Rich Snippets, including review, how-to, and faq, can be impacted by Google’s broad core updates (and other major algorithm updates)

By | October 14, 2021


If you’ve seen a drop (or gain) of rich snippets during a broad core update, then overall site quality could be the reason. In this post, I’ll cover how this can happen, why Google’s evaluation of site quality matters, and I’ll provide examples of rich snippets volatility across sites (including review, how-to, and FAQ snippets).

With the June 2021 broad core update, a number of sites reported the loss or gain of rich snippets. For example a site either losing or gaining review, FAQ, how-to snippets, etc. I also shared a great example of that happening with the June core update and I’ll cover more about that shortly. It’s important for site owners to understand that this can absolutely happen, and we’ve seen this over the years during Google’s broad core updates (and other major algorithm updates).

Here is the screenshot I shared where a client gained how-to snippets during the June broad core update after losing them during a previous broad core update. This site has worked hard to improve over time (using the “kitchen sink” approach to remediation I have covered in previous posts about broad core updates). I also cover more about this in my post about the July 2021 broad core update.

Sites can lose/gain rich snippets during these updates because there’s a site-level quality threshold involved. If Google’s quality algorithms deem a site high quality enough, you can gain rich snippets (or regain them if you lost them previously). And on the flip side, if Google’s quality algorithms aren’t sure about the quality of the site, then you can lose them. Google has explained this many times and I have shared a number of examples of this happening in my posts about broad core updates.

Google is evaluating site quality over time and has site-level quality algorithms that can have a big impact on rankings (and whether sites can receive rich snippets in the SERPs.) Actually, John Mueller just reiterated this in a recent Search Central Hangout video. He explained that there are some signals that Google can’t reliably collect on a per-page basis. Google has to have a better understanding of the site overall for those signals. And quality falls into that category. Again, this isn’t a new statement, but it’s incredibly important to understand.

Here’s the video from John (starting on 40:00):

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPaRgzaMroU?start=2401&w=560&h=315]

By the way, this applies to Google Discover as well. Sites can see big swings in Discover visibility with broad core updates and other major algorithm updates (like the recent Product Reviews Update). That’s why it’s incredibly important for site owners to focus on improving quality overall for a site. Don’t focus on just a few urls… improve the site overall.

For example, here is a significant drop in Discover after a broad core update. The site flatlined in Discover as the update rolled out. I covered this in a previous SMX presentation about broad core updates:

And here is a site surging during in Discover visibility during the Product Reviews Update after working hard over time to improve site quality. The Product Reviews Update was a significant update impacting reviews content (and was core update-like for many sites that were impacted):

In this post, I’ll cover more about this topic, including what Google has explained over the years about the quality threshold for rich snippets, examples of what I have seen and shared over time, and then why this is important for site owners and SEOs to understand. 

Google About Site Quality Thresholds and Rich Snippets Impact:
First, let’s cover what Google has explained over the years about rich snippets, quality thresholds, and major algorithm updates. It’s not uncommon for Google’s John Mueller to be asked questions about sites gaining or losing rich snippets after broad core updates (or other significant algorithm updates). It can be jarring for site owners to see those precious snippets disappear from the SERPs, or surge, during algorithm updates.

Below, I’ll provide several comments from John, and Google’s Gary Illyes, about rich snippets impact. Again, it’s very important to understand. Note, I have shared most of these clips over the years on Twitter or in my blog posts about major algorithm updates.

First, here is Google’s John Mueller explaining that if you’re seeing rich snippets drop after a broad core update (the May 2020 core update in this example), it could be site quality that’s the issue. If everything is correct with the technical setup for receiving rich snippets (structured data-wise), then it could be that Google just doesn’t think the site is high enough quality to receive them. The segment starts at 44:01 in the video:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owoXikK9PRU?start=2641&w=560&h=315]

John also explained in that video that if you suddenly lost rich snippets, and you’re unsure if it’s a quality issue, that you can run a site query as a test. If the technical setup if correct, Google will often show the rich snippets when you run a site query (even if you aren’t receiving them in the actual search results). This isn’t foolproof, but it’s a good test to run. To run a site query, you can search for site:yourdomain.com (and obviously add your own domain name there). The segment starts at 46:24 in the video:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owoXikK9PRU?start=2784&w=560&h=315]

Also, in 2019, Google’s Gary Illyes explained to Dan Shure (and others) that a site losing all review snippets can be a sign of overall quality issues. Gary explained that Google has site-level quality signals and those can impact the gain/loss of rich snippets. He also explained how Panda was a site-level quality signal and that could have caused the loss of rich snippets as well (if a site’s Panda score fell below a certain threshold).

Here is the podcast from Dan Shure where he covers what Gary explained (at 3:45 in the podcast). You can click the image to view the episode on Google Podcasts:

And here is a blog post from Barry Schwartz covering John Mueller’s tweet about why rich snippets might not be showing up when the structured data setup is correct. If the setup is technically correct, and doesn’t violate Google’s structured data policies, then it can be a “general quality issue” with the site:

More Examples of What Gaining or Losing Rich Snippets Looks Like:
Now that we’ve covered what Google has explained about site-level quality evaluation and how that can impact rich snippets, I wanted to provide several more examples of this happening in the wild. Again, if Google’s quality algorithms think highly of your site, you can gain rich snippets, or maintain them. But if you’re on the flip side, and Google’s quality algorithms aren’t so sure about your site from a quality perspective, then you can unfortunately lose those rich snippets.

First, here is a site has dealt with its share of drops based on previous algorithm updates that worked hard to improve over time. The site finally received FAQ snippets when the May 2020 broad core update rolled out.

Here is a site losing rich snippets during the May 2020 broad core update (how-to snippets in this case).

And here is how a visibility tool can pick up drops or surges in rich snippets over time. By using a tool like Semrush, you can filter by different types of search features to view trending over time. This site lost review snippets with the January 2020 broad core update.

Here is another example of Semush picking up a surge in review snippets. This time it was during the June 2021 broad core update. This site received review snippets after working to improve quality overall (for months leading up to the update). The graph below is filtered by SERP Feature, and then Reviews:

Using visibility tools can help you view these drops or gains in rich snippets over time (beyond the 16 months of data that GSC provides). It’s helpful when auditing sites that you didn’t have access to when the initial drop or surge occurred.

Why Overall Site Quality Matters: Rich Snippets + Stronger Rankings Overall
Broad evaluation of quality and site-level impact can have a big effect on visibility in the SERPs and in the Discover feed. If Google re-evaluates your site and it passes a certain quality threshold, your entire site can benefit. That’s why some sites can see very strong impact during broad core updates or other major algorithm updates (like the Product Reviews Update). It’s not about a specific url seeing improvement, it’s about the site receiving higher scoring overall from a quality standpoint (which can help many urls rank higher across a site and not just a few).

And from a rich snippets standpoint, if your listings in the SERPs suddenly receive review, how-to, or FAQ snippets, then you can gain a nice advantage in the SERPs from a click through rate perspective. If you mix the enhanced SERP treatment from rich snippets with stronger rankings overall (which can happen if Google’s site quality evaluation improves for a site), that can yield stronger rankings combined with better SERP treatment. That combination can be very powerful for sites benefitting during broad core updates, or other major algorithm updates.

Summary: Rich Snippets Impact During Major Algorithm Updates
I know there can be a lot of confusion about why sites are seeing the gain or loss of rich snippets with major algorithm updates (like the June 2021 core update). For sites losing rich snippets, Google’s quality algorithms just might not be convinced about the overall quality for those sites. And that can yield a loss of rich snippets, or even a big drop in Discover visibility. That’s why it’s extremely important to focus on site quality overall (especially for sites negatively impacted by Google’s broad core updates).

And as I’ve explained in my posts about broad core updates, there’s no quick fix for this. Google will need to see a significant improvement in quality over the long-term in order for a site to regain rich snippets (or to gain more visibility in Discover). Therefore, don’t get so bogged down in improving just a few urls on your site that you forget about Google’s broad evaluation of site quality. Those site-level signals can have a big impact on visibility in the SERPs, and in Discover. Good luck.

GG





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