How to Rank in Position 0 on Google with Featured Snippets

Here’s a fun SEO riddle for you: What’s better than ranking #1?

Why – ranking #0, of course!

What do we mean when we say “position 0” though?
Well, in this case we are referring to the Featured Snippets that appear at the top of your search engine results pages (SERPs) for certain queries in Google, as shown below:  

These started rolling out back in mid-2015 and since then, the percentage of queries that result in a Featured Snippet listing – although the specific percentage is still unknown – has been increasing dramatically.

These types of answer cards are considered part of the “organic” listings (separate from any paid ads), and they show up most often for question-related queries (such as who, what, when, where, why, and how). That said, they have been known to show up for other queries, as well. One such example is “implied question” queries, where Google infers user intent from their search, even if the query itself doesn’t contain a direct question. Here’s an example of this (can you tell I’m hungry?):  

Common featured snippet formats
In general, we’ve found that there are several different types of Featured Snippets that show up in “position 0;” in fact, we’ve already pointed out two different types in our examples. Here are some common types of content formats that appear as Featured Snippets:

  • Paragraph
  • Paragraph + Image
  • List
  • Image, Graph or Chart
  • Table
  • More robust Knowledge Graph answers (example shown below)  

Why is ranking in “position 0” even important?
So you might be asking yourself, “Why should I even care about Featured Snippets or ranking in position 0?” Well – for starters, let’s just remind ourselves that in today’s competitive online world, competing for real estate in the SERPs is the name of the game. And the higher up in that real estate, the better off your brand and site. In fact, one study from Hubspot showed that being featured in position 0 increased their CTRs for certain key terms by 114 percent, resulting in large increases in website traffic and engagement.

Additionally, being featured in the top spot can help increase brand trustworthiness and credibility because let’s face it – if users see that the almighty Google is choosing to “feature” your brand’s website, then there’s got to be something good about you.

How can you show up as a Featured Snippet in Google?
Hopefully now you have a better understanding of what we mean by “Featured Snippets” and “0” and also why this is relevant to you and your brand. But the question remains: how do we get there?

But before we get into what we can do to help try and get that coveted spot, let’s address some things that – contrary to popular belief – have not been proven to influence a site’s ability to claim that position. Here are some things to know:

  • You don’t have to be in position 1 to overtake position 0. While yes – several studies show that Featured Snippets are often pulled from listings in the top 1-3 positions, data also shows that they are also pulled from anywhere on page 1, and in some cases, even as deep as position 71!
  • You don’t need schema markup on your website or pages to be considered for Featured Snippet placement. This was tested in the aforementioned Hubspot study, where the author states that in his analysis, 80 percent of websites ranking in position 0 did not have any structured data markup on their site. So, he says he doubts there to be a correlation between the two (at least for now).
  • The number of backlinks pointing to the specific page that has the answer does not seem to influence a page’s ability to show up in position 0.
  •  Finally – another article’s study shows that it also doesn’t appear that sites that are already ranking for several Featured Snippets get any additional weight or special privilege added to their domain. In other words, just because a site is displaying for 10 Featured Snippets already, doesn’t necessary correlate to an increased likelihood of ranking for an 11th featured snippet.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s focus on what tactics are worthy of spending our time and effort on. Here’s a list of action items that have been shown to improve your site’s chances for ranking in position 0:  

  1. First, do your research. As with most things SEO, keyword research is going to come in handy so that you can identify what questions and topics your target audience is searching for. This way, you can focus on fulfilling their requests with content on your website. You should also perform research to see if Featured Snippets are even being displayed for the term or query you’re thinking about going after – remember, Featured Snippets haven’t been rolled out to all queries yet; only select ones (like the who, what, when, where, why, how queries). This is important to understand because you don’t want to exert effort creating and optimizing content specifically to try and get in position 0 if it’s not even an option in the first place.
  2. It appears that Google decides which content to feature by scanning its index for “snippable” pieces of content to use. So it’s important to write a clear and concise response to the question. If you’re trying to appear for “What is SEO?”, then you should clearly state that question on your page (preferably in a header or at least <strong> format), and then do your best to clearly and concisely answer the question in a direct manner. Specifically, per an SEMRush study, content that gets featured most in position 0 is between 40 and 50 words.
  3. Create quality content. As usual, the best way to get in Google’s good graces is to produce quality content that is intended to help provide useful information to your target audience. With that, ensure that your page [that you want to be featured] not only addresses the question directly, but also contains quality content.
  4. Format your content in ways that are most likely to be supported by a Featured Snippet. Using lists, including support images, charts and graphs, or laying the page out in a Q&A format may help to make a connection to Google (and your users).
  5. Improve your engagement rates. Larry Kim over at Moz has a theory that engagement metrics play a big part in determining Google’s algorithm for Featured Snippets. He says he’s noticed that the pages with highest engagement rates (like average CTR, time on page, etc.) are more likely to show up as a Featured Snippet – even if that page isn’t even ranking well within Google. With this, he suggests focusing on improving your CTR and average time on site, as he’s seeing direct correlation to high engagement and high likelihood of ranking 0.

So there you have it: the secret sauce for boosting your ability to rank in position 0 as a Featured Snippet. The interesting thing is that – like many things with Google – we haven’t quite figured out any hard and fast rules for getting this to happen for your brand. But from the studies we’ve seen so far, it looks like we’re getting close.

If you’d like to learn more about how to optimize your site for SEO tricks like this, give us a shout. We’re always happy to talk with you about opportunities for improving your site’s organic presence and user engagement. Now go forth and prosper! And we’ll hopefully see you in position 0.

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