Posted: 15 Dec 2017 Contributor: Matthew J Fritschle
How to Rank in Position 0: A Featured Snippets Guide
Sure, everyone wants their website to rank on Google’s much coveted first position, but why stop there? Why not shoot for the stars and go for position 0? Wait, position 0? That’s right, position 0. And as we all know, zero comes before one.
All You Need to Know About Position 0
Position 0 content, AKA featured snippets, are something that marketers have called an ‘answer box,’ and in Google’s eyes, these featured snippets are the best answer to any particular searched query. In Google’s own words:
“When a user asks a question in Google Search, we might show a search result in a special featured snippet block at the top of the search results page. This featured snippet block includes a summary of the answer, extracted from a webpage, plus a link to the page, the page title and URL.”
Regarding where the summary comes from, it’s a snippet extracted programmatically from what a visitor sees on your web page. In essence, it draws attention to your site as the best possible match for a user’s query and can lead to more traffic, greater visibility, and increased brand trust — good stuff. As to the how, Google regularly crawls websites for indexing, ranking, etc., and in doing this their bots extract a summary of the page’s content.
As you can imagine, attaining the featured snippet spot is difficult, and even when do get it, it’s quite volatile; so much so that one second you may be there and the next you’re out. Take a look at the what happens when you’re position 0 versus when someone else knocks you out:
Funnily enough (well, maybe not funny) and contrary to what intuition tells us, appearing in a featured snippet may not actually boost your CTRs. Wait, what? How is that possible? Take a look at the following scenario:
- Mark searches for a chocolate chip cookie recipe
- Mark comes across a featured snippet of the recipe and decides that it’s the one he needs
- Mark writes the recipe on a sticky note, closes the window, and starts cooking
As we can see, Mark had no real need to go into the web page, and why would he? He already has all the information he needs. That’s not to say that you should give up on your position 0 endeavors, after all, the image above shows that you do indeed see benefits.
Some Position 0 Examples
Some people are visual learners; this section’s for you. Some featured snippets come in numbered lists and depict a process. For example, here’s what happens when you search for how to bake cookies (because everyone loves cookies):
Featured snippets may also appear as a paragraph for questions that require more elaboration than a list can provide. For example, here’s what happens when you search for why does chocolate taste so good (seriously though, why does it?):
The final featured snippet we’ll cover today is the table snippet, which appears when you need an answer in, well, a table format. For example, here’s what happens when you search for conversion rates:
How to Rank in Position 0
And now we arrive at the how. Sorry to say this, but there’s no real answer to this question because only Google knows why this happens, so we can only speculate as to the how. That being said, let’s speculate!
Make sure to think of general questions your audience is likely to search and also make sure to include them in your content (along with the answer). Make it easy for Google / your audience to find your answer by utilizing the correct format (text/paragraph, list, table, chart, image, Knowledge Graph) that best captures what it’s saying. It’ll also be helpful if you use appropriate tags for the answer format you’re using. For example, if your answer is in paragraph format, use an HTML paragraph tag <p>, if it’s a table, use <table>. Once you’re finished tagging, use Google Search Console to recrawl your page so that Google’s index can be updated:
1. Log into Google Search Console
2. Expand the ‘Crawl’ menu and click ‘Fetch as Google’
3. Insert the page address and click ‘Fetch’
4. It’ll be added to the table —> click ‘Request Indexing’
As for the content, always answer complex questions with complete answers. As they are today, featured snippets are very focused and provide full answers. Therefore, stick to complex questions that have a higher chance of needing specific answers, and also provide a full answer. A complex answer requires an equivalently complex answer that doesn’t just skim the top; go in depth and answer fully. Remember, the point is to save a user time, so Google will always opt for the answer that does just that. SEMRush also found that answers within 40 to 50 words are more likely to get features, so if your content is too long, create a short summary that Google can pull.
Another thing, you can also use Google’s ‘People also ask’ section that appears on the bottom of their SERPs to narrow down what people are actually searching for. Similarly, make use of Answer the Public to find questions related to your keywords / industry.
It’s also important to note that while organic ranking is vital, it doesn’t have as much impact with featured snippets; if it was, all featured snippets would be taken from position 1. In fact, Larry Kim, founder of WordStream, found that engagement metrics are much more important. For example, pages with both high CTRs and time on site have a much higher chance of getting position 0 than pages with mediocre or average metrics on position 1. Using one of his pages as an example, the snippet used was from a page on the tenth position. When he looked into Search Console, he found that it had a very high CTR of 21.43% and equally high time on site of 14 minutes and 30 seconds (3X higher than an average site).
To illustrate, imagine the following scenario:
- Someone searches for a recipe online
- Google scans pages for snippable content that can be used on a featured snippet
- Once it finds pages, one of its many algorithms compares them for engagement rates, such as CTR and dwell time (time on site), and asks itself if they are suitable for a snippet.
- If it’s not, it keeps looking for another page to use
- If it is, it uses it