Understanding Position Zero: The Type of Content That Dominates Zero-Click Searches
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A client looking to reach more customers through an online search hires you. Ask for that client’s goals and you will almost certainly hear, “to rank number one on Google.” For the past couple of decades, it’s been a mad dash to the top. SEO, content creators, and businesses alike aim for the pinnacle, the number-one ranking.
Today’s search rankings look much different, and defining success is much more nuanced. What if you rank in the top position, but a user doesn’t even click your link? Instead, they close the browser tab after getting the needed answer from something ranked in position zero.
In a mobile society always on the go, people seek ever shorter and sweeter answers. Google shifts its efforts to find ways to provide them. That forces marketers to shift strategies to hit those moving benchmarks. Search rankings today are not about ranking a site alone. It also means structuring precise content to rank for specific answers.
What is Position Zero?
For the uninitiated, position zero is the slot above the first non-paid listing on a SERP, or search engine results page. It can take many forms such as images, YouTube videos, map listings, or quotes pulled from a web page. These are often referred to as structured snippets.
Structured snippets can be golden nuggets for someone trying to get onto the first page of Google. They often are structured as subheadings in an article, and can easily be presented in a bite-sized form to a person seeking answers from a search engine. It satisfies Google’s goal of getting its customer’s answers as pain-free as possible and quenches the user’s desire to quickly find a quality solution online.
While you might not get the click to your site, zero-click elements demonstrate expertise and authority for your page and brand, ultimately helping your SEO efforts and potentially preventing a rival from being able to take the same spot. Many times snippets come from a link that also has real estate on page one of a search result, so better snippets often mean better rankings at large.
Produce Zero-Click Search Results From Structured Snippets
When developing a strategy for creating content that will rank well in position zero or zero-click snippets, it’s important to think like a search user. One way to do that is to use the time-tested skills used by intrepid news reporters and inquisitive kindergartners alike, the 5 W’s-plus one. In other words, keyword-heavy questions that most often begin with Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.
No matter your line of work, or your client’s line of work, there are common questions asked related to that field. Often when you search for core keywords, you will come across a Google-created snippet of “people also ask.” These are good areas to build blog posts or articles around, focusing on answering those questions through snippets.
Zero-Click Search Results Come in a Rainbow of Forms
Among the most-typed queries in the history of Google involve how to do something, and among the tasks at the top of that mountain is the rite of passage of learning how to tie a tie. When looking at the 2021 version of the search results provided by that question, you can get an idea of how far Google is growing to answer a host of related questions on a single page.
Let’s break down the anatomy of such a present-day list of search results.
Related Search Bubbles
Before we come across any traditional organic website listings, we first come across five types of zero-click results. We first find a trio of bubbles, linking to similar but more specific searches: Easy, Cool, Fake, Small.
Do we want to know how to tie a tie easily? How to tie a cool knot? How to tie a fake tie? How to tie a small tie?
Then comes a larger piece of real estate for a position-zero structured snippet, a YouTube video embedded into the results, cued to what the artificial intelligence believes is the best portion of a video to show a person how to tie a tie.
The third result for tie-tying advice is also a zero-click result, a selection of Google Images with subcategory options. These include windsors, simple, bow tie, fancy, diagram, and a dropbox allowing a dozen more specific results.
From this point, it becomes impossible to determine what, other than Google products holds the top position on this page, as these images can be drawn from a vast combination of sites, each carrying some form of expertise or authority.
This pattern multiplies even further as the fourth result is an information panel with 15 related tie-tying queries; almost all of them link someplace unique; many of them link to sites that appear further down in the old-fashioned web-link search results.
Organically-Ranked Article Content
From there we learn that this certainly is a query that many want to be answered with video as we get a group of additional YouTube clips before we finally reach the first homestyle organic search result.
While teaching someone how to tie a tie might not be a term that generates a strong ROI in the business world, the length that Google goes to provide rich, varied options for people searching “how-to” can be applied to improve expertise, authority and, ultimately, rankings for those who create clear, well-structured content for their customers and potential customers. This example also shows the power of YouTube SEO when it comes to how-to queries.
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3 Real-World Examples of Zero-Click Search Results
Let’s make a bad pun on the ’80s move Less Than Zero. Sometimes a site or a brand can be so strong that it can still rank ahead of position-zero snippets. That’s right, sometimes one comes before zero.
A great example comes from the town of Louisville, where they host a race called the Kentucky Derby. One of the most unique aspects of the Derby and the fans who attend is the fashion. Taking another of the 5-W’s + How guidelines, searching for “What to wear to the Kentucky Derby,” Google feels that the fastest answer comes straight from the horse’s mouth.
We are first greeted with a colorful row of dresses and suits in a panel of paid shopping ads. Further down the page, there are examples of position-zero results. However, the first-position ranking goes to KentuckyDerby.com with an article and title tag exactly matching the query.
Beneath that, is a zero-click result in the form of an information panel. Two of the four results in the panel also lead back to KentuckyDerby.com, as does the link in the position below the box, this time an article focusing on Derby party fashion. The lesson to take here is the power of a brand and how to expand it outward. Doing so can help you own many places in a list of rich search results.
While Churchill Downs is ultimately concerned with converting in the form of Derby tickets and bets placed on the race, every business in Louisville from boutique to bourbon has a stake in the Greatest Two Minutes in Sports, and many companies here spend the entire calendar year strategizing for that first Saturday in May.
The Impact of Zero-Click on Local Brands
Many traditional content publishers use opportunities with structured content to show up in rankings under answers for information panels. Among the trending search terms in Google for 2021, questions about the housing market. Asking in Google, “why are home prices so high,” among the top listings is an information panel with a list of related search questions.
Many of the answers are supported by links from web giants, from Zillow to Forbes, but among them, a regional-based housing contractor managed to slip in near the top in this particular group of results. Virginia-based Mitchell Homes published an article to answer whether it’s a good idea to build a house during the pandemic.
By taking a timely subject and providing expert content, the SEO effort here pays off with ways to rank for both a longtail search term and in a zero-click position, expanding reach, authority, and brand.
By thinking about your customers’ concerns and providing in-depth information in a well-structured format, you can pull traffic from beyond your target sales area, as this example illustrates. Accumulating these sorts of results can only help build domain strength.
Being The Best at Local SEO With Zero-Click
Perhaps the most coveted of zero-click spots in local SEO is that of the Google My Business Maps rankings. With the rollout this year of the product reviews ranking, a keyword that many establishments and service providers want to see their customers leave in reviews is the word “best.”
By asking who makes the best pizza in Chicago, we get a look at how the word “best” in customer reviews has influenced the results. And in a town with hundreds of options for its signature dish, it appears to come down to two restaurants, Lou Malnati’s and Gino’s. Even an information panel weighs in:
Stay Adaptable to Dominate Searches
The main point to take away is that as search results grow to be increasingly more diverse, businesses and marketers need to make sure they adapt to how their customers’ questions are being answered.
By responding to that with well-structured, well-developed, concise content, there are more opportunities than ever to be found at the top, which position zero is becoming ever-larger.