How to rank keywords at position 0 (zero) in Google SERPs? Surprised ! Is it possible? Normally, in Google SERPs , there are 10 organic results for any search query from 1 to 10. But what is position 0? It is a position above the all 10 search results and it is possible with the snippet which is called as featured snippet. All search results in Google look same : headline, URL and then description(approx. 160 characters). URL can be replaced by breadcrumb with the implementation of Schema markup. But apart from these traditional search results or snippets, we can have more information from a special kind of snippet known as featured snippet which appears above the 10 traditional organic search results. This sacred place is a “position 0” place.
What is Featured Snippet/ Rich Answer/ Direct Answer?
Featured snippet is an answer to user’s query on search query in the fullest form and in a concise way. It is also known as rich answer or direct answer. Its a direct answer to user’s search query. It is quick and reliable answer to user’s query. Google shows it above all the regular/organic search results. This is why the place where it appears is called as “position 0” place. Benefit of having rich answer or featured snippet is Goggle shows it twice in your SERPs. One as a direct answer box and another in regular search results. Eventually, you create extra opportunity for users to click on your results and you can maximise website visits with two organic entry points.
Google released Knowledge Graph in 2012 and Answer Box in 2013. However, the information for these was sourced from the Google’s database. For featured snippets, the results come from third party sources i.e. from any website other than Google.
Google launched featured snippet in 2014. Its use have grown 4 times according to SEMRush –
Here after, I am going to refer featured snippet as a rich answer, because rich answer is more popular term for these kind of results.
Types of Google Rich Answer
- Paragraphs (WHAT questions);
- Lists/ Steps (HOW questions);
After analysing 10 million SERPs SEMRush found the following ratio for the major types of rich answers:
Pros and Cons of Rich Answer
Rich answers are volatile. You can see them at position 0 for some time or for few days and suddenly they may not be there. With position 0 , rich answers can get you good amount of traffic growth and after losing position 0, you can see traffic drop as well. See this image to check traffic after and before getting rich answer:
Any website can earn rich answer results.
MOZ have analysed 981 snippets for their own website and found:
- In about 70% of cases, Google took the snippets from the pages ranking from 1 to 3 positions.
- In about 30% of cases, the snippets came from positions 4 to as deep as 71!
This indicates Google doesn’t rely on its usual algorithm i.e. backlink history, keyword optimisation etc. to provide rich answer. If it was a case, it could pick up only high ranking results for rich answers. But it also get rich answers from snippet that has position on page 2 or onwards as well.
- More Traffic
- Higher CTR
- Greater Visibility
- Earns Credibility
Some rich answer snippets help you to increase the CTR of your website, especially when your rankings are lower than top positions. But sometimes, it decreases CTR. Because user can have satisfactory answer from rich answer itself, so he may not find any need to click on the result and reach out to the website.
Moreover, if you search for some query on your mobile devices and if, that query returns a rich answer on mobile, it generally occupies your entire screen, you read an answer from that snippet for your query. You are not inclined to click that result further as you already get satisfactory answer. See, the rich answer snippet or featured snippet on mobile device.
Now, try to voice search same query on mobile, you will get voice response that reads everything from rich answer snippet. Thus, you may not be interested in clicking the result and to reach out to the website which provides this snippet. This reduces overall CTR. But, remember it improves credibility.
How to Optimise for Rich Answer
Do keyword research with 5 Ws + ‘How To..’ questions :
Why we look for keywords phrases starting from these words? Because answers to these “W” type questions comes in detail, they can be in paragraphs,they can be answered with explanation and cannot be factoids. To find out “W” keywords you can use following tools:
- Google Adword Keyword Planner
- Autocomplete or Auto Suggestions from Google Search Box
- Google Related Searches
- Bing Search Suggestion
- Bing Related Searches
- Yahoo! Search Assist
- ‘People also ask’ from Google
Look at the examples from Google tools –
Google Adwords Keyword Planner
This will give you…
Autocomplete or Auto Suggestions from Google Search Box
Google Related Searches
‘People also ask’ from Google
Once you decide on phrases for which you want to optimise your website pages, you have to optimise the content for these keywords according to different types of rich answer snippets.
- Write short summary to answer a potential query — Google has a tendency to prefer the the logical answers or answer that starts logically
- This single answer paragraph should be in a paragraph HTML tag <p>;
- It should be about 40-50 words to fit in the answer box.
- Add this paragraph just below the heading for the question.
See image for the example of ‘Paragraph’ rich answer box snippet –
- Tables are much easier to understand for computers, so Google loves to include them into the featured snippets, as unlike natural language paragraphs. So when it makes sense, add the tabular data or reformat suitable paragraphs into tables.
- Mark up the table on your page using the <table> tag.
See image for the example of ‘Table’ featured snippet –
- You need to use heading tag above the list on your on your content page;
- Title of list should match the targeted keyword
- Format your text with subheadings (H2) where it is logical to do so, so that Google can make its own lists out of the text instead of snipping the paragraph. Then Google will list them chronologically.
- As I explained before, featured snippets of a list type can reduce the CTR by giving all the steps in the answer box i.e. you discourage users to click the link to your page — they have already got all the necessary information!
Thus, try not to lay all the cards on the table — format the text the way to save some no less important steps from the users’ view. In this case Google will give “More items” link. And that is a call to click!
See image for the example of ‘List/Steps’ featured snippet –
There are few more types of featured snippets or rich answer box like – chart, images, sliders etc. See their images below –
2. Clear-cut answers.
- If the content on your page is too long to fit in the answer box, you can chop it up to paragraphs, lists, or tables.
- In case you have quite a few target questions, you can add a Q&A Section where all the related questions will be put together with ideally formatted answers.
- If your page’s content updates regularly, use a “last updated” tag. In this case Google and users understand how current you post is.
Here is the ratio for the common types from the presentation by STAT (2016):
Once you are done with formatting or optimisation of your website content pages for featured snippet , you can submit these pages for indexing via Google Search console. Google will crawl them and if you’re lucky enough or your answers are perfect for user’s queries , you/ your website page can be seen into rich answer box. In other words, your content can be displayed as featured snippet and you can achieve ‘position 0’.