Position Zero – What Is It and Why Do You Need It?
The most valuable real estate on a Google search page has historically been the first of the ranked results. But over the last several years, Google has replaced the #1 organic position with a new gold standard: Position Zero (PO). What is PO, what does it mean for your online reputation, and how can you conquer it?
What Is Position Zero?
Position zero is that first search result that captures greater search page real estate than all the others and provides a concise explanation of whatever it is you searched for. It offers a quick answer to your query without you having to leave Google search and click on a link.
For example, if you Google the chairman of PwC, the first thing that will come up and conquer position zero is a box with a snippet of information about Bob Moritz. This snippet provides basic details about Moritz and contains the URL and page title of the source, which in this case is PwC’s website. So, before you click on anything, you have already seen a flattering photo of him and learned that he has been chairman of PwC since 2016.
Why Isn’t First Place Enough? History of Position Zero
Search engines are constantly optimizing their technology to help users find the content they need as quickly as possible. In 2014, Google rolled out position zero in order to display direct answers to user generated questions.
The information it displays is pulled from a webpage identified by Google’s algorithm as one that provides the best and clearest answer to the search query. As the first ten search results are the ones that Google deems the most relevant, it is only natural that the search result featured in position zero would always be one of those ten.
The response to position zero from an SEO perspective was an interesting one. On the one hand, it was immediately acknowledged as extremely valuable real estate—an opportunity to show real authority regarding the searched topic. On the other hand, some experts worried that it could potentially reduce clicks, as the need for further information would decrease. Nevertheless, PO remained a highly sought-after position and since its appearance, many tips and guides have been published on how to optimize for PO.
Google’s 2020 Update – Deduplication
In January 2020, Google announced two updates to position zero:
- Previously, if you were in position zero, your search result would appear twice on the page, both in the featured snippet and within the search results. In January, Google decided that web page listings that are ranked as position zero would no longer be repeated in the first page of results.
- Google used to display 11 results on a page – the first of which was position zero, followed by 10 others. Now if you are in position zero, you are counted as #1 result followed by 9 others.
From an online reputation management perspective, these changes do not have significant ramifications. While it’s true that you can no longer occupy two spots on the first page with one result, position zero is still a coveted spot to fill, occupying vital space on the page.
Three Reasons Position Zero Matters
Valuable Real Estate
Having your name and a snippet of positive information about you appear in position zero can set the tone of your image as perceived by your audience.
According to Adobe, almost 50% of users use voice search for general web searches. Google uses position zero for its response to a voice search.
Appearing in position zero with a short bio that reflects your status and achievements presents you as an authority in your field and in relation to the search query.
How to Conquer Position Zero
- Define your goal: In most cases, position zero doesn’t appear on name searches. However, it does appear when people search for titles, such as CEO of PwC. So, your first task is to figure out what search term you wish to focus on and to make sure the connection between you and the search term is well established online.
- Select your assets: Once you’ve chosen the relevant search term(s), you need to identify the specific results you’d like to optimize for PO. There are two main parameters to consider:
- The search result has to already rank on page one because Google selects featured snippets from the first ten search results. If you can’t find your ideal web asset on page one, go to page two; you may find something there that you can promote quite easily.
- Choose an online asset you own and/or control. While there may be third party websites that present you in a positive light, you have no control over them and cannot optimize their content for PO. If you choose your personal or company website, you can control content quality, accuracy, and optimization.
In some cases, you won’t find a web asset that ticks both boxes. All that means is that you’ll need to work a little harder, first attempting to reach page one and then working some more to reach PO. It is definitely an effort, but it is worth it.
- Optimize your content: Unlike paid Google ads, there is no guaranteed method to conquer position zero, but optimizing your content will increase your chances. In broad strokes, you need to ensure that your content provides the best answer out there for the search query.
- Offer a comprehensive well-written answer to the query.
- Make it interesting and easy to read. After all, engagement is key to high ranking. Use subheadings, bulleted lists, tables, and concise paragraphs.
- Invest in your UX, design, and page layout so that your readers feel welcome and want to stick around on the page.
- Display the query clearly in the page title (H1).
- Make sure the first paragraph offers a concise yet full answer to the query. This is usually the excerpt Google picks to display in PO.
- Have a relevant high-quality photo of you on the page.
- Enrich your content with images and videos.
Conquering Is Only the Beginning. Keep at It.
Your work isn’t over once you get position zero. It’s important to remember that Google is not married to your content and can replace it with new material at any time. It helps to make sure that your content is constantly updated and improved. Keep it current, authoritative, and relevant.
You may not see the results overnight, but there is no question that position zero is a highly effective tool for showing yourself in the best possible light.
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