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Google Simplifies HowTo, QAPage and SpecialAnnouncement Schema

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Google Simplifies HowTo, QAPage and SpecialAnnouncement Schema

Schema is your ticket to entity optimization as it helps search engines understand the context of your web page content and map them to relevant queries online. Schema properties or structured data fields on the other hand are your content opportunities to better describe the content on the page and created a nested schema architecture of the entities on the page – which every search engine prefers.

Implementing schema is not a one-time process as the schema vocabulary constantly changes and the content on websites evolves and changes as brands evolve. This means that your website schemas requires diligent monitoring and maintenance to ensure they are error-free as errors and warnings impact the efficacy of the implemented schema and obstruct their path of being displayed as rich results.

That said, a few days back search engine giant Google said that they were removing 12 structured data fields from the help document of key schema, such as HowTo, QAPage and SpecialAnnouncement – which are frequently used by brands across the globe.

Google’s reasoning towards this exercise was simple:

  1. The structured data fields were unused on search
  2. Rich Results Test tool does not flag warnings for these data fields

The benefit of removing the excess structured data fields from HowTo, QAPage, and SpecialAnnouncementSchema

Google is trying to simplify the structured data and the properties included for a given schema. The removal of the structured data fields is a measure to include properties that enhance the context of the content or if the schema property can produce visible rich results.

That said, Google’s John Mueller commented on this very topic earlier, and it’s an important point to think about in this context.

He said, “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 use to 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.”

Structured data fields that were removed from the help documents by Google

As we highlighted above, 12 structured data fields that were removed from the help documents as deemed search redundant from the HowTo, QAPage and SpecialAnnouncement schema are as follows:

1. SpecialAnnouncement:

The SpecialAnnouncement schema has been recently been introduced due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and is still under development on Schema.Org. Google has now removed the following properties from their help document as they deem them to be irrelevant in the context of a special announcement.

  • Provider
  • ServiceType
  • Address
  • Category fields
  • Audience

Let’s show you a before and after example of the omission of the audience schema property.

SpecialAnnouncement

With this example of the ‘audience’ schema property removed, the structured data has been simplified.

2. HowTo:

The ‘description field’ schema property is essential in other schema types, such as AboutPage, Accommodation, etc., but for the ‘HowTo’ schema, Google has removed it.

  • Description field
Description field

3. QAPage:

The QAPage schema is used in cases where there is one question and multiple suggested answers which is common in community forums.

Using the ‘MainEntity.suggestedAnswer.author’ schema property was to mention the author of a suggested answer and based on Google’s judgment, including ‘author’ is a cause of complication for this schema property and redundant.

The other properties that have been removed from the QA Page schema are as follows:

  • MainEntity.dateCreated
  • MainEntity.suggestedAnswer.dateCreated
  • MainEntity.acceptedAnswer.author
  • MainEntity.acceptedAnswer.dateCreated
  • MainEntity.author fields

How will this impact the HowTo, QAPage and SpecialAnnouncement schema?

Here lies the most important question. If you’ve implemented the HowTo, QAPage, and SpecialAnnouncement schema on web pages which include any of the aforementioned data fields, do you have to remove them immediately to ensure no errors or warnings are flagged for the published schema?

The answer is no, you wouldn’t need to. If these fields have been used in any of the HowTo, QAPage and SpecialAnnouncement schema, Google will ignore them and they will continue to not be displayed as rich results, nor will Rich Result Test detect these as warnings. However, in accordance with John Mueller’s comment even if Google doesn’t use the aforementioned properties in any visible search results listings, these can continue to exist and still help to describe a page better.

That said, since Google has removed the data fields from their help documents, it would be redundant to use them going forward.

Reiterating, monitoring, and maintaining is a requirement to ensure that your published schema is fetched and displayed as rich results by search engines or gives the search engine better context of the content. Milestone’s Structured Data Testing Tool (MSDTT) which is integrated into Milestone Schema Manager does the job of calling out any errors or warnings if your web page content changes or if there are changes to Schema.org’s schema vocabulary – which are in line with the recommendations or changes made by the top search engines. To know more about Milestone Schema Manager, contact us at [email protected] or call us at 408-200-2211.

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