FAQ Rich Results the Latest Casualty of AI Search Rollout

Frequently asked questions

In news that will disappoint the most ardent of SEOs and content strategists, Google has confirmed it’ll no longer display featured snippets in FAQs form from the vast majority of sites. 

The move was anticipated in our Search Generative Experience (then Magi) blog several months ago, with site owners reporting volatility in the search visibility of their FAQ content as far back as April.

This week, Google officially confirmed its plans, with the search engine set to entirely phase out FAQ rich results for most sites, as well as relegating HowTo schema-derived results to desktop devices only. 

We say ‘most’ sites with respect to FAQs, because governmental and health sites are excluded and will still display rich results across all devices.

What’s Really Behind This Change?

You don’t have to be the biggest cynic to realise there’s a clear connection between this announcement and the company’s stance on the use of generative AI. Producing and displaying content for ‘sensitive areas’, including - you guessed it - government services and health, are prohibited in its AI tools’ usage policy.

The clear subtext here being, FAQ rich snippets are set to go away because SGE results will soon replace them - and Google doesn’t want to cannibalise the SERPs it serves.

Generative AI results have been appearing in Google SERPs since April.

Site owners will feel particularly aggrieved that it is their entirely encouraged usage of FAQ schema that has more than likely accelerated Google AI’s understanding of such queries and informed its knowledge base.

What Does This Mean for Publishers?

Indeed, the announcement is a real kick in the teeth for publishers who have strived to follow the search giant’s advice on best practices for SEO, and will particularly impact a lot of smaller sites that had, until now, been able to successfully leverage their early adoption of schema and being able to punch above their weight in search results.

As always, no search update treats all sites equally, and we expect that industries already considered ‘sensitive’ by Google, but that sit outside of government and health services, will be hit the hardest. For instance, iGaming sites are already prohibited from surfacing product-related rich results; now the removal of FAQs leaves publishers with no creative licence to utilise schema in any meaningful way. 

In the short-to-medium term, we expect to see commercial sites double down on transactional and generic terms, deprioritising the types of longer-tail queries and FAQs that look set to be answered for users in the way of SGE instead.

No FAQs given: these rich results will soon be a thing of the past.

In terms of the bigger picture and industry dynamics, these developments are another sign that AI search isn’t so much as creeping, but barrelling, its way into mainstream usage - if not acceptance. For its part, Google continues to struggle to maintain the trust of the sites that have, to date, been its very lifeblood.

While Google’s suggestion that site owners shouldn’t feel the need to remove FAQ schema may be ultimately self-serving (could it, for instance, still help AI interpret and ‘learn’ answers to regurgitate in SGE form?), it’s probably not worth cutting your nose off to spite your face over. Other search engines, as much as we may often forget, do still exist, and there’s no indication these will follow in Google’s footsteps just yet.

As always, Google updates and policy changes present challenges for publishers, but also the opportunity to reset and consider how to pivot to future-proofed, long-term content strategies.

To find out how to prepare yourself for the era of generative AI search, contact ICS-digital’s team of SEO specialists today.