For as long as there have been search engines, companies have been trying to snag that top spot on the search result pages. Like the Pokémon theme tune says: ‘I want to be the very best, like no one ever was’ and being in the first position has correlated to the very best for such a long time. However, there is an over-taker. A competitor. A position no one knew existed until recently…
Position Zero. To be said with the utmost respect in hushed tones so as not to disturb them.
It has many names: position zero, featured snippet, no-click search result, and answer boxes. With all these names comes great power. It may feel like you’ve only just managed to wrap your head around what SEO is and how to optimise your content for the first position in the search results page, and now you’re meant to care about something new? Why should you put effort into this? And, more pressingly, what even is it?
Position zero or the featured snippets are selections of content displayed in a box on the search engine result pages, above the regular results but below the ads. They’re the one-stop shop for users looking for the answer to a query without having to do more than look at the SERP.
From the horse’s mouth themselves, Google explains that their systems determine whether a page would make a good featured snippet to highlight for a specific search request. The same system will also determine whether the format of the page will help people more easily discover what they’re seeking.
It sounds terrifying and goes against everything SEO stands for, surely. Being a featured snippet doesn’t mean that a user will head to your website and find out more when all they need is in this handy little box. So, why are they becoming more and more important for a startup to work towards?
If you want to make your target audience’s search experience sleeker, more relevant, and faster to reach you, reaching position zero is the way to go. Users know that content in position zero is the most direct and best for their search because it’s placed above everything else. Being at the very top means that what you’re telling the user is the most authoritative, the most accurate, the best – all because it’s at the top. It’s a rule that’s so ingrained in us that it doesn’t have to be communicated by search engines, users already know.
There are a few different types of featured snippets. The most common being paragraph-formatted, with 50% of all featured snippet results being in this format. HubSpot found that paragraphed content of 54-58 words in the most optimal for getting that position zero ranking. That length means it fits nicely into the little box and doesn’t leave the user hanging or creating more work for them by having to click on your website. However, if you want them to click through (yes please!) then the rule of thumb is to answer the question immediately, and then include additional information that is so irresistible they’d regret not visiting your website.
Lists come in second with 37% of results. They can be anything from the top 10 universities in America to the order a book series should be read in. These are then separated once more into two distinct categories: bulleted and numbered lists. For bulleted lists, the listicle is the main culprit. They’re small, digestible bits of content that can be easily found and easy to access by the average user.
Numbered lists are the ones which tell a user how to do something, like a recipe or tying a bowtie. Yours could be instructions on how to use your product and including images along with extra details users cannot live without will get your click-through rate to shoot up.
Finally, and the type of snippet that has the most chance for websites to be included in, is the carousel. These are generated when a search is quite broad and needs to be refined, like, say, comparing pet insurance plans. They look like bubbles at the top of the page, and feature keywords, so clicking one will change the snippet and search results. Around two thirds of the bubbles are from websites which are in positions 2-10 in the SERP, and the other third belonging to sites that didn’t rank originally. This is great news as it means there’s a lot of chance for your startup to feature here.
Sometimes, (let’s face it, all the time) your content will be so tantalising when featured in the snippet that users will click through to your website to find out more about your startup. Click-through rates for companies with featured snippets were two times greater than those not featured. The click-through rates for the website in position one, on a page without a position zero, is 26%. This then decreases significantly to just 19.6% once a snippet is on the page.
So, how can you get your startup to this promised land?
The biggie, as always, is research! Are you fed up with us telling you this yet?
You most likely have bounds of knowledge on your target audience and customising your content so you can be position zero is another place to put it to use. You should be anticipating their needs by knowing what they’re looking for meaning you can show them why your startup is the one they need.
Use of long-tail keywords are great for this as they’re longer and more specific phrases a customer will use when they’re closer to a point-of-purchase. This streamlines the type of traffic you’ll get to your site as use of a long-tail keyword means the searcher is more committed to finding a solution and will desire your startup more if it’s the answer. Research for which keywords your customers are currently using, along with ones that don’t have a featured snippet (yet), allows you to tailor your content and increase your chances of landing position zero.
So, if you can create or repurpose content that surrounds these specific keywords, you’re practically in the money. An FAQ page that answers all those burning questions customers has is a great way to hit this you’ll be able to answer them immediately, and then add that all important extra information for those that wish to dive deeper into how you are the right company for them. You can even be sneaky and repurpose content you’ve already posted but in a different format, like an infographic or a video, to further improve your chances at position zero.
Lastly, you can save yourself and the almighty mechanisms of the featured snippets time by formatting your content to the standards they’re searching for, for them. As mentioned previously, if you can make your paragraphed content between 54-58 words, it will likely be picked up to be featured. Though it might create more work for you, it’ll make the experience for the snippets system and your customers seamless.
If position zero feels intimidating still, contact us and our team of creatives can help you curate your content to reach those new heights.