Zero Is the New No. 1 (At Least for Google Ranking)

Snag Google's coveted featured-snipped spot, and you could increase your click-through rate by more than 180 percent.

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By John Lincoln • Jul 28, 2017

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If you're optimizing your web content for search-engine results pages (SERPs), you might be under the impression that No. 1 is the best you can do.

But you need to think bigger. Counter to everything you know about every other aspect of business and life, you want to be No. 0. That coveted slot will snag you a featured snippet to go along with your claim to fame at the top of the first page. And it's the absolute best place to be if you're trying to rank a web page.

Related: Your SEO Checklist: 4 Steps to Optimizing Your Website

What No. 0 looks like.

If you want to see a featured snippet, just head over to Google and search for the following vital information: "How to cure bacon." That box at the top of the SERPs is No. 0.

Unfortunately, that same search on a smartphone won't show you the featured snippet. No worries. Google is obsessed with mobile technology, and it will get there.

Related: How Mobile-Friendly Is Your Website? If You Don't Know, You're Missing Out on Sales.

Why you want to be there.

Why would you want to be No. 0?

First, you're at the very top of the search results. Who doesn't want that? Second, your featured snippet stands apart from the rest of the organic results. It's highlighted as an important result in the search query, and that gives you a bit of prestige.

Third, your page almost certainly won't appear just as a featured snippet but also as a "normal" organic result elsewhere on the SERPs' first page. You get double promotion.

Finally, based on our own Ignite Visibility study, we've seen featured snippets drive a more than 180 percent increase in click-through rates, compared to the rest of Google results for the same website.

Related: How to Increase Your Organic Click-Through Rates

How featured snippets appear.

Most people think of featured snippets as a bit of highlighted content from a paragraph, but they're not all like that.

If you perform a Google search for "What is ssl," you'll see a featured snippet that includes a paragraph with the answer. But if you query "How to cure bacon," you'll see a mini-listicle in the featured snippet.

Google is smart enough to parse the "winning" content and display it in a way that helps users understand a little bit more about the subject before clicking the link.

How to rank for a featured snippet.

It's doable -- but not easy -- to get your page to pop as Google's featured snipped. Even if your optimization efforts don't land you that position, the work you put into the pursuit likely will improve your rank.

Keep in mind you don't have to rank as the No. 1 SERPs spot to land the featured snippet. Some pages ranked No. 2 or No. 3 also end up at the very top of the page. Why? Because by all appearances, featured snippets are based on relevance and not rank.

If your page ranks No. 4 but is more relevant to a search query than those ahead of it, you can expect it will appear in the featured snippet spot for that particular term. That being said, your page generally does need to rank at least on Google's first results page.

Related: 10 Ways to Improve Your Chances for Featured Snippets

How to to generate highly relevant content.

Get straight to the point. Want to tell Google that your content is especially relevant? Don't waste words with long introductions or get sidetracked into topics not relevant to the title of your content. This helps Google's algorithm more easily determine your content's fit with a user's search.

Use the inverted pyramid. Demonstrate relevance by taking a page from the journalist's playbook: Write in the inverted pyramid style. Start by offering a summary at the beginning of your content -- the who, what, when, why, where and how -- and dive into more details as you flesh out the story. Readers love it because they get a broad overview of your subject right at the top. If they want more detail, they'll keep reading.

Try longform content. If you want to convince Google your post is relevant, use longform content. Aim for at least 1,200 words in length, but be careful. The rules from English Composition 101 still apply. You shouldn't pump up a 2,000-word article simply for the sake of hitting a word count. Google will pick up on that, just as your college professor did.

Answer a question. People often take a literal approach to their queries, typing questions in the Google search bar. Pro tip: Google loves to display answers to questions in the featured-snippet box. Here's a bonus pro tip: Include the question itself in the title of your content as well as within the body text itself. Two is plenty. Overuse the question tactic, and Google might view your page or blog entry as keyword spam.

Get started now.

If you want to score the No. 0 position, sit down with your teammates and brainstorm questions relevant to your brand, services or products. Then, post content that answers those questions as directly as possible. There's a lot more to know, of course. These are just the basics. Convince Google you're an authority on subjects that matter to your business and brand, and you might find yourself at the very top of the SERPs. Being a zero never looked so good.

Related: 10 Questions to Ask When Hiring an SEO Consultant

John Lincoln

CEO of Ignite Visibility

John Lincoln is CEO of Ignite Visibility, a digital-marketing teacher at the University of California San Diego and an online-marketing consultant. He has worked with hundreds of clients ranging from startups to large companies such as FOX, USA Today, WeddingWire and Links of London.

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