Understanding Position Zero

Remember when claiming the first position on Google’s search results page was the end goal for all SEO work? Those were the simple days, but now the goal post has moved. The goal is now position zero.

What is position zero? Position zero is often the location of “rich results,” or results that feature specific snippets of relevant information from a particular URL. These rich results rank above the “normal” SERP results for a keyword, and in conjunction with paid Ads, what use to be position #1 is now position #4 or #5.

Example:

While many SEO’s and industry experts feared these type of “rich results” would cause click through rates and Organic traffic from Google to plummet, many studies have shown that these type of search results actually end up sending more traffic to the source of the answer than a regular SERP result. 

With this new focus on trying to get a Google Answer result for your page, we were interested in seeing if there was any correlation between the ranking position of the source article and the Google Answer Box itself.

Here’s what we found:

  

  • We can see a definite decline in the occurrences as a source for the Google Answer past position #5, with only a 1-3 occurrences in our dataset
  • Google Answer sources are dominated by the top 5 results
  • The most common source position was #2, not #1, which we initially thought would be the case
  • There are plenty of opportunities to become the source for the Google Answer if you’re in the top 5 positions of the SERPs
  • The outliers in our data were 2 instances when the Google Answer source was on the second page of the results
  • The Google Answer source is pretty diverse. We didn’t see any “SERP domination” in regards to the source for related Google Answers
    • For example, we looked at “how to bake bread” and “how to boil pasta” assuming it was possible for the same site to be a source since it provided good information for both queries. But we did not see this, both queries triggered a different Google Answer source
  • We saw a lot of cases where a branded query would have a Google Answer source from that brand’s website, but in some cases, we did not
    • For example, “air Jordan shoes” triggered a Google Answer with the source as FootAction.

Drawing Conclusions

So what insight does this data lend that can be useful when trying to get a Google Answer source for your page? Unfortunately, not a whole lot. If we look at the results here as 2 chunks, 1-5 and 6-10, it’s definitely vital to be in the 1-5 chunk if you want a chance at being a source for the Google Answer box. But beyond that, it’s really hard to nail down what sets these sites apart from each other.

There are a number of strategies available to make your page more appealing as a source for Google Answer Box. Here are some quick strategies that can help improve the chances your site has to be chosen as an answer source:

 Make sure your page provides a clear and concise answer to the question it is answering

  • Try not to make the answer unnecessarily long winded. Just answer the question as simply as possible
    • For example, for the question “what does NBA stand for?”, the best answer to give would be “NBA stands for National Basketball Association”
  • Use an H1 to highlight that you are answering a certain question. Using the same example as above, it will reinforce the question/answer relationship by using the <h1>What does NBA stand for?</h1> and then answering it right below that
  • Use ordered list HTML markup (<ol>) when explaining a task that has sequential steps. This makes it easy for Google to pull out those steps and display them clearly in the SERPs
  • Use paragraph HTML markup (<p>) to help Google understand the structure of your answer. If you’re answer is a short paragraph, using <p> tags will help Google easily grab that paragraph and display it in the SERPs