How to rank above Google’s position 1: On-SERP SEO

Zachary Green

Zachary Green

Zach lives and breathes SEO. After spending some time in the music business, he transitioned into digital marketing where he has kickstarted growth for small businesses like Filthy Rebena, Museum London, and Forest City Film Festival.

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Your brand’s SEO strategy is often at the mercy of Google. The search behemoth’s continual algorithm changes mean you have to constantly adapt, otherwise, you risk losing visibility and traffic from the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

Fortunately, your brand can weather these changes better by understanding Google’s key goal and how the search engine UX is being updated to accomplish them. In this article, I identify this key goal and the changes that are being made. As well, I cover a pretty new SEO tactic/feature that you can easily incorporate into your strategy to stay ahead of the curve.

Google’s goal

Google’s ultimate goal is to provide its users with the most useful, relevant information via the smoothest experience possible. As you know, each time a user searches for something, Google returns a list of websites that they hope will fulfill the user’s needs. Most leave satisfied, but some don’t. There’s always the chance that searchers may click on a result that fulfills the wrong intent. They’ll click back to the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) in disappointment, only to experience the same problem with the next website. This is called pogo-sticking and is an annoying issue for both Google and its users.

Introducing position 0

Google has been updating its first results page (page 1) with new features in an attempt to fix this pogo-sticking issue. You’ve likely noticed them yourself – they appear as a box of answers above the traditional organic position 1 ranking, in what’s known as “position 0”. Notable position 0 features include knowledge panels (answering your query), the “people also ask” box, and featured snippets. These snippets and panels answer your query directly on the SERP by scraping the answer from sites. The purpose? To give people who use the search engine their answers, instantly – without ever having to click on a link and leave the results page.

Although this is good for Google and it’s users, it’s bad news for everyone else. The high-ranking organic positions that brands fought hard to claim are being sent down the line, closer to the desolate graveyard that is page 2. And because Google is slowly removing the need to click, content creators and publishers will gain less visibility and clicks for their work.

As a result, it’s no longer a game of who will win the first ranking on Google, it’s about who wins that coveted position 0 spot. The practice of optimizing to show up in position 0 is called On-SERP SEO. Although there’s no magic formula to show up there, here are two ways to increase your chances of ranking for the most valuable position zero element – a featured snippet:

1. Discover existing high rankings

To be considered for a featured snippet, you must rank organically on the first page of any SERP that has one on it. Featured snippets commonly show up in response to queries that include question terms such as who, what, where, when, why, and how.

99% of pages selected for featured snippets rank in the top 10 positions in Google for the query that has been searched; meanwhile, 33%of those pages rank in the #1 organic position and the bulk of the remaining pages come from positions 2 to 5.

If you’re ranking in these spots for a query that includes a question term, congratulations! You’re nearly there and can proceed to step two. If you’re not ranking on the first page, it’s probably time to do some keyword research.

2. Format your content effectively

Google has this to say about featured snippets: “When we recognize that a query asks a question, we programmatically detect pages that answer the user’s question and display a top result as a featured snippet in the search results.”

So how can you format your content to effectively answer the search query better than anyone else? First, keep your answer in your content between 40 to 50 words. According to SEMrush, this is the most common length of snippets. Second, structure your answer similar to Wikipedia, a leader in featured snippets.

Repeat the question on your web page. Directly following the question, provide a short clear answer to the question. It should be similar to a dictionary definition. Then provide more information to answer the question as completely as possible.

This presents the answer to the user’s question in an easy, digestible way that Google loves. If your SEO is on point, and you’ve followed these steps, you’ll be in great shape to rank for a featured snippet.

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To recap, Google’s ultimate goal is to provide its users with the best results possible. As a result, it’s constantly making changes to the search engine. Google wants users to get the answer to their search query without ever leaving the SERP. This is good for Google and its users, but bad for content creators and marketers. Brands will have to adapt by using On-SERP SEO. And of course, you can do that with the above tips.

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