With rich results in Google Search, there are parameters that Google puts in place that are generally quite subtle. With the unofficial launch of How-To Schema Rich Results on desktop, this is no different.
With the new desktop How-To treatment, it appears that Google has decided not to show rich results for the top spot. This is unlike all other rich results in Google Search, which have the ability to yield a rich result when occupying the top standard listing.
Similar to FAQ Schema, How-To Schema only has the ability to yield 3 rich results when ranking on the first page of Google Search. This applies to both the mobile and desktop How-To treatment. But then there’s the difference among mobile and desktop How-To rich results.
In the early stages of desktop How-To rich result testing, I posted an example to Twitter showing FAQ parameters being the same as How-To. Here’s what this example looks like, using the “site” Search Operator for a site that uses How-To Schema heavily:
Yep, did some quick tests and can confirm. How-To effectively has the same filters as FAQ Schema:— Brodie Clark (@brodieseo) May 28, 2020
1. 3 rich results is the max
2. Rich results only work on pg. 1
Details on the new desktop test: https://t.co/T0kkgvzwlB + more on filtering: https://t.co/E7sPrOnryK pic.twitter.com/0lnKpcdHVM
The example shows the first 3 results that have the markup showing the How-To treatment on desktop. Again, this was during the testing phase, where several other How-To variations were being tested. You can also see Product schema (with the star rating) being used on those results.
This is where things start to get interesting, because this no longer seems to be the case for the recent changes to the desktop How-To rich results that we’re seeing. Here’s what this same “site” Search Operator looks like for the site shown in my tweet:
So what you’re seeing here is essentially the top result is subtracted from the possible total of 3 rich results. If for instance the top result didn’t have the markup, then 3 rich results on desktop would have the opportunity to show at the same time below (if on page 1).
This also means that using the “site” Search Operator on desktop with a single URL (without variations) that has valid markup won’t show a rich result. You’ll need to get that URL showing below the top spot by playing around with your Search Operator. For example, here’s how I can get the above page to show with the How-To treatment:
In summary, the desktop How-To treatment has the same filtering parameters as FAQ Schema. With the difference that on desktop you can’t yield a rich result when ranking #1. And in this scenario, a Featured Snippet counts as a position, so you can yield a rich result when ranking below a Featured Snippet in the standard web search listings.
As with all rich results based on Schema, there are quirks that accompany them. In the case of the desktop How-To treatment, it relates to ranking in the top position. In the example shown is this post, it works quite nicely because the top ranking URL has a product rating rich result fallback. Which ain’t too bad.