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What if finally getting your website to rank in the first position on the first page of the search engine results page (SERP) was no longer the best position!
Well, that time may have come
There have been a lot of changes to Google’s SERP in the last couple of years. Adwords ads are no longer in the sidebar, there are now carousels, local 3-packs, knowledge cards, and featured snippets all on the SERP. All great information for the user, but it’s making for a very crowded results page.
Position zero, essentially, is the featured snippet box that is above whatever link is in the first position. Featured snippets are short answers to a question that a user has asked in Google’s search box. Like, “what is a featured snippet”. When this question is posted in Google’s search box, a quick answer shows up at the top of the SERP within the featured snippet, at position zero.
With the increasing crowdedness of the SERP, getting your site’s information into the featured snippet might be a way to increase your visibility. Before you start “optimizing” for the featured snippet, it’s important to know (a) where the information for featured snippets comes from and (b) what type of questions produces a featured snippet on the SERP.
The information contained in a featured snippet comes directly from a website’s content. Google tells us that they “programmatically determine that a page contains a likely answer to the user’s question, and displays the result as a featured snippet”.
Featured snippets are not ubiquitous. A recent study by Stat Search Analytics reviewed 92,000 queries and found that the featured snippet was most likely to show up in queries that were related to:
Getting your content to be used in position zero (a featured snippet) is a lot like getting your site to show up in position one. The first step is to have great content. If you’re not currently showing up on the first page of the SERP, your content isn’t currently good enough to show up in a featured snippet.
If your content is good enough and you are showing up on the first page of the SERP, then the next step is to optimize that content so that it is answering a question.
Just like SEO, you need to start by identifying the key-phrase that you want to show up for. Once you’ve zeroed in on the key-phrase, start to optimize your content to answer the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How questions that surround that key-phrase. If you’re having trouble thinking up all of the possible questions that people could ask, there’s a great free tool that will help you out called Answer The Public.
And, just like regular SEO, optimizing for a featured snippet requires certain nuances within the code for your site. Hubspot recommends putting the question that you’re optimizing for within header tags (preferably the H2 tag). Then, below that <H2> tag, use a standard paragraph tag <p> to provide the answer to that question. This will help Google identify that the question is an important piece of content on your page or blog post.
Currently, there are two schools of thought to this question. There are some that feel that because the whole purpose of the featured snippet is to provide a quick and accurate answer to a question, that once the searcher gets the answer to their questions then there is no reason to proceed (or click-through) to the website. This means that all of the work that you’re doing to get your content into a featured snippet won’t drive any more traffic to your site. You essentially have become a free consultant.
But, then there are reports by some pretty astute companies like MOZ that show traffic to their site actually improves as a result of their position zero placement.
I believe that the value of a featured snippet for your site will depend on what your goal for being there, is. If you feel that by being a trusted resource (i.e. providing answers to people questions) and your goal is to build your brand visibility and by doing that, ultimately people will remember your brand and seek you out when they are ready. Then, the featured snippet could be a good strategy for you to use.
If, however, you simply want to drive more traffic to your site and that is the single dominant focus to your marketing strategy, then the work required to get into a featured snippet will most likely be more than what you will get from that effort.
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