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Weekly Wisdom with Jason Barnard: How to Create Google-Friendly FAQ

Weekly Wisdom with Jason Barnard: How to Create Google-Friendly FAQ

Jason Barnard

Modified Transcript

Hi. I'm Jason Barnard and welcome to Weekly Wisdom. Today I am going to share with you my cheat sheet for Google-friendly FAQs. This strategy works for any site. I will be using WordPress to illustrate, but you can use it on your site, whether you use WordPress or not. And right at the end, there's a fun part. I pull Google's leg a little bit, and I have a bit of fun playing with Google's algorithm.

The FAQ Debate

The FAQ debate, accordions or one-per-page, is now over. Why? Firstly, because a user coming from Google, searching through those accordions for the specific questions that they just asked, is not a great user experience. Number two, Google won't give you the featured snippets, or at least if it does, it won't show them very adequately for you. And that brings us to the meta title conundrum. I call it the meta title conundrum, or the H2 dilemma.

Weekly Wisdom with Jason Barnard: How to Create Google-Friendly FAQ. Image 0

The problem is that Google will show the meta title as the blue link, so it won't show the question. Here, it has managed to integrate the question into the answer, but maybe that isn't satisfactory for you, and I don't think it's perfect for the user. Gary Illyes told me that we should not expect Google to be using these H2s as blue links any time in the near future. So we need to concentrate on the meta title, which means we need to have one page per question and answer if we want the question to appear as a blue link.

For some examples, I am going to use WordPress and Yoast. Why do I say Yoast? Because Yoast are writing the rule book and defining the way we write schema markup. They have created a modulable system that is incredibly powerful and fairly easy to deal with. WordPress represents 36% of the web. Google is investing heavily in WordPress. They are investing in speed, in AMP, in plugins, but they are not investing in schema markup, because Yoast is doing that, and Yoast represent 14% of the web. So the way Yoast are writing schema today is the way Google will best understand it tomorrow. Oh yeah, and it is really easy to deal with. If you write schema markup badly or slowly, then Yoast is perfect for you, because they write it quickly, efficiently, and incredibly accurately.

FAQ Box Example

Here is an example I did for my musical instruments, the musical instruments that I play, and this is where I am going to play with Google later on. We have a question; we have an answer. It is an FAQ box, and it is a Yoast FAQ box within a Gutenberg block. And if you are not using WordPress, use the Yoast hack (2:51):

Implementing Yoast Gutenberg FAQ Block

So setting up a WordPress site for development, installing Yoast, doing your schema markup in Yoast, and then copy-pasting it into your site, or getting your technicians and developers to use it as a template for your site is a perfect way to go about writing great schema markup incredibly easily.

When to Use FAQ 

Onto the interesting part. When is FAQ a good strategy? For me, there are three main use cases:

  • Research, where the user is researching a product, researching a solution to a problem they have, but they don't know yet what that solution might be.
  • About-to-buy, when they know what the solution is likely to be, and they are trying to choose the best solution for them.
  • Post-sales, and I think we often forget this. You want to make sure that the correct answer gets to your clients, even when they search on Google. Don't imagine they come straight to your site to search for that solution; they are probably searching Google. You want your answer to be number one. You want your answer to be the one that they see.

Now, what are the wins?

What real estate are we going to get on the SERP with this technique? Number one is the featured snippet. Right at the top, in the middle, front and center.

Answer Box

Here is Apple with a post-sales featured snippet that gets their client right to the answer straight away. These featured snippets though, are very good for research, about-to-buy, and post-sales. So you might want to look at all three types of FAQs with the featured snippet in mind.

People Also Ask

People also ask. That gives you some really nice real estate, even when people haven't asked the specific question you are answering. That is also very good for research, about-to-buy, and post-sales.

Voice search and virtual assistants — schema markup is going to push actions and skills into the future. You really want to make sure you have got the schema markup in place, and that is what this technique does. Voice assistants are great for research and post-sales, not so much for about-to-buy.

Brand SERP

Brand SERPs. My favorite topic. I love brand SERPs. Here we have Google appearing as a featured snippet for their own product. Once again, they are getting right to their clients, they are getting their answer straight to the clients, and making sure somebody else doesn't give the answer that might even be wrong. These are perfect for about-to-buy and post-sales. About-to-buy being when people are searching for your brand specifically, and you just need to tip them over the top to get them to buy.

The blue links. They are a bonus. That is ironic. We were all so obsessed with the blue links, and now they don't seem to matter very much anymore. You will get the blue links with this technique, even if you don't get the other advantages. Blue links, of course, are good for every stage of the purchase process.

Why Use FAQ

Why does this work so well? Schema markup is really powerful. It is the future. Google is insisting on it. Yoast are working very hard on it. We all agree in the industry that schema markup is incredibly important. I think it is very important specifically for understanding, and partly for deliverability. It enhances deliverability and arguably gains deliverability.

Jono Alderson talks about blocks. Jono Alderson is the guy at Yoast developing this schema markup. The idea of blocks is that it breaks the web down into chunks or blocks that Google finds easier to understand and digest.

Cindy Krum talks about Fraggles. Similar idea to blocks except we have a fragment with a handle, and that really helps with deliverability. And I find this very interesting, the idea that Google will reach into your content, grab the handle, pull the fragment out, and put it in the SERP. And that's a very good description of how the featured snippet works.

So Fraggles, blocks, and schema markup make this technique work incredibly well.

The Anatomy of a Landing Page

The anatomy of a landing page is very, very important. If you do manage to get the user to click on your link to come to your page, what are you going to show them? You need to show them the answer to the question. Remember, the person who searched Google — they have asked Google the question, and Google has recommended your answer. So your answer needs to be accurate, and it needs to be clear, and it needs to satisfy Google's user.

Google's watching to see if that user goes back and searches for the same thing again or something similar again. If they do, then you haven't satisfied them. So make sure you give a clear and accurate answer to the question that has been asked.

What Do You Do?

And while you are here, have a call to action, and an explanation of what you do. Who are you? What do you do? Please come and do business with me. A lot of companies forget this, and I think it is incredibly important.

If you are going to pull people in, especially in those first two, research, or about-to-buy, you want to make sure you get your product ideas across so that the people know who you are, what you do, what you can provide for them commercially.

Here is my brilliant design of what a landing page should look like; this is great for research and about-to-buy. We have a lovely who we are and what we do, with a call to action, on the right-hand side.

Research/About to Buy Landing Page

And if it is a client, propose other things they might be interested in about your company. Engage them as much as you possibly can.

Post-Sales Landing Page

Images in FAQ

Images are, of course, super important. Vital, even. They appear on many results on mobile, and Google loves them for the featured snippet - so much so that it added an image from Amazon in the example above. I had provided images in my FAQ, but they weren't coming up in the SERPs in the first hours after I published the FAQ (I assume because they were not indexed immediately), so I didn't go into the question of images since I had no solid examples... Then, of course, as soon as I finished the video, the images started appearing. Here is the musical instrument one (and that is one BIG ukulele).

FAQ Image

Content Creation and Experimentation — The Proof Is in the Pudding

Now the proof is in the pudding, and this is the fun part. This is the part I really enjoyed. I was doing this yesterday, and it was great fun, very interesting, and incredibly insightful.

I searched for where I was born because, of course, it is information I don't have. It tells me I was born in Leeds, United Kingdom, so I created an FAQ page that gives the answer on my site.

Where was Jason Barnard Born FAQ Page

Bingo. Within five minutes, I was integrated into that featured snippet with my text. No links, no corroboration. Google trusts me.

Next, I tried to give an opinion. Google wouldn't have it. It ranks obviously for this very, very specific keyword that nobody would ever search for, but it won't give me a featured snippet.

Opinion

I tried to replace the set of ontologies that Google has created for my different professions. I got the page ranking for the blue link, which was my bonus, but I did not manage to replace those ontologies, which were obviously very, very strong in Google's mind.

Professions

Then I thought, musical instruments, I can probably get this one. So I wrote a text about which instruments do I play. And I made the mistake of saying, "Jason Barnard is a double bassist, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Plays the ukulele." And Google hooked onto ukulele. And you will notice here that the blue link is not the instrument I play, but the generic title I gave to the page.

Musical Instruments

When I change it to be the question, that is the meta title and not the H1; I got the question as the blue link.

Question Meta Title

Hence one question and answer per page.

What you see below​​​​ is what I found in America. This is brilliant. It has taken my answer, added a ukulele from Amazon, and then added: "people also search for." It is getting really jiggy very quickly. This was yesterday that I created the page, remember.

US FAQ SERP

Then I thought, let's see if I can mess with Google's head a little bit, and it messed with mine. I changed double bassist to plays the double bass, and I managed to get Google to change ukulele to double bass within five minutes once again.

Double Bass

Then I thought I would see if I could trick it with a "Jason Barnard plays the fool and the double bass", and it switched back to a ukulele because it was sure of the ukulele.

Weekly Wisdom with Jason Barnard: How to Create Google-Friendly FAQ. Image 16

Then I thought, let's try and get to pluck the ukulele. So I added pluck the ukulele, plays the double bass. What musical instrument does Jason Barnard pluck? Ukulele.

Weekly Wisdom with Jason Barnard: How to Create Google-Friendly FAQ. Image 17

At this point, after about three hours of me constantly changing my pages, resubmitting them, Google was still updating in real-time, but it starts to get confused. Here it has still gone back to the ukulele. As it was getting more and more confused, it went back to the first thing I said.

Weekly Wisdom with Jason Barnard: How to Create Google-Friendly FAQ. Image 18

Content Recommendations for Snippets

And that is really important. When you say whatever it is you are going to say and push it into Google, make sure the first information is the correct information, that your phrases, your sentences, are structured correctly, with the right verbs applying to the right entities, and indicating the correct relationships between entities on your page, using semantic triples.

Don't be lazy like I did, and just write a text in five minutes. Think about it. Analyze, use your brain. Write clear, concise texts with semantic triples.

But then it started to get annoyed, and it kept showing me captchas. So I got bored because I kept having to fill in this is a car, this is a bus, this is a traffic light. So I took pity on Google, I took pity on you, and I took pity on me, and I stopped. But for me, this demonstrates how incredibly powerful FAQ can be, how incredibly simple it can be, and how much control it gives you when you're reaching out to clients, potential clients, and people who are about to buy your products. Thank you very much.

Jason Barnard
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

Jason has over 2 decades of experience in digital marketing, he started promoting his first website in the year Google was incorporated and built it up to become one of the top 10,000 most visited sites in the world (60 million visits in 2007).
Today he is a fulltime 100% digital nomad, host and speaker at conferences around the world, whilst interviewing industry experts for his #SEOisAEO podcast (the most fun you'll ever have learning about digital from the experts). Listen here - https://kalicube.pro
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Mike Belham
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Hi Jason,

Just wanted to say thanks for your blog, it inspired me to go looking at how to create Q&A sections on my own website.

Your blog led me to using micro-data to markup some existing content and then search googles "people also ask" feature for questions I can answer on other pages of my site.

Its early stages yet but I will let folks know if it improves my sites visibility, it has certainly given me more topical content .

Thanks

Mike
Jason Barnard
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SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

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Mike Belham
That is great to hear.
My clients who are using the technique have found that it helps them structure their work, and get more relevant. Groovy !
Mike Belham
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Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Jason Barnard
Hi Jason, i don't know if you have found this tool i stumbled upon it and it shows a preview of how your page looks with the Q&A snipets

https://search.google.com/test/rich-results

I found that using multiple Q&A's the preview shows my page title and description with the titles of all the questions

cheers

Mike
Kristina Witmer
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Great stuff! Thanks for taking the time to share.
Andrea Volpini
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Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Amazing work, things really get jazzy when Jason Barnard comes into play 😀 If you want to read one article about Modern SEO today - well, this is a great start!
Jason Barnard
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SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

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Andrea Volpini
Thanks, Andrea
A bit of musical refernce always makes life more interesting :)
Newcomer

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Thank you very much for sharing! Incredible insights here.
James Brockbank
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Fantastic insights as always, Jason! Lots to think on here and have a play around with. Thanks again for sharing such great advice on the topic.
Newcomer

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Hi Jason, what a fab article! We are currently looking at FAQ schema, however this brings up a question. Our advise articles have number of FAQs on a certain topics, how would this work? Obviously we would not want to create 20 pages per topic with FAQ. Do you think we would show in featured snippets if we mark each question in our advise page with FAQ schema? Thanks Karolina
Jason Barnard
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SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

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Karolina
As soon as you put multiple QA on one page, the featured snippet becomes more difficult... and less relevant (the blue link will necessarily be generic)
Creating 20 pages is not a problem in itself. Same content, just spread out !
Bayazid Bostami
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Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Good reading and very informative!!!
Thanks
Newcomer

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Read the article, this is fantastic! Question: if we are to split each FAQ into its own page with the Question and Answer and other qualifiers as you show in your sketches—what should we do for the primary index FAQ page? List out all FAQ questions and link to the single page for that Q? (and not provide the Answers on the FAQ index page)
Jason Barnard
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SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

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raju
Exactly !
Paul Lovell
Master

A veteran community member.

Absolutely Great Weekly Wisdom Jason
Thanks for sharing
Jason Barnard
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

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Paul Lovell
Ooh. Thanks Paul. Am flattered when you say stuff like this :)
Craig McBreen
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Jason, this is a great presentation! Honestly. Really good stuff. And the best thing about it is that I now have a new list of to-dos because of it.

I write schema markup badly or slowly (or not at all ;-), so Yoast is perfect for me. But seriously, I'm going to add FAQ pages to my sites and my client's sites using a Yoast FAQ box within a Gutenberg block.
Jason Barnard
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

columnist
Craig McBreen
Thanks, man !
" I write schema markup badly or slowly (or not at all ;-)" i think most of the world does :)
Caleb Sylvest
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Read the article, this is fantastic! Question: if we are to split each FAQ into its own page with the Question and Answer and other qualifiers as you show in your sketches—what should we do for the primary index FAQ page? List out all FAQ questions and link to the single page for that Q? (and not provide the Answers on the FAQ index page)
Jason Barnard
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SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

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Caleb Sylvest
Excatly. And leave that page indexable :)
If you have a lot, you might want to think about dividing into sections and giving the URL structure a logical categorisation.
Caleb Sylvest
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Jason Barnard
Makes sense. Thanks!
Newcomer

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Hi !
You provided good information. I share it with everyone.
Thank You
Jason Barnard
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SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

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raju
Thnaks Raju !
Andy Simpson
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A fantastic overview and practical advice on how you can experiment with, and test, FAQ pages..and what you can and can't get away with on Google. I love Jason's presentation style, his enthusiasm on the topic is infectious! Keep up the good work!
Jason Barnard
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SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

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Andy Simpson
Thanks, Andy
I am infectious :D
Arnout Hellemans
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Nice work Jason, I guess all the #seoisaeo chats pay off. Shared it to a few peeps. Thanks
Jason Barnard
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

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Arnout Hellemans
Thanks Arnout :)
Simon Cox
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Brilliant! Really well explained by Jason. I am going to go and add a shed load of FAQ pages about me to my site now though I have some serious competition in the UK for my namespace! The Tip about running Wordpress and Yoast to create the mark up for a non-Wordpress site was a good one - there are also some useful online tools such as https://technicalseo.com/tools/schema-markup-generator/
BTW - Google has now stuck with you plucking the Ukulele - so thanks for taking one for the industry on that test!
Jason Barnard
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

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Simon Cox
I'd better learn to play the Ukulele, then :D
Nitin Manchanda
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Loved it, thanks for sharing your findings Jason. This totally motivates me to take a break from the enterprise SEO life time to time and play with this kinda stuff, it seems fun.

We need to have a detailed chat on this when we meet in person next time (hopefully soon)!
Jason Barnard
columnist

SEMrush columnists are authors who had proved their expertise in digital marketing and contribute regularly to our community.

columnist
Nitin Manchanda
Playing with Google. Fun indeed !
Yes, hopefully have a face to face chat again soon :)
Anatolii
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Hi Jason,
I watched your video. Helpful and valuable! Once I asked John Mulluer during his hangouts about Google demands for the FAQ pages. He replied that Google doesn't have it - just create FAQ that helps to your clients.
Sometimes you don't know exactly what will be the best for your clients. I like that you share the quick way by using Yoast.

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