Just when you thought competition for the first position on Google couldn’t get any more fierce, Google threw a curveball. The search giant introduced “featured snippets” or boxes at the top of the SERPs that answer user questions without their having to click on a link. These snippets have become so popular that they show up in 20% of searches by some estimates. SEO specialists dubbed this featured box “position zero” as the next arms race in search begun.
What does position zero mean for your brand? How can you adapt your SEO strategy to it? And why is it so important anyway? Trinity Insight’s SEO Manager Jessica Herbine recently discussed this opportunity in search rankings and how our clients can take advantage of it.
What is Position Zero?
Position zero refers to Google results at the top of the page, above any of the traditional rankings. These boxes have a few sentences of information, with the keywords often highlighted. The information is pulled from the other listings on the SERPs, ensuring the information is concise, clear and accurate.
Below is an example of a result in position zero for the search term “how many bones in the human body.” You can see that the featured snippet is from Wikipedia, but the first result is from Kevinmd.
There are a few characteristics to keep in mind when targeting these featured snippets, or position zero:
- Position zero is a promoted organic result, not a paid ad or a part of the text that you can flag to be featured.
- The majority of the results showcased in featured snippets are pulled from positions one through five. If you are already ranking highly for these terms, you are more likely to get the extra traffic from a snippet.
- Long-tail keywords are popular queries for featured snippets. It is easier for Google to know exactly what the user wants and to provide a clear answer.
- The featured snippet boxes are constantly changing, so don’t give up if you aren’t being featured right now!
Featured snippets are displayed in a variety of different formats. They can appear in bulleted or numbered lists, paragraphs, tables, videos, images or charts. The goal is to pull the exact information that the user needs without requiring them to scroll through results and determine which link is best.
For example, someone making dinner may search for a substitute for basil because they’re out and need something fast. Below are the results:
Google’s featured snippet pulls from a list of herb substitutes that would otherwise rank third in the SERPs. It bolds the keywords “basil” and “substitute.” The results in position zero also contain an image from The Spruce Eats, which is ranked in the first position. The goal is to pull as much information as possible to get the answer quickly to the user, and then let them decide what to click on.
Why is Position Zero Important?
There are several benefits to ranking in position zero for your brand. Primarily, the increased visibility can improve name recognition and drive more traffic to your website. According to a 2017 study by Ahrefs, results in the first position receive about 26% of all clicks. However, a featured snippet box will command 8.6% of those clicks, leaving brands that were previously in the first position with 19.6% of clicks.
If you already rank in the first position and your page is featured on position zero, this isn’t that big of a deal for you. However, if you don’t focus on position zero, a competitor could easily hop over you and take those 8.6% of clicks from the featured snippet box.
Brands that have been struggling to push their competitors out of the way to reach the first position can instead leapfrog them and take advantage of position zero to earn some traffic, even if they are in the second or third position.
Position zero is also important for voice search, which more than half of people use at home or with friends. The technology of Alexa, Siri and Google all lean heavily on position zero results. These smart assistants will read out the blurbs from position zero to get the answers they need for user queries. If you want your brand to be competitive in voice search, then your SEO strategy should also include plans for position zero.
SEO Best Practices for Position Zero
The first step to rank for position zero is to choose the right type of content to get featured. Opinion pieces are less likely to be featured than content with concrete, useful information. As a result, you can easily identify content types that have a chance to rank in this position:
- Pieces that address the 5 Ws and H: who, what, when, where, why and how.
- Instructional or how-to pieces with clear steps to complete a task.
- Definitions breaking down complex terms and providing context for how they are used.
- Comparisons between two similar items or products on the market.
- Price lists and cost breakdowns for specific items or projects.
- Top 10 lists and other “best lists” that guide users to products, tools, or best practices.
- Frequently asked questions around a particular topic.
As you can see, the information in these content types is often objective and can often be summarized in a few sentences or a quick list. This is what makes the content ideal for position zero and voice search.
Below is a featured video in position zero on changing a toilet flapper. This clip ranked higher than other YouTube videos which were shown below, followed by traditional text-based search results.
Along with creating valuable content, there are other steps you can take to rank for position zero for your brand. A few of these SEO best practices include:
- Target queries that already have a page one ranking. It is easier to move your search terms up a few rankings than to get your content on the first page.
- Structure the content to answer questions. If you create a subhead in the form of a question, answer the question within the first or second lines.
- Write a concise intro. Summarize the content in 40 – 60 words.
- Create longer lists (greater than 8) whenever possible.
- Use proper content structure and formatting (H1, H2, <p>, <ul>, <ol>, etc.).
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. A good mobile experience will help your overall rankings and your chances of being in a featured snippet.
Like all things related to SEO, there is no guarantee that your brand will rank in position zero immediately. However, if you focus on your content structure and target keywords, you can improve your odds of getting featured.
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