We know that Google is constantly experimenting with search results. For search engine optimizers, goals keep shifting. SEO earlier was about ranking against competitors in the same category. Now it has moved to a point where SEO is about having a sustained approach against Google’s changing algorithm. Ranking on position 1 is yesterday. SEO is now about ranking in position zero.
What is position zero?
Position zero is the ‘featured snippet’ that shows above the first search result. It looks different as it is highlighted in a grey outline box and features the answer in the first few lines. For a typical query, you are highly likely to find your answer in this snippet, so much so, that you may not go beyond if the snippet gives you the answer you need. You are also much more likely to click on this result compared to others that appear below.
How do featured snippets work?
Here’s what Google has to say:
Here’s the nice additional bit that a lot of people miss –
“Featured snippets commonly contain one listing, but more than one may appear.“
This means Google is picking the most definitive reply to a query which is most likely based on its historic performance. It is highly likely that these are:
- It’s high ranking in organic search based on various existing parameters of the search algorithm
- High click rate on the query
- Likely answer to the exact question in the format of an answer in a few lines and also a detailed explanation for support
- The average amount of time spent on-page and a lower bounce rate which is a signal that the answer is relevant
Are there different types of featured snippets?
Well, the are different types of content that get featured. This includes paragraphs, numbered lists, bulleted lists, tables, YouTube videos, images, and charts.
Why are featured snippets important?
Other than the most obvious fact of added visibility, featured snippets are also what you hear as an answer if you do a voice search.
Not just that, 55% of households are expected to own smart speaker devices by 2022. From this lens, if you are not in the featured snippet, nothing much else will matter. The good part is that more than one result can be in the featured snippet.
Here’s an example of what multiple featured snippets looks like
We searched for ‘top 10 places to holiday in India’. While the main featured snippet read ‘According to Travel Triangle’, it also had ‘View 5+ more’ on the top right corner. The result takes you to a page where Travel Triangle is still featured in the first two search results and also as a first result in the answer box. Then you’ll see search results from competitors like Thrillophillia and MakeMyTrip among others on the same topic.
Here’s another thing that grabs attention – the featured snippet is not a paragraph directly taken from the page. The snippet program is built in a way that it will scan the entire page, select content from the page in parts, gather it and show it in the more relevant and effective manner.
With this instance of the Travel Triangle blog, you’ll see that Google has reformatted the content and just picked up the list for display with minimal or no text from within each list item.
Another reason to care about position zero in terms of search is also that it is shown before the ads. It takes up significantly more real estate space than regular results garnering more attention – and there is no way you can pay to get here.
And now the question you are really seeking the answer to – How do I get to rank in the featured snippet?
- As with all things SEO, there are tips and tricks to get yourself into position zero. Here are some things that can help
- First – get to the first page of search results – the higher the better. This is half the battle won for any SEO. Now, even a no. 10 listing on page 1 has a chance to get into position zero, however, the majority of featured snippets come from results that rank between 1 to 5.
- Work backward – what is the most likely question for which your particular blog can be the best possible answer. Provide the right information in the right format. Include all possible information through that one page
- Include rich media including infographics and video on the page in the same context
- Keep updating the page as often as possible. Keep a timeline check on when the page was last updated and if it the latest page is crawled
Optimize the title by adding a part of the query to it as an H tag. Also, add the year/month where relevant. For example, something like ‘2019’s most definitive list to get to position zero on Google’.
- Keep the page engaging by opening comments so that there is always fresh user-generated content on the page that gives the impression that the page has useful information.
- From a content perspective, answer the 5 Ws of who, what, when, where, why. This is most likely to cover the questions in context. Google’s answer box about the topic is likely to give you the questions people are already asking.
- Don’t forget to answer the How. Many questions seek instructions as answers on how to do or make something. If you have a video, image or content that answers this, make sure you include it in the page
Add definitions: Definitions help solve the ‘What’ part of the question in a way that can keep it simple to understand and complex enough to intrigue someone to click through.
- Do a comparison: An a v/s b approach can be a great winner for a featured snippet people like to get information in context. For example, do a simple cat vs dog search on Google, you will see a featured snippet, featured videos, answer box, the website from where the featured snippet was picked and then everyone else. That’s a lot to beat for visibility.
- Give cost breakdowns and comparisons: If you have product variants, a table of price breakdown and list of features may rank in a featured snippet for a relevant query. Search for ‘One Plus price in India’ and you’ll see a table of their 2019 popular phones and their price from the 91mobiles website
- Answer a frequently asked question: If you are a travel blog about Kerala, you’ll notice that several questions in the answer box are about food in Kerala. Accordingly, if you make a definitive list of authentic Kerala dishes, where you can get them with ratings and images, it can have a good chance to rank well.
- Optimize for mobile: Use all the standard optimization techniques for a mobile-first search result including content chunking and page speed optimization.
- lf are you are already on position 1 to 5 in Google, improving your relevance increases your chance to rank on position zero to a good extent. After all, only 1/3rd snippets are pulled from position 1 and the rest come from positions 2-5.
- Last but not least, Moz (which acquired Star Search Analytics) allows you to get a view of your featured snippets. Keep the tracking on to stay optimized.
Watch: We are a Content-First Agency