Why do some web pages show up "above" the first search result, and just below any paid (PPC) results? This is called a Featured Snippet, or "position zero" in the SEO field, and it's one of the ways Google positions for SEO are counted. It's important because as voice search becomes more common, Google uses the featured snippet or "position zero" result for its "one true answers" response to voice searches.
For instance, we searched "featured snippet" in Google, and here's what happened:
What is a featured snippet?
Featured Snippets are answers that appear right in search results and are pulled from relevant websites. Included in the snippet is a summary and the details of the web page where the answer was pulled from, including the URL. These snippets are a very powerful space to occupy as content with a featured snippet gets a 2X higher click-through rate.
Let's say that your page has ranked at the number one position on the search results because of your hard work optimizing your page. Further, your web page answers a specific question, and lays it out plainly, and therefore Google uses your content as the featured snippet for that term... sometimes.
This is like being the king AND queen at the same time. Being placed above the top search result really makes the Featured Snippet the top search result, but for the sake of practicality, it has been dubbed Position #0.
Two search results for position zero become one
It used to be that you could get two positions in a search result page, the regular organic result plus the Featured Snippet. Position zero has changed recently, though. A recent update by Google removes the second search result in favor of the Featured Snippet. So now you only get one position zero result, and no "regular" organic result as a secondary link on the first page. But which one would you prefer? Most would say position zero is the better of the two because it ranks higher than a normal organic result.
How to get a featured snippet
Getting your blog to rank as a featured snippet means that you have thoroughly answered a commonly searched question. Essentially, you are the first thing people see when they search for that question, so your page must be completely comprehensive.
Google chooses one of the pages from the first ten search results also to get the position zero spot. So if you're already ranking on the first page of Google, consider optimizing your post for the featured snippet position.
Here are a few ways to increase your chances of ranking for position zero:
- Focus on long-tail keywords
- Target question-based search terms
- Use a clear page structure with headings and paragraph tags
- Keep your answers to questions around 54-58 words long
Does position "0" help voice search?
Yes. Google and Bing are moving towards voice search quickly, in fact, they're already there. The answers to voice searches with devices like Echo and Google Home, and Apple HomePod are also vocal responses. There is only one answer, the best one, just like the Star Trek computer. Featured snippets are a move in that direction. t’s estimated that about half of teenagers and adults alike use voice search every day.
Before voice search, and even before Google was the world’s go-to resource for answers, search engines were merely directories and portals to the wide, untamed internet. A dramatic change came in 2012 when Google introduced Knowledge Graph, a smart system that understands how people, places, and things are all connected. A few other things happened, and now we are almost to the point where voice search is dominant.
Voice search is only continuing to gain popularity. In 2019, Emarketer estimated that 111.8 million people in the U.S. used a voice assistant at least monthly, up 9.5% from the previous year. This is equivalent to 39.4% of internet users and 33.8% of the total population.
Results are organically generated
If you’re wondering how Google generates these results, you’re in for a pleasant surprise - the results are generated organically based on the relevance of the information. Google programmatically searches for the answer on websites, determines the best and displays it for searchers.
A few things play into which web page's content is featured as the snippet:
- First page results. It’s necessary that your page is on the first page of search results for your given search query. Usually, in the first five results.
- Relevant information. The answer you provide has to be the right answer, and the information on the page must be relevant to the search term overall.
- Useful formatting. If you’ve formatted your answer like this answer is, or if you’ve got a nice table of information, Google will be more likely to display it.
What is the “People also ask” box?
Below the Featured Snippet, there is also sometimes a clickable list of related questions. These could also be considered "position zero," since they appear before the “top” search result.
Growth of featured snippets
The Featured Snippet has seen a ton of growth in the years since its inception, and People Also Ask boxes are rising even faster. Although even less is known about how the extra question boxes are generated than Featured Snippets, one thing can be said for sure: there's no definite cap on how many FAQs are displayed.
If you come across a People Also Ask box, try expanding some of the results. If you’re lucky, you’ll notice that more results are loaded at the bottom of the feature as you expand results. This can lead to a never-ending black hole of People Also Ask options!
No matter how you look at it, the Featured Snippet box is a highly coveted position. If you’ve designed your content to answer a specific question, hold a high rank in the search results, and have used the appropriate combination of headings, bold lists, and other text callouts, you may see your page being used as a Featured Snippet.
If you are not, think about how you might improve your brand's web presence through better SEO.
Featured Snippet FAQs
What is a Featured Snippet?
Featured Snippets are answers that appear right in search results and are pulled from relevant websites. Included in the snippet is a summary and the details of the web page where the answer was pulled from, including the URL.
How do you get a Featured Snippet?
Here are a few ways to increase your chances of getting a Featured Snippet. Focus on long-tail keywords. Target question-based search terms. Use a clear page structure with headings and paragraph tags. Keep your answers to questions around 54-58 words long.
What is the People Also Ask box?
Below the Featured Snippet, there is also sometimes a clickable list of related questions. These could also be considered position zero since they're appearing before the top search result.
About the author
Kent Campbell is the chief strategist for Reputation X, a San Francisco Bay Area-based online reputation management services firm. He has over 15 years of experience with SEO, Wikipedia editing, review management, and online reputation strategy. Kent has helped celebrities, leaders, executives, and marketing professionals improve the way they are seen online. Kent writes about reputation, SEO, Wikipedia, and PR-related topics.