  5. Add the resulting list of questions and answers to your already ranking page in HTML and as JSON+LD.

According to Saijo George, an SEO from Australia, the following HTML elements work:

A link in the FAQPage scheme
  • headings – h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6
  • links – a
  • line breaks – br
  • lists – ol, ul, li
  • paragraph – p, div
  • bold – b, strong
  • italics – i, em

Of course the Anchor is especially exciting here. As a test I have integrated <a> with a link to an OTHER domain.

And see there: Even external links are currently still shown in the answers directly in the SERPs. I assume, however, that this will not be the case for much longer. Google already ignores some FAQs that contain HTML markup, but currently even shows special characters and even emoticons like stars.

Google’s filter for FAQPages markup

But not everything is simply displayed. Google has now added numerous restrictions and filters. What I know, I have already collected here for you:

1. maximum 3 hits with FAQ snippets

This filter is about Google not showing more than 3 FAQ snippets at the same time in the search results. This filter was applied from the beginning, apparently to prevent all 10 blue links in the results from being dominated by the scheme. So if you rank at the bottom of the first page and already have 3 pages with the scheme in front of you, your award will not be displayed.

2. no FAQs on page 2

Google shows FAQPage scheme only on the first search results page! If you rank on the second page, the SERP award will not be displayed. So if you add the scheme to a page that does not have page 1 rankings, it is basically useless. However, in my opinion, implementing the FAQ scheme requires a relatively small investment of time and the goal should always be page 1 rankings anyway .

3. no HTML in the question

This is an interesting detail. Google’s guidelines say that you can use HTML in the ‘answer’, but don’t say you shouldn’t for the ‘question’.

Numerous SEOs have tried it (of course) and this is what happened: Google doesn’t like it if you use HTML in the FAQ schema question. Brodie Clark for example tried it on a test page with italics (<i>) and Google filtered his question out of the SERP representation.

4. no FAQ snippet for MyBusiness integration

In the USA, it seems that no FAQ scheme is displayed anymore once a sticky panel from the local search is available. This filter seems to only appear on mobile search results (with the sticky header).

Generate FAQPage schema

With his FAQPage JSON-LD Schema Generator you can also easily create the corresponding JSON+LD code, but be careful: The text MUST also be readable by the user on the page. Inserting only the JSON+LD block is against Google’s guidelines and will (sooner or later) lead to problems. I’m also currently testing whether the FAQs have to be 1:1 on the page or whether it’s enough if the content is reproduced in the same sense, in other words in other words.

How does this actually work in WordPress?

Since I have set myself the goal of getting back into the Top 10 with my article and I could use the same tactics with one or the other keyword, I looked here directly how to realize this in WordPress and came across several possibilities:

The easiest one would be to use any schema or code-inject plugin to output only the necessary JSON+LD somewhere on the page. But then you don’t have a GUI for creating the question and answer list and have to fiddle around a lot in the code. Also the questions and answers would not appear anywhere on the page for the user.

The second option is to use Gutenberg Blocks and the Yoast SEO plugin to create a structured data-driven FAQ page. Yoast has an excellent guide for this:

But since I’m currently not yet working with Gutenberg at search-one.de because of my old theme, I decided to use the third variant. The third option is to use the Structured Content (JSON-LD) of my colleagues Gordon Böhme and Antonio Leutsch to enter the questions and answers in the editor using shortcodes and then output them in parallel in HTML and structured as JSON+LD.

Unfortunately, the shortcode required for this is, to be honest, not really nice to create either, but for now this solution is enough for my walking attempts with the FAQPage scheme. I hope for an integration into wpSEO and other plugins soon.

Now I’ve added the list for testing in a few pages and I’ll see how the CTR, the rankings and the traffic behave in general. It is always important to check the URL for errors with Google Structured Data Testing Tool at the end! Very cool is that the FAQs are already visible in the search results a few minutes after the installation!

And what about you? Have you already used the FAQPage scheme? What is your experience with it?

Troubleshooting for not fading in

If you rank in the top 10, use the FAQ scheme and there are less than three results above yours with the integration, but your result is not played out with FAQs, you might have a problem.

Some possible scenarios are among others:

  1. Google has decided to filter out your results because the search query is not relevant enough for the content of your site.
  2. The implementation guidelines are violated in some way (maybe your content is too promotional or even spammy).
  3. There is a technical problem with the implementation. Use Google’s Rich Results Test and the Structured Data Testing Tool for troubleshooting.

SERP nomination is no longer possible

In combination with a featured snippet, the complete “Above-the-Fold” area would be completely occupied.

However, this is no longer possible since a Google update, because the page displayed in the Direct Answer Box can NOT have any additional ranking below it, but will automatically be moved to position 11, i.e. the first place of the first page.

Google isolates FAQPage snippets

Since the introduction of the FAQPage feature, the number of integration in the USA has shot through the roof:

Google’s reaction to the joyful adaptation of SEO: There are only a maximum of three FAQ snippets per SERP and only on the first page. This means that sooner or later (as I wrote above) it is only worth integrating the FAQPage scheme if you already rank in the top 3 for the respective keyword!

Why does the FAQPage scheme even exist?

I assume that Google here is trying to display more content in the SERPs in a clean way so that the user can find what he is looking for even faster. After all, it is de facto opt-in and you don’t just use foreign content like in the featured snippets. So the quality of the answers is usually also much better, because these questions and answers are available in a structured form and can therefore be perfectly used for Voice Search and the Google Assistant!

Now many SEOs have (rightly) discussed whether it can be helpful to display their questions and answers already on the search results page, because potentially one loses traffic here if the user has already found the answer to their question without having to visit their own website.

Isn’t it also a risk to give even more content to Google?

On the other hand, it can be argued that a user who only needs a short answer to his question and is already satisfied with the snippet is not a visitor that you can convert or move to anything on your website anyway – apart from branding or cookies drops. The esteemed colleague Olaf Kopp came to a rather positive conclusion in his german article:

CTR and clicks increase through the FAQ mark-ups.

According to my test, for all three keywords and URLs there was an improvement in interaction with the snippet in general due to the FAQ markups. In any case, the snippets enhanced with the mark-ups ensure that the search result gets more attention. In some cases, the click rate has even improved despite lower positions.

The major concern among SEOs and webmasters is whether users will not click on the website at all once they have read the answer directly in the SERPs.

I could not find a deterioration of the visitor numbers in any of the tests. In all cases there was also more organic traffic on the landing pages, which would indicate that the mark-ups also lead to more visitors to the website.

Before you start thinking about a FAQ strategy, you should take a look at Google’s guidelines. There it is clear that you may only use FAQPage if the page contains a list of questions and answers. So it is not enough to integrate the list somewhere via JSON+LD only. All FAQ content must be visible to the users on the source page!

Google also says that if your page contains only a single question and users can send alternative answers, use QAPage instead.

Valid use cases for the FAQPage scheme are for example a FAQ page written by the website team itself without users being able to send in alternative answers, or a product support page with frequently asked questions without users being able to send in alternative answers.

Invalid use cases for the FAQPage scheme are all types of UGC, such as a forum page where users can answer a single question, or a product support page where users can answer a single question.

What Google means by the statement

FAQPage may not be used for advertising purposes

exactly means, I leave at this point times to your interpretation

In any case, it is important that each question element must contain the complete question text and each answer element must contain the complete answer text. It must be possible to display the entire question text and answer text. To use only one teaser text in the snippet, so that the users click on the page, is explicitly NOT ALLOWED!

Is it better to rank organically on place 1 or in the Direct Answer Box?

Jens Fauldrath and Patrick Lürwer have done a great evaluation (also written in german) and come to the conclusion that a de-optimization does not lead to an improvement of the traffic in any case. According to both of them, it is better to be at the top of the Direct Answer in spite of the organic delisting than to leave this place to a competitor and “only” rank 1st organically!

Now you can get some more insights on this topic from PJ Howland at Spot Zero is Gone – Here’s What We Know After 30 Days on moz. In the USA, Google is usually one step ahead when it comes to SERP features. So we can assume that we should see similar CTR values soon! His conclusion is:

As you can tell, the findings are a bit all over the place. However, the main takeaway that I keep coming back to is this: Clickability matters more than it ever has.
I remember a day when spots 1, 2, and 3 were consistently getting CTRs in the double digits. And today, we celebrate if we can get spot 1 over 10% CTR. Heck, I‘ll even take an 8% for a featured snippet after running this research!
SEO today is more than just a keyword in a title and a few links to a page. SERP functions can have a more direct impact on your clicks than your own page optimizations. But that doesn’t mean that SEO is no longer under our control – not by a long shot. SEOs will make it, we always do, but we need to share our experience. After all, transparency makes the Internet a better place.

PJ Howland