Zero is the new Hero in search engine rankings.
Google’s introduction of Position Zero has caught everyone’s attention.
Such has been the impact of “position zero” updates that companies have been forced to change their digital marketing strategy to include – optimize the website for position zero (0) SEO in Google as an addition to their list.
What is Position Zero in Google?
Position Zero is the listing which shows on top of the position one listing on Google in the form of a featured snippet.
Which brings us to our next question: “what is a featured snippet”
“A featured snippet is a content in the form of paragraph, list and tables which shows at position zero in google search results.”
For ex, when you search for “importance of content writing in digital marketing” in google.co.in, the first result, which also happens to be Position zero is a featured snippet – picked from our website (I am flaunting my new found success 😊 )
In layman language, position zero is the search result (usually, in the form of a snippet) which comes above position one in google search results.
Importance of Position Zero:
In the last few years, Google has been working towards improving the user experience. One of the key areas of improvement has been the quality of search results shown on google.
Google has improved its search result quality by making features such as search intent indispensable part of the search algorithm. Add to this, the redefining role of AI in digital marketing.
Position Zero too is a step in the direction of search results improvement by google. The idea is to find content which is nearest to what the user is searching for.
Since position zero is independent of the page rankings, the best of content shows above position zero. i.e, Google shows the content which matches the most with the searched term.
The importance of position zero which mainly comprises featured snippets can be derived from the fact that approx. 15% of the total queries on google show showed features snippet in rankings. (source : https://moz.com/blog/how-to-appear-in-googles-answer-boxes-whiteboard-friday)
Now 15% is a huge number.
A website which is in position zero will have a better CTR (Click Through Rate) as they will be above the number one position ranked listing.
Frankly speaking, position zero has been a party pauper for digital marketers who have burned the midnight oil trying to reach the top of rankings only to be beaten by a new website which is at postion 7 or 8.
What should be a website’s rank to come at position zero:
One important point to note with position zero content is that it can be picked from any of the positions in google. There are times when the content ranking on position 7th might be selected by google as a “position zero content”.
Here is an example to demonstrate what I wrote above:
I searched for keyword “benefits of digital marketing to customers” in google.co.in.
The position zero rank’s content (snippet) is picked from the link which ranks at position 4th in google.
Still, all hope is not lost for those ranking at Numero Uno position.
As per an analysis by workstream, the probability of reaching position zero decreases as your website’s ranking decreases.
Precisely speaking, the higher you rank – the better is the possibility to get selected for position zero.
Here is a graph demonstrating the correlation in between organic rank and featured ranks (position zero):
(source : https://moz.com/blog/game-of-featured-snippets-how-to-rank-in-position-0)
To sum it up. The higher-ranking websites definitely have a better chance of capturing position zero but doors are not closed for lower ranking websites ((till postion10). If google deems them worthy of the top rankings, they too have a good chance to feature at position zero.
Type of Content that features in Position Zero as Featured Snippet includes:
- Paragraph Snippets: Paragraph snippets is the most popular form of snippets which shows at position zero in the form of textual para content. More than 80% of snippets shown at position zero are paragraph snippets. (Source : https://www.searchenginejournal.com/featured-snippets-types/219907/)
The above examples demonstrate paragraph snippets at position zero.
- Lists Snippets: Lists snippets are the featured snippets where the data shows in the form of lists. Around 10% is the % of List Snippets at position zero.
The above example demonstrates a list snippet at position zero.
- Table Snippets:
Table snippets, another popular form of Featured snippets usually feature at position zero for searches such as price comparison, cost comparison, etc.
Table Snippet shows up approx. 7% of the total number of times snippets show up in position zero.
Here is an example of a table snippet at position zero:
Benefits of Featured Snippet:
- Better CTR to your website
- More Visibility
- Higher Traffic
- A featured Snippet Position means a stamp of authority from Google for keyword searched which means your website is valued by Google for content searched (that makes your website an authority website in the topic of search)
- Opportunity to optimize more keywords
Type of Content which shows in Position Zero but is not a Featured snippet:
- Google Map Listings: Google Map listing do form a part of position zero rankings.
They capture the important top positions when you search for a keyword with location combined to it.
Google Map listing is especially beneficial for small businesses looking to drive traffic to their website based on “keyword” + “location” combination.
To be, at position zero with Google My Business Listings, you must optimize your website for relevant keyword (location specific).
- Knowledge Graph:
As per Wikipedia “The Knowledge Graph is a knowledge base used by Google and its services to enhance its search engine’s results with information gathered from a variety of sources. This information is presented to users in a box to the right of search results.”
In a nutshell, the knowledge graph is a method to connect related information gathered from different sources by google.
When I search for “Avengers”, Google smartly forms a knowledge graph providing all information related to Avengers on the right-hand side and showing a series of tweets in the form of related information.
As you can notice, top stories in the form of knowledge graph capture position zero for the keyword searched.
Knowledge graph usually shows for music, movies, tourist spots related searches.
- Rich Answers:
Rich answers are the answers shown by Google for the exact query searched by you. The answers listed by Google are at times part of snippets in the form of a list, paragraph and tables.
Although the answers shown are a part of featured snippets, I have included this category outside the list of featured snippets to avoid any confusion you might have in between rich answers and featured snippets.
Optimizing for SEO Position 0 (zero) in Google:
I have already explained different types of position zero content (majorly occupied by featured snippets) earlier in the article. Time to learn how to find position 0 (zero) opportunities and rank for them in google.
Since Position zero is mostly associated with the featured snippet, I will explain how to rank for featured snippets on the blog. I will take up optimizing google my business listings for position zero in the next blog.
How to Rank for Featured snippets:
- Find Position zero Opportunities (keywords) in google:
A new website will always find it difficult to rank for position zero in google as google is more inclined towards giving websites with higher authority priority over others.
Well – that’s what I thought before I started working towards our position zero strategies.
And though, most of what I wrote is true. You can improve SEO of your website and gradually aim for position zero by providing valuable content to users on the internet.
I start my position zero keyword research strategy by asking questions related to the seed keyword on google and I keep revising the list until I have a substantial number of keywords with me for position zero (low competition).
In addition to the above, I also look at content which might give me a list or a table for the keywords I am targeting.
At present, I am working with a client who owns a medical tourism company. We are working to optimize client’s website for keywords related to cosmetic surgery.
One of the keywords we are targeting for the client is rhinoplasty or nose surgery.
To find position zero opportunities on this topic, I started with long tail keyword searches around questions patients have with reference to the keyword. Three keywords I searched in google are:
- Cost of nose surgery
- Benefits of nose surgery
- Nose surgery recovery time
Coincidentally, all the 3 keywords I selected above have position zero ranks for them.
Also, there is something common with all the 3 searches.
They are all informative searches where users are looking for an answer to their queries.
In my personal experience, such kind of keywords (most of the time) have a position zero ranking.
Once you have compiled the initial list of position zero keywords with reference to the topic, time to move to the next section.
- Check the Competition and your current ranking:
The website which is at position zero for “cost of nose surgery” has a PA: 47, Domain Authority: 90 which obviously makes it a tough competitor to beat.
But, it is not a not a website from the medical or healthcare industry.
On the contrary, it is a website from the loan industry called as bank rate.
I would not mind including this keyword in my list of keywords for targeting position zero.
Furthermore, the website ranks at position 6 on google search results. I analyzed competition which ranks in the top 5 and looks like none of them have optimized their content for position zero.
You must keep repeating the above two steps until you have a list of keywords which have position zero ranking and do not have competition.
You will obviously need to know the fundamentals of competition research such as PA, DA, Title match, meta description and a little bit of common sense to make sense of your competition.
- Write Content, Optimize Content and Build backlinks:
Once you have the keywords, you must structure your content to include all the keywords identified by you for position zero along with accurate answers for those keywords in rankings.
Once you are done with content writing, you can start with basic steps of SEO like on page, off page to get your website to rank high.
While you are busy doing the usual steps to rank high, keep in mind that optimization of content for position zero is an important factor to rank on position zero.
In the example demonstrated above, you might notice that a website which does not rank in top 3 positions has been selected for position zero because google found their content to be more relevant for the search query.
Google gives priority to content which provides the most relevant information for the query searched by the client.
Again, notice the query searched by me and the result shown in the screenshot below.
And here is the competition:
You can see none of the competition addresses the search “cost of nose surgery” as succinctly as the position zero ranking website.
Note: websites after page 2 of rankings rarely have a chance to reach position zero. The first target must be to reach under 20 or 10 in search engine rankings before aiming to capture position zero in google.
The above steps will help you reach position zero and will help you get a featured snippet in position zero sooner or later.
And the steps work perfectly fine for a new website.
The game changes for “Established websites”
Being a relatively new website – you will suck at rankings, but all is not dark and gloomy for you.
Work with a plan to reach in first 10 positions using the usual SEO techniques.
The real work starts when you are in the first 10 or 20 positions.
How do you optimize the website for position zero, once it achieves decent rankings?
I spent a lot of time finding the answer to the above question until i stumbled upon “position zero” optimization techniques.
The whole internet is flooded with them and though, some of them were good – no one actually explained the basic steps.
This is where i had to design my own strategy. Within a week of optimizing all the weblinks which were in top 10 positions and had position zero position in google, I was able to dethrone my rivals and “capture” position zero for at least 5 keywords.
I did take me some time to discover my “Eureka” moment but when it happened, it was “sweet”. Like Archimedes, i did run around the home (with my modesty covered 🙂 ) shouting “Eureka!”.
Here is how i got my weblinks to rank at Position Zero:
The first step was to create a list of all the keywords where we ranked in the top 10. Then i went and checked google for each keyword and made a note of keywords that had featured snippet (position zero) in search engine rankings.
Don’t get a panic attack “OMG! This is a lot of work. I will faint. I am a small business owner. I have one brain, two hands, and one life. How the hell do I do so much work?”
Here is a list of free SEO keyword research tools which also have rank tracking capability (you might have to buy their paid version) to help you avoid that entrepreneur’s panic attack which is always around the corner.
The tools also give you a list of keywords showing the ones with a featured snippet at position zero.
This is how I used one of the tools (rank tracker) to get keywords where we ranked in top 10 and the keywords had featured snippet at position zero:
Since my website is targeting India clients, I decided to run a rank check (don’t confuse it with rain check) and find the hidden gems.
Now, I always target for low hanging fruits. Yes – the same easy keywords which help you get to position zero without breaking a sweat.
I specifically looked for keywords where:
- My web link was in top 10
- There was a featured snippet at position zero
- The featured snippet did not address the query properly. (this is a pure judgment call. You must convince google that your content is better than what your competitor has at position zero)
And then you re-optimize your content by looking at what your competitor’s content is for “position zero”.
Google usually highlights the keywords in para featured snippet. Look for those keywords and see, if you can rewrite your content to beat the competitor at position zero.
Do not forget to look at the content Google is picking from your website.
Google does not always pick the meta description.
I usually, add the keyword for which I want to rank at position zero (exact match) in my content and rewrite the text to make it better than what my competitor has written.
One of the featured snippets we rank at position zero is for keyword “importance of content writing in digital marketing”. I have highlighted the changes I did while rewriting the text to get the web link to rank at position zero as a featured snippet:
At present, I am targeting more than 30 keywords for position zero.
Based on the success I have received, I am confident that in the coming months we should be able to at least rank for more than 50% of the target keywords.
Before I end, here is a bummer:
Position zero ranks fluctuate. As they say “Nothing Good lasts forever” (I am almost in tears ☹ )
A few weeks back our website ranked at position zero (para featured snippet) for close to 10 keywords. Today, the number has come down to 6. We lost 5 positions zero google rankings.
The featured snippet might not remain a featured snippet forever because a competitor might grab the positions by writing a better content or google might not find your content worthy of occupying the Zero rank.
Google won’t even disclose why you were dislodged from position zero. So, you can sit in a corner and sulk about losing the top ranking or do something about it.
The message is clear “The competition never ends. Keep moving swiftly and smartly, so that you can always stay ahead of your competition”.