High positions alone are not enough for a website to receive good traffic from search engines, especially in competitive niches. It is also important that the snippet (a short page description) is attractive to users. The snippet expansion and "decoration" possibilities provided by the search engine can greatly help in this. All you have to do is to use them correctly.
We have already written about how to add an image to a Google snippet on mobile devices in our blog. Now let's talk about another element that can increase the attractiveness of your site in search – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).
What does the FAQ block look like in Google search results?
The FAQ block appears at the bottom of the snippet, under the link and short description. It is a list of questions, and each of them can be expanded by clicking to see the answer:
You should not mix up FAQs with "People also ask" block and Featured snippets: they are in the so-called "position zero", i.e. they are not among the ten organic search results of the first page. They also appear only for certain keywords, and a webmaster can only stimulate their appearance, but cannot guarantee it.
Featured snippet containing an answer to a question
"People also ask" block in the middle of Google’s first page
The FAQ block does not allow you to take a "position zero", but only complements the usual snippet of your website. On the other hand, it can be displayed on virtually any request, and its appearance is not the result of Google algorithms, but a direct consequence of adding the necessary markup (FAQPage). Consequently, such a block can be created by each site owner.
What should you know about FAQs in snippets?
- The FAQs are only displayed on the first page of the search engine. This means that if your page is ranked below the tenth position for a particular request, users will not see your FAQ on that request. An exception may be if the user's Google settings are set to display 20 or more results on one page.
- Most likely, the maximum number of FAQ blocks per one SERP is three. This is probably done in order to avoid a situation where 10 normal links turn into 10 FAQ blocks. Official Google guidelines do not list this information, but it is confirmed by observations of SEO experts.
- If the FAQ markup is used by more than 3 sites on the first page of SERP, the preference is given to those who rank higher. For example, on your targeted query you already see blocks of answers on the first, second and fifth positions; then, if you take the sixth position, no one will see your FAQ; but you take the fourth position, your block will be displayed, and the site from the fifth position will lose it.
- If there are more than four questions in your FAQ list, only the first three of them will appear immediately for user (to save space). The others will be shown after clicking on the line below.
An example of a FAQ block with more than 4 questions
- The maximum length of the answer is about 540 symbols. If your answer is longer, the text will 'cut off' and end with a 'Read more' link that will direct the user to your page. This can be helpful, if your answer is really detailed and useful: the user may want to go to the site to finish reading it.
- The answer text supports the following HTML tags: h1 – h6 headings, br, ol, ul, li, a, p, div, b, strong, i and em. This means that the answer can be structured by showing text in bold or italics, creating paragraphs, subheadings and lists. And what is particularly important, you can add here the links to the pages you want. For example, if a customer is looking for a catalogue of smartphones, and you have added links to top models of phones in the FAQ, they may be interested in one of the models and go straight to its page.
The answer containing an unordered list and links
- Please note that other HTML tags are not currently supported. These include, for example, top and bottom indices (sub and sup). In addition, colorful emoji have previously been displayed in the questions and answers, but at the time of writing the article this feature is not working. Google may have decided that these emoji stand out too much from the restof SERP.
Instruction: how to add FAQ for your page
1. Prepare the text of your questions and answers
Let’s make it clear: your page does not necessarily have to be dedicated only to answering popular questions in order to use this element. You can add FAQ to almost any page, whether informative or commercial; that's the beauty of its versatility.
Think about what questions are often asked or could be asked by potential customers about your products or services: these could be the best models, features of choice, warranty, etc. 3-4 points will usually be enough. Make your answer short: users are unlikely to read a long text (unless you want to redirect them to the "Read more" link, as in the example above).
If your answers get a point and give users exactly what they want to know, you can be sure that the CTR of your site will increase.
2. Make sure that the content complies with Google recommendations
According to the search engine guideline, the content of the FAQPage markup must meet a number of requirements.
- The block should contain a list of questions and answers in which only one answer corresponds to each question. This data must be added by the website owner. If your page is a forum or another resource where visitors can leave their own answers (more than one for each question), then another type of markup – QAPage – should be used.
- The markup should not contain any promotional content.
- It is not permitted to use offensive, discriminatory, obscene statements, calls to dangerous actions or materials of a sexual nature in the text.
- The text that you place in the FAQ markup must be fully visible to users on the target page.
3. Add a markup
There are two main formats for markup, with which questions and answers can be added: JSON-LD and Microdata. Google recommends using the first option.
There are several ways to prepare the markup to be added to your page.
- Manually. If you are familiar with JSON-LD or Microdata specifications, you can write the markup yourself by following the recommendations. However, this will be quite long and time consuming, if you need to process a large number of pages.
- With the help of online services. Enthusiasts have already created a number of free tools with which you can easily obtain the markup by entering the source text data. You can use generators from Saijo George or TechnicalSEO.com, for example.
- Via plugins for CMS. If your site is running Wordpress, you can install the Structured Content plugin, which will allow you to add FAQPage and other types of markup to your pages directly in the administrative panel of your site. It is possible that in future such plugins will appear for other CMS.
In addition, if you have a large website and need to add FAQs to a huge number of pages, then think about generating their content automatically. For example, for product category X in the online shop, these could be questions like "How much do Xs cost?", "Which products in category X are the cheapest?", "Which Xs are the most popular in 2020?" etc. Variables for answering these questions can be extracted programmatically from product data. This is already the case for some Ukrainian marketplaces:
After you generated the markup, insert it on your target page. Note that you can add it to either Head or Body sections of your HTML code. Google employee John Mueller talks about this in one of his short videos:
Remember that questions and answers must be added not only into the markup code, but also into the text of the page itself so that visitors can see them (see the last recommendation in point 2).
4. Check your page
This can easily be done with Google's Rich results testing tool (it replaces Structured data testing tool, which will soon be closed). If the page is cached, remember to clear the cache before testing.
Example of rich results report for a page
Wait until the report is generated and find the FAQ section in it. If there are no errors or warnings here, then everything is fine and you just have to wait until Google indexes and displays your changes.
When and why the FAQPage markup is useful
First of all, this functionality will be useful for those pages that are already ranked in the top 10 of Google for relatively frequent requests. Therefore, if you don't want to add FAQs to all of your pages at once, you can only select those pages that already perform well in the search, but still have room to grow.
Carry out a small audit: look at the first page of SERP for queries where your targeted page is ranked. If your competitors have FAQ blocks that appear less than three times, or if you are ranked higher than your competitors with FAQs, then it’s time to act!
The addition of FAQ has no direct impact on the ranking, but it can:
- add new useful content to the page that will indirectly give an advantage in the ranking;
- increase CTR and improve other behavioral factors, which may also have a positive impact on positions;
- bring more traffic to your website by making the snippet more attractive to visitors, even without increasing positions.
FAQPage markup is also not a necessary or sufficient condition for a site to hit the Featured Snippets we mentioned at the beginning. However, if you add an answer that is comprehensive enough for Google's algorithms and for users, your chances of appearing in Featured Snippets will also increase.
Using FAQs is still a relatively new but very promising SEO feature. Hurry up and use it before your competitors do!