6 Widespread Google SERP Characteristic Misconceptions in website positioning

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The author’s views are entirely his own (with the exception of the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect Moz’s views.

As SEO pros, we can easily fall behind when it comes to the latest Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) features. Frequent updates keep us busy and also keep our jobs interesting.

I recently teamed up with my Moz colleague and the all-round brilliant SEO Izzi Smith to create a new SEO quiz series called “SERP Pursuit”. The quiz is still open if you want to test your knowledge of Google’s SERP features.

The result of the quiz was a collection of insights from the SEO community on various SERP feature topics, including questions that participants may have had problems with or were confused about.

Thank you to everyone who shared and took the quiz! The top question in the series received 825 responses – a strong sample size. For each question, the sample size was given along with the question.

The six most common misunderstandings in our data relate to structured data (related to schema.org), featured snippets, unpaid entries on the “Shopping” tab (now referred to as “free product lists”), and also web stories.

Here are the questions, the answers to those questions, as well as other details that explain why the correct answer is as such.

  1. FAQ and how-to scheme rich results

  2. Use too much markup on structured data

  3. Structured data that influences the recommended snippets

  4. Scroll to text with featured snippets

  5. “Unpaid purchase” tab with entries

  6. Rich results for Web Story device types

1. What is the maximum number of FAQ and how-to schema results that can be displayed on the first page of Google?

The maximum number of FAQ and how-to schema-rich results that can be displayed on the first page of Google is three. This has been demonstrated for both FAQ schema and how-to schema-rich results in mobile and desktop search results. Filtering occurs when fewer than three large results are allowed.

According to our question examples with 775 answers, the most popular answer with 39% was that there is no limit for FAQ and How-To-Rich results (wrong). The correct answer of “3” was chosen by 34% of the respondents.

Participants may have been drawn to the “No Limit” answer as it has historically been the answer to extensive results other than FAQ and How-tos. For example, review snippets with the product schema have no restrictions on the Google results page they can be displayed on or the amount that can be displayed at one time.

However, I am pleased with the number of participants who gave the correct answer as this is a topic that I have written about extensively over the past few years. Filtering is a very common reason why FAQs and How-Tos are not displayed. Knowing the limitations can be a huge time saver when troubleshooting.

2. Is it possible that there is too much structured data markup on a single page?

No, it is not possible to have too much structured data on one page. But just because there is no Google overuse impact, time is often better spent elsewhere. Ultimately, your focus should be on what adds value to your website: using a valid schema with information used by Google.

According to our sample of 604 responses, the most popular answer with 55% was that it is possible to have too much structured data on a single page (wrong answer). The correct answer to “wrong” was chosen by 45% of the respondents.

This question is a question of semantics, but one that creates confusion in the SEO community. In the context of SEO, there is no generic ranking factor for structured data usage. However, using the right schema types with a good distribution can produce relevant results for users. It is also good to consider what will and will not produce rich results.

For the most part, I am of the opinion that structured data should not be a task that requires a significant and regular investment of time. If you use WordPress there are tools like Yoast that have already solved many of the structured data problems websites face. Your plugin offers Google many structured data signals without spending a lot of time (to be avoided).

3. Are structured data (in the context of schema.org) used to generate featured snippets on Google?

No, structured data (in the context of schema.org) are not used to generate featured snippets on Google. However, the structure of a page’s content is often a contributing factor. Google’s systems determine whether or not content is suitable for inclusion in recommended snippets.

According to our sample of 579 responses, the most popular answer (52%) was that structured data is used to generate featured snippets (wrong answer). The correct answer to “wrong” was chosen by 48% of the respondents.

The misunderstanding of structured data affecting featured snippets is one that I come across frequently. It is often based on experimentation where structured data is added to a page and then the page is added to a featured snippet. With an understanding of how featured snippets work, that connection itself doesn’t make sense as a contributing factor.

In my last article I wrote for Moz, I showed how to prevent some websites from being ranked in Featured Snippets. This shows the complexity with which content is prominently displayed in Google’s search results. Structured data, which Google has repeatedly mentioned, had no influence on featured snippets as early as 2015.

4. In which scenarios are the yellow text highlighting and the scrolling function triggered as soon as a recommended snippet result is clicked?

At the moment, scrolling to the text is only triggered for presented snippets on Google in two separate scenarios. The first is when using the Chrome browser (on both mobile and desktops) and when building a URL using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) on mobile with whatever browser is in use.

According to our quiz sample of 527 answers, the most popular answer at 48% was the correct answer to the quiz. The best answer to this, mentioning that this will only ever happen on Chrome on the desktop, was chosen by 36% of respondents.

Although the highest percentage of respondents answered this question correctly, I still think it’s worth discussing as it was no more than half of the respondents. The presented snippet highlights were already presented in December 2019, but were originally intended exclusively for pages created with AMP.

Scrolling to the text was an interesting addition to the search. We’ve seen the gradual expansion to use via Chrome, to insights that appear sporadically in Google Search Console and are now visible in some free product lists beyond some recommended snippets with some knowledge panels and editorial reviews.

5. For unpaid listings on the Google Shopping tab, will product feeds be submitted through Merchant Center and structured data used as inputs?

The unpaid listings that appear on Google’s “Shopping” tab are based solely on data submitted through product feeds in Merchant Center. Originally, both product feeds and structured data were supported. However, Google’s documentation was updated in May 2020 to include product feeds only.

According to our sample of 468 responses, the most popular answer (78%) was that both product feeds and structured data are used as inputs (wrong answer). The correct answer to “wrong” was selected by only 22% of the respondents.

Of all the questions in the quiz, this was the one that triggered the most respondents. Prior to May 2020, both product feeds and structured data were used as inputs for unpaid items on the Shopping tab. Since this was only shown as a change in Google documentation and was included as the original announcement, I can see how this may have confused respondents.

A recent announcement by Google changed the naming of “Skins in Google” to “Free Product Lists” or “Free Lists”. This must also be observed for this function. However, if you ever attempt to troubleshoot issues related to the “Free Offers” on the “Shopping” tab, it is best to investigate your Merchant Center data, not your structured product data.

6. When it comes to rich results, do Web Stories make your search results stand out on both desktop and mobile?

While Google’s Web Stories is a feature that can rank in both mobile and desktop search results, the extensive result element is only used on mobile devices. With the AMP test, which now supports Web Stories, you can preview how your Web Story-rich results will appear on mobile devices.

According to our sample question with 407 answers, the most popular answer with 69% was that web story-rich results are displayed on both desktop and mobile (wrong answer). The correct answer to “wrong” was chosen by 31% of the respondents.

If a web story appears in Google search results while using a desktop device, it can be a… strange experience for users. You select the result and then suddenly you are catapulted into the impressive web story experience in full screen mode. This is done without prompting the user (since the URL looks like a standard web search list). This is a UX that Google has yet to address.

Web Stories are an interesting format to experiment with, given the benefits of the numerous results on mobile devices to better stand out, and the importance they often get on Google’s Discover feed. I’ve written about some Web Stories SEO tips publishers should consider when building with the Google plugin.

Final thoughts

The questions covered in this post are the main areas where our quiz respondents struggled the most with structured data, featured snippets, free product lists, and web stories. If you felt confused about any of these questions about SERP functionality, don’t be too harsh on yourself. Just use this as an opportunity to improve your understanding!

Nailing the areas mentioned in this post is a good place to start to expand your knowledge of Google SERP features. SERP functions change frequently on Google. If you want to stay up to date on the latest changes to Google documentation, I highly recommend bookmarking this page, which will contain important changes as they are made.

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