Position Zero: Holy Grail or Click-Thru Rate Killer?

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Google constantly hones its efforts to keep the best content top priority in searches. And you want to appear as the first result on page one, right? Well, you may have heard lately about the possibly better-than-position-one featured snippet, called Position Zero in web searches.

What is Position Zero?

Why did Google decide featured snippets were the next big thing? How does Google decide which websites it likes best? And is there a possibility that Rank Zero status could actually hurt your Click Through Rate (CTR)?

Google Specifics: Voice-Based Queries

“Okay Google: What’s a voice-based query?”

Voice-based queries are used by people on the go who want quick answers to their questions. Recent stats indicate that there was a 35-fold increase in voice-based queries between 2008 and 2016. ComScore claims that by 2020, more than 50% of searches will be voice-based. (For more on that, check out this video podcast: < https://klcampbell.com/ep-2-visibility-voice-search/”>Visibility + Voice Search, with Laurie Macomber.)

And that’s where featured snippets come in: According to Google, featured snippets are a way to help users quickly and clearly see the information they’re looking for, and they’re “especially helpful” in mobile or voice searches. And with the previous stats about voice-based queries, and Google’s own admission that mobile searches have surpassed desktop searches, it seems like featured snippets are here to stay

Working with Google’s Rules to get to Rank Zero

1. You want to have the best content
A full 30% of Google’s featured snippets are pulled from content that ranks number one in a search anyway. Most of the rest are pulled from positions two through five on the search ranking scale. And Google’s “How Search Works” resource offers specific guidance on what they’re looking for in their top-ranking web pages:

• Meaningful content
• Clear keywords
• Responds well to queries
• Relevant to specific searchers

Google illustrates what they’re looking for with a fun example:
someone searching for the keyword “dog” probably isn’t looking for a web page that has the word “dog” on it hundreds of times. They’re looking for deeper, more meaningful content that will make it worth their while. And Google takes this seriously for its users, prioritizing content, for example, that is linked to by other reputable sources. So if your content isn’t good enough, fresh enough, or keyword-optimized enough to make it to the top five? You’re not in featured snippet land

2. You want to answer a question
True to their name, voice queries are often used by people who are asking a question. They’re not just saying the word “dogs” and seeing what comes up. They’re getting specific because they don’t want general information, they want an answer. They might say, “Okay Google, what dog breed is best at fetching?” The new Google algorithms are adept at pulling information that offers an authoritative solution that will actually answer the user’s questions.

How do you find out what people want? One way is to listen to your clients’ or customers’ real life questions: if they’re asking it, then other people are too. Another way is to search online forums or take a look at Google’s “People also asked for” to find out what people are looking for.

3. You want to have perfect formatting
According to a series of HubSpot experiments, altering the formatting of their posts (changing HTML tags and the numbered order in posts) significantly increased their quantity of featured snippet posts. You also want to follow rules like keeping your paragraph less than 50 words, and breaking up lists into short sentences. Adding a featured snippet code to the top of the page also helped. Focus on numbered lists, charts, bullet points, and tables.

Possible Negatives to Position Zero: Click Through Rate

Okay, so it’s clear there are some major benefits to appearing in Position Zero. First of all, it shows a marked correlative to your organic search results, and indicates that you’re doing something right with your SEO. Also, it shows that you’re providing quality, relevant content and responding well to the increase in voice-based queries and mobile searches.

But could there be another overlooked aspect of the holy grail of position zero?

First of all, the featured snippet has increased the incidence of “no click” searches. If you’ve already gotten a sufficient answer to your question, why would you delve deeper? So will chasing the golden snippet actually decrease your Click Through rate (CTR) and thereby decrease traffic to your website?

Some studies have indicated that this is indeed the case. According to one SearchEngineLand study, a featured snippet at the number one position on Google search results gets around 8.6% of clicks while the article right below it garners around 19.6 percent of clicks. A “regular” number one position search result (with no featured snippet) will get around 26% of clicks.

When searchers have their answer questioned immediately by SERP’s, there’s no need for them to click through to find out more. However, it’s possible that prioritizing more complex answers for your Position Zero content can help boost CTR. This way, they might choose to click through to find more in-depth information.

While getting to Rank Zero status can help you respond to Google’s changing algorithms and optimize your results for voice-based and mobile queries, it can also potentially decrease your site’s CTR when a post shows up in a featured snippet.

I know: it’s a lot to sort through, especially since Google is prone to massive overhauls of their algorithms at the drop of a hat. Do yourself a favor and check with an SEO expert who can help you analyze traffic to your website —and determine, based on your content, if Position Zero is your Holy Grail or a CTR killer.

Author: Kelly Campbell
Kelly Campbell is an Integral Leadership Coach, helping creative, media and technology leaders transform life and agency. The former owner of a cause marketing agency for 14 years, she focuses on purpose, positioning, people, pipeline and profitability. She is a keynote speaker at leadership conferences across the country, has been featured in The New York Times, Woman Entrepreneur, Medium and Forbes.com — for which she most recently became a member of the Forbes Business Council. She is currently authoring her first book on redefining leadership in the emotion economy, and is the host of THRIVE: Your Agency Resource, a bi-weekly video podcast sponsored by Workamajig that helps agency owners navigate personal and professional growth.

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