Google Forum & QA Structured Data Update Focused On Authorship

Google updated their documentation of forum structured data and Q&A structured data to clarify new authorship related requirements for both kinds of structured data .

In the case of  the forum structured data, there is a clarification to the InteractionCounter schema.org data type and also a new recommended property for the author type, both of which are related to authorship data.

The changes to the Q&A structured data is about adding links to the author profiles for those asking the questions, answering the questions or commenting on the questions.

All the changes affect how Google interprets information related to users who are posting comments in a forum or in a Q&A format.

It’s additionally of interest because it shows how interested Google is in pinpointing the authors of content, this time within the contexts of a forum or a Q&A page.

Search results that feature user generated answers from forums currently do not feature author names.

But Google is increasingly doing more with authorship signals such as showing the names of authors of news articles so it’s an open question whether showing forum user names is something being considered or if Google will be doing something else with author data behind the scenes.

Read: What is Google E-E-A-T? 

New Q&A Structured Data Authorship Requirements

Google has also updated the Q&A (QAPage) structured data with requirements that are tied to Author signals.

Q&A pages are pages that have a question and answers on them, plus various comments that aren’t either questions or answers.

The updates to the Q&A pages structured data require that publishers add links that identify who the authors are.

  1. Authors of a question
    The Question structured data type is the question that starts the discussion, the thread starter and this requirement is related to author of the question.
  2. Authors of an answer
    This relates to the author in the Answer Schema.org structured data type. This structured data type has two properties, the suggestedAnswer and acceptedAnswer properties which themselves refer to suggested answers and an accepted answer, two kinds of answers.
  3. Authors of a comment
    The Comment type is an optional structured data that can be used to describe clarifications made by the person asking the question or discussions that aren’t necessarily answers, like responders who are asking for clarification.

The new requirements are similar for all three kinds of authors, question, answer and comment.

Author of a Question

"author.url URL

A link to a web page that uniquely identifies the author of the question, most likely a profile page of the Q&A website. We recommend marking up that page using profile page structured data."

Author of the Answer

"author.url URL

A link to a web page that uniquely identifies the author of the answer, most likely a profile page of the Q&A website. We recommend marking up that page using profile page structured data."

Author of the Comment

"author.url URL

A link to a web page that uniquely identifies the author of the comment, most likely a profile page of the Q&A website. We recommend marking up that page using profile page structured data."

InteractionCounter Structured Data Type

A Schema.org structured data type is the main part of a given section of structured data code. The Property is just a description of that structured data Type.

In Schema.org jargon, a Property is an attribute of the Type.

The InteractionCounter Schema.org structured data type tells Google how many times an author interaction has happened.

This is important because InteractionCounter structured data has required structured data properties. Required means that using the properties is mandatory for eligibility to be shown in Google Perspectives and other search results that feature rich results.

Google’s previous forum documentation for the InteractionCounter “type” was vague and only offered definitions of two “properties” associated with that type. It did not offer an examples of the context of using that data Type and the two associated Properties.

Google clarified this section so that it’s more obvious why the InteractionCounter type is important and useful to use in documenting various author interactions.

More Details About interactionType

Here is what Google changed in the forum structured data documentation.

The guidance previously stated:

"Required properties

interactionType Action

See the place where this is used for a list of valid Action subtypes for this property."

Below is what the new guidance shows, with the changed text highlighted with italics:

"Required properties

interactionType Subtype of Action

For a list of valid Action subtypes for this property, check the property that's using InteractionCounter (for example, interactionStatistic)."

Author Added To Required Properties

Author.URL Property

Another important change to the Forum structured data guidance is the addition of the author.url Property of the Comment structured data Type.

This change is also important because it’s a required property that affects eligibility for the associated forum-related rich results in Google search.

This is the new guidance that was added:

"author.url        URL

A link to a web page that uniquely identifies the author of the post, most likely a profile page of the forum. We recommend marking up that page using profile page structured data."

Read Google’s newly updated guidance on forum structured data:

Discussion forum (DiscussionForumPosting) structured data

Read Google’s newly updated guidance about Q&A structured data:

Q&A (QAPage) structured data

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Sergey Mastepanov

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