We've all been there. After checking out your website, it seems like your traffic is low. So you search your business or product on Google, but your website isn't showing up. Your eyes continue to drop further down the results. You pass the fifth position, the sixth position— further and further until *gasp*— You find yourself on the second page of search results.
Even though you are producing content and keep up with your website regularly, the competition is too much and you are loosing your spot. Ranking in the top ten is hard. Being first is even harder. And with your website on the second page, you are missing out on all that traffic clicking on the first page results.
Research shows that only 5% of searchers make it to the second page of results.
All that missing traffic means your lead generation is taking a huge hit. Why does it have to be so hard to get to the first position?
But what if I told you there was a position outside of all other Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)? A position so powerful it populates above all others, steals clicks from the first-ranked organic result, and defies typical SEO ranking rules. This is power of the coveted position zero.
Google’s position zero, otherwise known as a featured snippet, identifies the top answer to a searcher’s query. The snippet then displays in a box along with a url and page title above all the other search results. It functions to provide quick, easy answers without having to leave Google’s platform.
Although the featured snippet shows the valuable content your website holds on the main search page, it mean your content will go ignored or unclicked. Ben Goodsell with Searchengineland reports a 516% increase in sessions after their site placed in a feature snippet. He also found that click through rate (CTR) made a significant jump from 2% to 8%. With results like that, it’s easy to see how ranking for Google’s featured snippets can become a large part of sustainable lead generation.
Believe it or not, the featured snippet is not new on Google. A protoversion of the featured snippet was implemented in 2013. Since then, many optimizations have been made to this feature including where they pull from and how often they populate. Recent adjustments to the algorithm have made featured snippets a hot topic within the search engine optimization (SEO) community. Many are asking, “How do I get my content to position zero?”
Harnessing the Power of Zero: The Ahrefs Case Study
Ahrefs, a SEO software company, produced an in-depth study of the effect optimizing for featured snippets had on their metrics. Most recently updated August of 2020, this study is full of incredible data about how current featured snippets function and the effects they can have on SEO.
According to Ahrefs, featured snippets occur in 12.29% of Google searches. They also found that featured snippets are most commonly pulled from the top 10 search results - that means you don’t have to rank for the 1st position to be at the top of the page. You simply have to provide the best answer to the searcher’s question, and voila! Even the top result can't quite compare to your prowess.
Taking Steps Toward Position Zero
Be One With Your Persona
In order to answer your ideal client’s search query, you need to know the question they are asking, and before you determine the question, you need to understand their motivations, fears and frustrations. Enter the buyer persona. This semi-fictional representation of your most ideal client(s) should be guiding every marketing (and sales) action your business takes. Well-defined personas can bring clarity to your marketing message and provide a roadmap for your marketing actions. Don’t stop at basic demographic information. Although it provides some value, you need to uncover the root your personas’ persisting problems (like what we did with that alliteration?).
Reminder: the goal here is to not just rank for any featured snippet or keyword phrase, it’s to win the featured snippet for the phrases being searched by your next ideal client.
Understanding motivations is pivotal to exploring the different questions and keywords your most ideal buyer is searching.
Keywords Are Key
The words you choose for your content are the golden ticket to reach any 1st page position for search results. Before you create anything for your business, it is a good idea to do research on what people (especially your persona) are currently searching. Google Trends is a great place to start if you are looking for high level relevant keyword topics. SEMRush and Serpstat are excellent tools for this. In addition to showing the volume of searches by keyword, they also provide which terms rank specifically for Google’s featured snippets. BINGO.
But featured snippets don’t bend to the average SEO strategy. The real key to success is long-tail keywords. According to WordStream, long-tail keywords are long, specific keywords often used by higher intent audience members. When the search is related to purchases, these people are often further along the buyer's journey (or path to purchase). They are more likely to use phrases rather than single words and typically have a specific question they are looking to answer.
Up Your Blog Game
It is no secret that creating quality content can boost your SEO. One of the best ways to create high ranking content is through a blog. Establishing a blog provides you an avenue to speak to many topics as an authority. That’s great news, since according to the Ahrefs case study from earlier, ranking for one featured snippet increases your likelihood to place on other queries. Creating many great blogs is a wonderful way to place your eggs in multiple baskets, so to speak.
Not just any blog will do if you are aiming for position zero, however. Your blog is going to need to stand out among the vast sea of others on the internet. The best way to do that is to establish those buyer personas we were talking about earlier. (Hey! We’ve got a free resource for that. Check it out here.) Buyer personas help you understand what topics your ideal customer wants to see. Hitting that sweet spot helps to increase traffic and time on page. Those metrics tell Google your content is answering the right questions and keeping people engaged.
Speaking of answering a question, structure matters when you are looking to be in Google’s position zero. You should aim to structure your blog so that provides a short, concise answer to a question. Blogs written this way are more likely to be pulled by Google since they fit the pre-established format for a featured snippet. The best formats for featured snippets include:
- Short Paragraphs
- How-To Walkthroughs
- Rich Answers
Creating quality blogs with a position zero friendly format is only half the battle though. To boost your authority with Google’s algorithm you are going to have to post consistently. Even if you have enough content to post often, the act of posting itself can be a time-consuming barrier to success. That is where marketing automation services come in. These services allow you to create batches of blogs and schedule them out over a long period of time. By working ahead you’ll be better able to manage your time and save yourself a large amount of stress.
Featured Snippets: Our New SEO Overlord?
The truth is featured snippets will never fully replace traditional SERP rankings. That being said, it does demonstrate an interesting trend for search engine platforms. As technology advances it becomes more and more important the content we create give answers that are human and helpful. The process trends further into detail and precision. Gone are the days of stuffing keywords into a page and watching your traffic skyrocket. The rise of the featured snippet offers a very obvious example of this, and it is safe to say position zero (and other trends like it) will only get more powerful as time goes on.