Traditionally, most SEO focus has been on getting websites ranked in the top three spots on Google (or any other search engine, for that matter). Those three positions were the holy grail of SEO for years because they held (and still do hold) so much potential for businesses looking to secure more website visitors.
However, achieving a place in the top three spots required significant investment in terms of both time and effort. For businesses in highly competitive markets, a top three ranking was often out of the question.
But now, thanks to Google’s featured snippets in search feature, websites can actually achieve something the SEO industry calls “position 0.”
What Is Position 0?
Simply put, position 0, or ranking #0 as it’s also known, is the highest spot you can possibly achieve on Google organically. This powerful position to occupy is displayed above all the other results in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and includes an extracted summary of the information on the page it is taken from.
A Google search for the phrase “how to SEO” returns over 54 million results. The first three of which are:
However, for this particular phrase, Google has deemed that the “Your SEO Checklist” by Entrepreneur – which occupies the second spot in the SERPs – answers the query directly and is ultimately useful for someone searching for “how to SEO.”
As a result, the Entrepreneur link not only appears above all the others (despite its number two ranking), but it also features twice in the SERPs. This means that if someone overlooks the featured snippet (perhaps because they think it’s an ad), there’s still a chance that they’ll click on the link anyway from the search results displayed below.
Benefits Of Landing The Position 0 Spot
Perhaps the most powerful aspect of position 0 is its ability to make the SEO playing field that bit more level. That’s because being ranked on the first page of Google is not a prerequisite for landing the position 0 featured snippet spot.
In fact, research by Larry Kim confirmed that any website can be shown as a featured snippet.
The research, which analyzed 981 featured snippets in total, found that while approx. 70% were from pages ranking in the top three spots, 30% were from position 4 or lower. One featured snippet was even taken from a page ranked at 71 in the SERPs.
This reality alone means that pages which are outgunned when it comes to backlinks could still find themselves above the top of three because of their content.
Of course, while any page can be a featured snippet, most are taken from pages ranking in the top 10. However, just think how potentially lucrative this could be if your website is in position 5. Suddenly, you find yourself leapfrogging over the sites in positions 1-4 and reaping the exposure and traffic rewards associated with being in position 0.
And the traffic rewards are real…
This graph from Search Engine Land shows the impact on traffic when a website finds itself in position 0:
How To Boost Your Chances Of Being The Featured Snippet
Featured snippets actually appear in a significant proportion of search results.
According to a study of 112 million keywords by Ahrefs, 12.29% of search queries have featured snippets in their search results.According to a study by Ahrefs, 12.29% of search queries have featured snippets in their results.Click To Tweet
The same Ahrefs’ study also found that featured snippets steal clicks from the number one ranked search result. Furthermore, one web page can actually occupy the featured snippet spot for numerous queries. In one example cited by Ahrefs, a single web page held the featured snippet spot for a whopping 4,658 different search queries.
So, as you can see, securing a featured snippet spot can be very beneficial for businesses. But how can you improve your chances of being picked by Google to occupy position 0?
1. Identify a question in your industry/niche and focus on answering it
Featured snippets predominantly appear whenever an Internet user asks Google a direct question. For example, “what is the deepest ocean?” or “what is the biggest mountain?”
Therefore, if you want to rank at position 0, you need to first and foremost focus on answering a question with your content.
What that doesn’t mean, is picking any old question and seeking to answer it just so you get a featured snippet slot. Said question must be relevant to your industry, business and customers.
Also, including the actual question or a variation of it in your content acts as a good indicator to Google and tells it that you potentially have the information a person is looking for.
2. Write in an easy to digest, succinct way
Long, fancy words and lengthy paragraphs are great when you’re writing a research paper or something equally highbrow, but they don’t necessarily lend themselves well to search engines. That’s because search engine algorithms find short, informative sentences easier to parse.
Bear this in mind when you are constructing your content, especially as information that’s easier to digest is also preferred by most people, too. Think about the searchers experience.
Also, content that’s full of technobabble and jargon might put people off, so be sure to explain any technical terms thoroughly.
3. Start your piece with a summary
Have you ever noticed how journalists pretty much outline their entire story right at the start of a report? More often than not, a news report starts with a summary and then goes on to flesh out the facts and circumstances.
Such a writing style is great for Google’s featured snippets as it allows the summary at the beginning to be extracted for the position 0 slot. Not only does this give the person searching valuable information right off the bat, but it also piques their interest as to what the rest of the content includes – boosting your chances of getting a click in the SERPs.
4. Don’t skimp on the word count
Google loves long-form content (considered by many to be articles or posts longer than 700 words) because it usually contains more valuable information.
While that doesn’t mean you should babble on about the topic at hand and keep repeating the same points over and over, it does mean that a piece with a longer word count will usually stand a better chance of securing the featured snippet slot.
5. Include bulleted lists, numbered lists, tables, and markup
A study by STAT Search Analytics found that ordered lists and tables boost a web page’s chances of being a featured snippet, but only if the correct on-page markup has been added.
In fact, according to the research, pages with <table> markup appeared 21% more commonly in featured snippet results than on regular search results, while pages with <ol> markup appeared 41.6% more frequently in featured snippet results.Pages with list markup appear 41.6% more frequently in featured snippet results.Click To Tweet
The bottom line is Google loves displaying bulleted lists, numbered lists and tables in featured snippets, but you’ve got to tell Google they are there in the first place with appropriate markup.
You should already be using schema markup to improve your SEO, so with this potential additional benefit, it’s an absolute win-win for you.
6. Get your core SEO game up to scratch
Even though websites that are not ranked in the top three SERPs positions can be used for featured snippets, the majority of featured snippets are taken from the highest ranking sites.
That’s why – and you should be doing this anyway – you need to get your SEO strategy up to scratch before you start targeting those coveted featured snippet spots.
While you may have no chance of breaking into the top three spots in your industry or niche because they are occupied by global super brands, you can boost your chances of appearing relatively high up in the SERPs by concentrating on getting your core SEO efforts right.
7. Be prepared to revisit your content
Featured snippets are volatile and can literally change within the space of a few hours. While this is unlikely to happen for certain types of content, it is a reality for super competitive niches and industries. That’s because the rewards associated with being a featured snippet, in terms of exposure and traffic, are so high.
Therefore, you need to be prepared to revisit your content in the future if it is no longer being used by Google as a featured snippet. This may be the case if something radical has changed in your niche or more relevant information is now available.