Search engine optimization aims to increase search visibility by improving the keyword rankings for important pages. Thus, position zero, which is situated at the top of the search results just below the paid ads, is one of the most highly coveted spots. Aside from being at the top of the page, position zero grabs attention because it’s visually different from the rest of the rankings. The zero position in SERP is always held by a featured snippet, which means it’s larger and more prominent than other organic search results.
Tempted by the siren call of position zero? You aren’t alone. Here’s what you need to know about this SERP feature, how to improve your chances of nabbing it, and how to monitor and maintain your ranking once you secure it.
What Is Position Zero?
Position zero refers to the featured snippet found below paid results and above organic search results. Search engine results page (SERP) position zero can be a paragraph, table, ordered list, unordered list, video, or other featured snippet depending on the search term. This position zero example shows a video snippet for the search query “how to sew a hem.”
It’s worth noting that while claiming the zero position is still valuable, Google has made various changes to the search results pages since this position was first introduced. Most notably, the content that claims position zero is no longer repeated in the organic search results below it. Regardless, position zero is prime real estate for those wanting to build brand awareness and drive traffic to their websites.
The benefits of claiming position zero in Google Search include:
- Occupying more SERP territory since the featured snippet is larger and more prominent.
- Higher click-through rates (CTR) as a result of being at the top of the page with the most exposure.
- Higher chances of appearing in voice search results.
While not every SERP has a position zero, those that do have a host of sites intentionally competing to claim that spot.
Why Does Position Zero Matter?
Aside from ranking above traditional organic search results, position zero stands out because it displays content in a meaningful format. For instance, a cooking recipe that holds position zero will show an image, user rating, cook time, and key ingredients, which is far more helpful than a typical organic search result when someone is trying to find a good recipe. This may lead to more click-throughs.
Because position zero is such a coveted spot, Google awards it to the content it perceives as most valuable and concise. Google’s goal with the position zero result is to answer the user’s search query as directly and quickly as possible, so your content needs to be specific, clear, and actionable.
How To Get Position Zero in SERPs
Learning how to get to Google position zero is straightforward in the sense that many of the prerequisites likely already align with your content strategy — like taking the time to research keywords and create high-quality resources that will benefit readers. However, the difficult part is that competition for position zero is usually quite high.
For most queries, only one search result is highlighted in position zero — and there’s no guarantee your content will claim the top spot. However, there are some steps you can take to improve your chances of ranking well and getting your content featured.
1. Start With Keyword Research
Content that thrives in Google search position zero is built around keywords. If you don’t already start the content creation process by identifying keywords and keyphrases, you need to rethink your strategy.
This process is twofold: First, you need to build content that’s relevant to a specific query. Second, not all SERPs have a position zero, so you need to focus on one that does.
Tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush allow you to easily identify keywords that have a position zero result and see what type of content is featured. Once you find a keyword with that information, you can search to check out the SERP feature in action. As you can see in the example below, “types of allergy tests” features a position zero result with a bulleted list.
The last step when selecting your keywords is to identify the search intent. The above example is an informational search, which means the user is looking for a specific answer. A query can also have commercial intent, transactional intent, or navigational intent. Learn more about search intent and how to integrate it into your content creation here.
2. Determine the Format
Only about 11% of Google searches have a position zero. Out of those, paragraph featured snippets are the most popular format, occurring in 70% of cases. This is followed by lists (including numbered, ordered, and unordered) at 19.1%, tables at 6.3%, and video at 4.6%.
After identifying the type of content currently in position zero for your target keyword, you can determine the best format to target. Generally, you’re going to opt for the same format as the existing position zero search result. However, if you feel a certain format is more valuable to searchers (e.g., creating a numbered list to describe a process), then that’s worth doing. After all, Google is trying to award position zero to the content that best answers the user’s query.
3. Create High-Quality Content
After determining the format you intend to use, the next step is to take your time to create high-quality content. The most systematic way to ensure your content becomes the best in the SERPs is to go through the top-ranking results one by one and make note of headings, topics, questions, semantic keywords, images, and so on. Use this information to help you build a robust outline for your content.
When planning your content, remember, you aren’t trying to just recreate what already exists. You’re trying to improve upon it. This means leaving out irrelevant or redundant information, even if other articles include it. Likewise, whenever you can offer new, updated, or more reliable information, you should make the effort to do so.
Google’s overarching advice when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) is to write with your reader in mind. So go above and beyond to make sure you answer the query in a way that’s useful to searchers based on their intent.
4. Use Structured Data if Appropriate
Structured data helps Google identify the most important and relevant details about your content. However, using structured data is not a prerequisite to earning a featured snippet.
Structured data forms the foundation of rich snippets in search results, which display additional information (such as user ratings or cook time). This can help your content stand out even if you don’t claim position zero. However, there’s no guarantee that Google will display that data in the search results.
There’s no evidence that leaving out structured data will lessen your chances of earning a featured snippet, but including it certainly won’t hurt your efforts.
- What Is Schema Markup & Why Does It Matter for SEO?
- Schema Types
- How To Read Your Google Search Console Structured Data Report
5. Optimize for Voice Search if Appropriate
Optimizing for voice search may not be one of the priorities of your SEO strategy, but it’s certainly worth looking into. At the very least, you should learn to identify conversational keywords so that, if you find yourself targeting one, you can consider optimizing for voice search. Question keywords and long-tail keywords are good candidates for voice search optimization.
To optimize your content for voice search, take steps like using conversational language, prioritizing local SEO, optimizing your website for mobile, and using schema markup when appropriate. Learn more about voice search and whether you should optimize your site for it here.
How To Check Whether You’ve Achieved Position Zero
One of the simplest ways to check whether you’ve earned position zero is to google the keyword you’re targeting. Of course, if you’re trying to rank multiple pieces of content, SEO tools can help automate the process.
Ahrefs and SEMrush allow you to monitor your rankings for various keywords so you can easily check your position at a glance. These tools can also help you identify trends and show you whether your content is generally improving in SERPs or losing traction.
Check what featured snippets your pages appear in by clicking on the number below ‘Keywords’ on your Ahrefs dashboard.
If you have a featured snippet, you’ll see large quotation marks next to the featured URL.
Best Practices for Maintaining Position Zero
Just because you have position zero this week doesn’t mean you’ll still have it next week. Regularly monitoring and updating your content is a good first step to help you achieve position zero and maintain it. Even evergreen content goes stale with time because new content will inevitably come along that’s been explicitly created to outdo your top-ranking content. You’ll need to update your content often in order to remain competitive.
In addition to checking and refreshing your content at least twice a year, and even monthly for highly-competitive keywords, you should also work to continuously optimize your website. Running regular audits can reveal broken links, missing pages, and opportunities for improvement in your webpage content, design, and speed.
Google is constantly updating its search algorithm, and it’s going to keep you on your toes. Fortunately, Google itself offers a lot of advice as to how you can optimize your content to improve your rankings, and it also offers information every time it releases a major update to the search engine. Staying on top of these changes can help you avoid major fluctuations in your rankings and help you stay on the first page, and even in position zero.
Need Help With Google SERP Position Zero Optimization?
Achieving position zero is tough and staying there is even harder. SEO is all about studying the top-ranking results and then spending hours trying to outdo them. That means, once you’ve claimed the top spot, it won’t be long before your competitors set their sights on your content and put their best effort into producing something better. Without a whole SEO and content team on your side, outpacing that continuous competition can feel impossible.
Reaching the first page and climbing to position zero is possible, and it’s made a lot easier when you have the resources you need to give your content the attention it deserves. Take the first step toward position zero today by scheduling a free consultation with our SEO agency and learn how we can help you consistently rank higher by sharing the quality content your readers expect.