The "zero" spot is the featured snippet that often appears before the organic search results. Like the knowledge box, this is prime real estate that allows your site to display more information related to the query than the other sites.
A common misconception that many business owners have is that ranking #1 for a term that triggers a featured snippet is how you are able to rank in the zero spot. Unfortunately, there are many cases in which the #1 organic result is not the featured snippet in the zero spot. Today, we are going to look at the reason behind this and the steps you should be taking if you want to capture a piece of this prime real estate.
As you can see above, a search for "why do SEO" turns up a featured snippet for stellarseo.com/what-is-seo/ in the zero position. There are a few reasons why this is happening, the first being the content itself.
This is image is a screenshot of the top of the ranking page, and the intro paragraph. The important part about this is that two questions are posed and a brief answer is given to both in the first few sentences of that page.
Google Android phones use featured snippets to answer your questions audibly. The format used above is perfect for that feature, which is why Google favors it over showing the top-ranking site, which may not use a phone friendly layout.
If you take a moment to search "why do SEO" you will notice that out of the top three organic results, this site is the only one follow the question & answer format, making it no coincidence that it is the featured snippet.
If you look at the fourth result, which for me (remember personalization becomes a factor in what is shown) is https://www.reliablesoft.net/what-is-search-engine-optimization-and-why-is-it-important/ you will notice that page uses a question & answer format at the top as well. In some cases, even sites that rank on the bottom half of the first page can end up in the zero position, when using the right content format. In this case, it is likely that since the first page outranks the second page using a similar format, that it is the one be displayed. That means rankings are still important but only part of the equation.
Either way, here are five steps you should implement to increase your chances of ranking in the zero spot.
Increasing Your Likelihood of Zero Rankings
- Content Layout: As noted above, asking a question and giving a brief answer that summarizes the content of the page is one of the first things you should implement. List formats and FAQ pages are also good candidates for the zero spot, just look at the results in your niche to determine if one is working better than the rest.
- Gather Questions: Why, how, and pricing questions are three areas that generate a lot of featured snippets. Using Google can help you uncover popular, related questions that you could also be answering in your content.
- Long-Form Content: Content exceeding 1,500 words is more likely to be shown as a featured snippet. It is not the length itself but rather the correlating factors. If your content is long form, you have the chance to answer more questions, increasing the likelihood of having the exact answer someone is searching for. In addition, the more informative your content is, the more likely it is to contain something of interest to a larger audience, triggering more shares, links and user engagement. So, don't just write long posts for the sake of it, make sure you have 1,500 or more words of value, not just words.
- Become a Credible Source: While featured snippets have been pulled from sites ranking anywhere on the first page, they are very unlikely to come from sites not ranking in the top 10. While the actual position itself is not the main factor, the associated signals such as inbound links, user engagement and the overall "trustworthiness" of your site play all come into play. If Google is giving out answers, it best serves them to do so from credible sources. This is an area where numerous pieces of long-form content can also help. If you have 50 long-form content pieces on your site about dog food, chances are you're a credible source of information. Remember, in the age of artificial intelligence, conclusions will be drawn from a compilation of data, not just a single page and query.
- Competitive Research: If you have your eye on the zero spot, the best thing you can do is conduct thorough research of your competitors that are taking up that spot. Here are a few questions to ask:
- How long is the content?
- What questions do they answer on the page ranking zero?
- What related content on their site links to that ranking page?
- What number and quality of sites are linking to their website and the ranking page?
- What keywords related to that page do they rank in the top 10 for?
- What questions could you answer that they have not?
- Are there questions you could answer better?
- How is their page formatted?
Once you gather all of that information, you should have the ammunition you need to create a strong page that has all the ingredients of a zero-spot ranking.
About the Author
Travis Bliffen is the founder of Stellar SEO, a Web design and marketing firm located in Spring Hill, TN. Travis and his team are equipped to handle any size SEO project and have helped numerous businesses to date build a rock solid online presence. When you are ready for more leads and sales, it is time to get #stellarized. Connect on Facebook or Twitter @theseoproz.