It’s likely that your SEO goal used to be to reach the top ranking in the SERPs for as many pieces of content as possible. When Google introduced position zero, it’s probable that reaching rank zero became your new goal. (Position zero is the snippet of information that appears above the first result in some searches.) In actual fact, you should stop making this the main aim of your SEO strategy for several reasons:
1. Position Zero Can Be Impossible
Some types of content will never make it to position zero. This is because Google is often unable to display the information in one of the formats it uses for snippets. This also means that position zero is often something different from the top result.
The types of content Google prefers for position zero include:
• Step-by-step instructions
• Definitions that don’t appear in dictionaries
• Questions that require just a couple of sentences to answer — more than that is too complex for position zero, whereas Google can refer to its database for single-word and very short answers.
• Price breakdowns
• Best-of lists
In other words, your content may be the most relevant to a query, but something else could still be picked for position zero. You just need to run a number of searches to see that the position zero result is often something off the first page entirely, simply because it fits better than any higher-ranking content.
In some cases, it is worthwhile to create content that is easy for Google to turn into a snippet. Other times, this presents too great a challenge. Furthermore, when it is unreasonable for the topic you are covering, attempts to do so could even lower the quality of the content.
2. It’s Unpredictable
It is possible that you’ll exert time, effort and resources into reaching position zero only to fail. The problem is that it is difficult to know what Google will choose — sometimes, a different result comes up for the same user doing the same search later in the day. A better option is to strive to reach high organic and paid results, two things you can strategize for.
3. It Can Lose You Clicks
Position zero may provide users with all the basic information they need, meaning they decide not to click and read further. In this case, users will be missing out on content that delves deeper into the topic, which they could have found interesting and useful. Had these users read your content, you may have been able to pique their interest and gain leads.
4. Google Search Is Always Changing
What ranks as position zero today could change completely tomorrow. You need to remember that Google is constantly updating its algorithm, including what ranks at position zero. The search engine could even start using completely different ways to present such information. This has a long-term impact on your strategy.
Think of it this way: A considerable amount of your content needs to be evergreen. As your evergreen content builds up, Google will see that you have a long history online of providing quality, valuable information. For evergreen content to serve its purpose in your SEO strategy, it needs to keep receiving views and engagement. This is most likely to happen if it continues to rank.
If you create content purely for the purpose of reaching position zero (not for a high organic ranking) and Google later changes what it features at the top of the page, your content could fade into oblivion.
When Position Zero Is Desirable
None of this should dissuade you from ever attempting to reach position zero — you just need to be smart about it. In some cases, position zero could be hugely beneficial, such as when it leads to greater visibility.
This can be true even when position zero leads to fewer clicks. For instance, users who click on a different result to position zero often do so because they realize that the featured content is not what they are looking for. The result for you is a lower bounce rate and fewer low-quality leads.
While Google’s exact algorithm is proprietary, if you decide to try for position zero, there are a few best practices to follow:
• Only attempt it with content that Google can turn into snippets.
• Optimize the content for long-tail keywords of at least six words. It is even better if the phrase contains a question word.
• Use the right code and tagging techniques to make it clear what your page contains.
What Should You Do?
When you bear all the above in mind, it is clear that rather than focusing all your energy on reaching position zero, you’ll do better by gaining the SERP landscape. This means reaching position zero in some SERPs but also working to achieve high organic rankings and throwing in some PPC.
In this manner, you’ll be able to take up more landscape. The results: you’ll improve brand awareness, bring users the most relevant content for their queries and prevent wasted time on impossible goals. Even if these were not the results you were looking for, they’ll provide you with benefits in the long run.