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Google Changes More Structured Data Requirements via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google announced a change to several structured data types. This change affects the requirements for the HowTo, QAPage and the SpecialAnnouncement structured data. The guidance didn’t come with examples, which makes it a little difficult to understand but this article will walk through the changes.

The guidance provided by Google stated:

“Removed the following structured data fields from documentation, since they are unused by Google Search and Rich Result Test doesn’t flag warnings for them.”

In general, including structured data that isn’t required could be helpful if it helps describe a page better, even though that structured data won’t produce any visible results in Google’s search results pages in the form of rich results.

Google’s John Mueller has in the past commented on this:

“I think that’s one of the trickier questions with regards to all of the structured data, in that we have a lot of things that we use to try to understand a page and the content on the page that we don’t necessarily show directly in the search results.

But a lot of things help us to better understand the content and the context of a particular page.

And those are things within kind of like a general Schema.org markup which you can do various things.

And that’s kind of I’d say, almost a shame that we don’t highlight that in the rich results test.”

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Mueller then goes on to caution about going overboard with extra structured data.

With regard to the structured data properties that Google removed as being required, Google doesn’t warn against using them other than to say that the Rich Results test ignores it and that Google does not use it.

“…since they are unused by Google Search and Rich Result Test doesn’t flag warnings for them. “

HowTo Structured Data Changes

Google announced it has removed the “description” structured data field that pertains strictly to the HowTo data type. The “description” property can still be used in other properties of the HowTo data type, but it’s no longer needed in the HowTo part.

Here’s an example of how it used to be:

<script type="application/ld+json">
{ "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "HowTo", "name": "How to tile a kitchen backsplash",
"description": "Any kitchen can be much more vibrant with a great tile backsplash. This guide will help you install one with beautiful results, like our example kitchen seen here.", "image": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg", "height": "406", "width": "305"
},

Here is the new way that omits the “description” property of the HowTo type:

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
"@context": "https://schema.org",
"@type": "HowTo",
"name": "How to tile a kitchen backsplash",
"image": {
"@type": "ImageObject",
"url": "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg",
"height": "406",
"width": "305"
},

It’s a little tricky at first because the documentation doesn’t explain it in depth.

The documentation simply states:

Removed the following structured data fields from documentation, since they are unused by Google Search and Rich Result Test doesn’t flag warnings for them:
HowTo: description.”

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See what I meant when I said that the documentation was a bit sparse?

Change to the QAPage Structured Data

The author property has been removed as a requirement when using the suggestedAnswer property, under the mainEntity property.

The suggestedAnsswer property is described as:

“One possible answer, but not accepted as a top answer (acceptedAnswer). There can be zero or more of these per Question.”

The purpose of the now removed author property was to name the author of the question.

The guidance from Google is written out like this:

mainEntity.suggestedAnswer.author

Kind of opaque, right?

Here is what the changed structured data used to look like:

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"suggestedAnswer": [
{ "@type": "Answer", "text": "Are you looking for ounces or fluid ounces? If you are looking for fluid ounces there are 15.34 fluid ounces in a pound of water.", "dateCreated": "2016-11-02T21:11Z", "upvoteCount": 42, "url": "https://example.com/question1#suggestedAnswer1",
"author": {
"@type": "Person",
"name": "AnotherUser"
}

This is what it looks like now:

"suggestedAnswer": [
{ "@type": "Answer", "text": "Are you looking for ounces or fluid ounces? If you are looking for fluid ounces there are 15.34 fluid ounces in a pound of water.", "upvoteCount": 42, "url": "https://example.com/question1#suggestedAnswer1"
},

See the difference?

Everything after the URL part that pertains to the “author” property is gone.

These additional properties that are a part of the mainEntity property have also been removed

  • mainEntity.dateCreated
  • mainEntity.suggestedAnswer.dateCreated
  • mainEntity.acceptedAnswer.author
  • mainEntity.acceptedAnswer.dateCreated
  • mainEntity.author

SpecialAnnouncement Structured Data

The SpecialAnnouncement structured data is a Covid-19 structured data that is in Beta, meaning that it’s not super official yet.  In fact, the SpecialAnnouncement structured data itself is still under development at Schema.org.

Google offered these examples of situations where the SpecialAnnouncement structured data is appropriate:

  • “Announcement of a shelter-in-place directive
  • Closure notice (for example, closing a school or public transportation)
  • Announcement of government benefits (for example, unemployment support, paid leave, or one-time payments)
  • Quarantine guidelines
  • Travel restrictions
  • Notification of a new drive-through testing center
  • Announcement of an event transitioning from offline to online, or cancellation
  • Announcement of revised hours and shopping restrictions
  • Disease spread statistics and maps”

The following properties have been removed for SpecialAnnouncement and are no longer required:

  • provider
  • audience
  • serviceType
  • address
  • category

Here’s an example of the “serviceType” and “provider” properties that are no longer required:

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Before:

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"governmentBenefitsInfo": { "@type": "GovernmentService", "name": "Paycheck Protection Program", "url": "https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program-ppp",
"provider": {
"@type": "GovernmentOrganization",
"name": "US Small Business Administration"
},
"serviceType": "https://schema.org/BusinessSupport",
"audience": {
"@type": "Audience",
"name": "Small businesses"
}

After:

“governmentBenefitsInfo”: {
“@type”: “GovernmentService”,
“name”: “Paycheck Protection Program”
}

It’s a big difference without the structured data properties that are missing but it’s also simpler.

If in doubt or confused, I suggest reviewing the before and after versions of the structured data. You can find the before version at Archive.org

Citations

Google’s QA Page Structured Data Developer Page
https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/structured-data/qapage

Google’s HowTo Structured Data Type Page
https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/structured-data/how-to

Google’s SpecialAnnouncements Structured Data Help Page
https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/structured-data/special-announcements

Google’s Changelog for Updates to their Documentation
https://developers.google.com/speed/docs/insights/release_notes

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NEWS

Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

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But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

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One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

[embedded content]

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