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How To Steal Position 0 on Google

Google Position Zero Hero

Position 0? But I thought I wanted to rank in position 1!

That is a valid question. Since the inception of digital marketing, and the normalization of SEO as a digital marketing approach, the desirability of that coveted number 1 spot has been pounded into your head. Top Ranking, the best of the best (Cue Top Gun Soundtrack).

So what is up with the number 0 spot? Is that even possible?

Technically, the top ranking spot of any SERP is #1, or the first search result that appears at the top of the list.  The top spot you were previously gunning for is slowly been replaced by a younger and more glamorous “Position Zero.”

Now something appears even before the top result. This is called a featured snippet.

position zero featured snippet example


SEO specialists and digital marketers have dubbed this “position zero”, seeing as the feature (and link to the referenced website) appears even before what officially counts as ranking #1, and that makes them super important.

What is a Featured Snippet?

A snippet attempts to simplify and streamline the search process by providing a succinct and accurate answer to a question or description of a search, and it shows this featured snippet immediately on the results page, the new numero uno.

Like most aspects of the search engines we use, snippets evolved out of a fast developing environment that not only demanded more information but an easier way to see it. When Google launched it’s Knowledge Graph in May of 2012, they introduced the feature that would become Featured Snippets, called “Knowledge Cards.” These cards, or “answer boxes” as they were generically called, were relatively few in number due to the fact that they were limited to human curation.

As search engines began to rely on more and more complex algorithms instead of using human-curated directories, these types of features were able to expand and automate, evolving into the ever popular featured snippets we see taking up the top search spots today.

Featured snippets (yielding position 0) have actually been around for the last few years but have been more prominent over the last year:

Featured Snippet Appearance on Google

For a majority of searchers in many situations, the presence of a snippet allows them to answer their own search without even needing to visit a web page directly.   Google is trying to answer before the click.  This may sound counter intuitive, but each snippet derives its information directly from a trusted website and lists that source website alongside it.   What we have found is that most featured snippets are abbreviated and almost all users will click-through if they think they are on the right path.

More importantly as we get into hands free technology like Google Home, Siri and Alexa these snippets will provide the answer the searcher is looking for right away.

The best part is that you do not have to be in position 1 to have your snippet featured.  Thus featured snippets are a great way to improve your ranking, demonstrate trust and authority, in a way, to get your website appearing as the top search result without actually being the top ranking.

As a matter of fact take a look at this research from WordStream on what position is actually showing the snippet feature:

featured snippet ranking factors

So How do You Get that Spot?

This is a potential gold mine for websites ranking in positions 2-10 if they do this right.

Imagine going from a click-through-rate of 10% in spot 5 to 35% being in position o just by following this guide.

First, you need to consider the types of queries that may point searchers to your website.  Ultimately you also should cross reference the 3 main formats of featured snippets that Google offers:

  • Paragraph Snippets (80%):  These featured snippets answer the “What” questions.  Many times this will be a person, place or glossary type of answer.
  • List Snippets (12%):  These are becoming more prominent on Google and show a snippet of a list.   For short lists we generally see the top of the list, for longer lists, many times Google will show the mid-range results (thus prompting a click through)
  • Step / Table Snippets (8%):  Step Snippets answer those step-by-step instruction queries from everything like cooking seared ahi tuna to recovery from a rotator cuff injury to cheat codes in video games.

This is where content comes into play. You need to offer informative, direct, and engaging content that not only addresses search queries, but provides the necessary elaboration that the searcher needs.

How long should my snippet be?

There is no full-proof answer here yet.  However, the data currently leans towards being in the 40-50 word count range at least for the paragraph snippet format.  List and step snippets are still displayed in that word count and should be concise for that word range for better ranking.


word count of featured snippets on Google

Achieving a snippet seems to be more about relevance than direct ranking or authority.

Secondly and even more importantly, you need to be effectively targeting and answering the question you want to get featured for. A general format of a quick summary at the top, followed by a deeper dive seems to be effective. Journalists sometimes call this an “inverted pyramid” structure, and it’s useful for readers as well, especially Internet readers who tend to skim articles.


So How Can I “Steal” A Featured Snippet From Someone Else?

Yes, you actually can steal this spot! And one of the best sources of SEO and search engine information, Moz, has not only done it but documented their process and detailed how it can be done.

They started with a search for “What is Page Authority?” and found that the featured snippet was from Drum Beat Marketing.

Here was Moz’s answer (From their website):

Moz Page Authority Featured Snippet

Now here is what Drum Beat Marketing’s was as Google Pulled this into Position 0:

Drumbeat page authority snippet

Their competitor’s answer was more concise and addressed the question directly in the first sentence, while Moz’s official answer rambled a bit and could have been improved to cater to this format.

From here they rewrote their page on the topic, addressing the question of what Page Authority was and answering it right away, which ended up having the desired impact–allowing Moz to take over the featured snippet.

Moz Updated Featured Snippet for Page Authority

Here is How You Steal Position 0 on Google:

  • Identify Search Terms that are displaying a featured snippet on Google
    • Note these are generally tied to high volume search phrases
    • If you are not ranking for these terms that is the most important first step (SEO 101)
  • Identify the Format of The Snippet:
    • Paragraph Snippets:  To optimize for paragraphs your answers must be brief and directed at the searcher.  Ideally above the fold before scrolling down the page.  As mentioned from the data above, keeping this to a concise 40-50 words tends to have a higher show rate here.
    • List Snippets:  The list snippets take up more room on the SERP pushing everything else further down so they are some of the best real estate to own.  To rank here, you must have copy that introduces the list that speaks to answer the search phrase.
    • Table Snippets:  Optimizing for table snippets comes down to displaying data on your page in a different format that is clear and concise.  Data has come back on this snippet that using the <table> tag resulted in a 22% higher show rate.
  • Create a better and more concise answer, list or table that is easy for Google to find.
  • Offer value added info right beneath your answer to assist with click-through-rates

If you would like to optimize your organic listings for position 0 on Google, get in touch with some of our expert SEO analysts today.

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