Google is constantly changing the way their search engine results display in an effort to provide a better user experience for their users. More and more queries are providing solutions directly within the search results page rather than taking you to another website. Known in the industry as “ranking zero” or “position zero”, when your website comes up in the Featured Snippets or the answers box for a query, you are liable to see a dramatic increase in your traffic. So, even though there are lots of websites competing for that spot, if you know what you’re doing, you can land your website there.
Three different types of content are presented in the Google Answers Box:
This list result is further down the page because four ads are presented at the top before the actual results start.
When your website lands in the answer box, people are going directly to your content. That content serves as a teaser to what else they can find on your website. Users become invested in your content and brand before they even have the chance to know who you are. Google has a patent on the answer box, so it’s likely won’t see it anywhere else for an extended period of time. Since what lands your website in the box is algorithmic it is possible, though somewhat difficult depending on the keyword phrase, to get your website in that spot.
Let’s take a closer look at why the Answer Box has become such a competitive space.
WHY IS THE GOOGLE FEATURED SNIPPET SO COMPETITIVE?
When you’re the first result on a page without an answer box, you’ll get a click-through rate of anywhere between 25% to 30%, on average. But, when you’re number one on a page with an answer box – and you’re not the answer in the box – that won’t bump you down the page too much – but it will dramatically affect your click-through rate – dropping it to anywhere between 15% to 20%.
Let’s transfer that to dollars with a hypothetical. Let’s say you have a 1% conversion rate at $100 per sale, based on that low end 25% click-through rate. If that query gets 2,000 searches a month – that means you’re getting 500 clicks. And of that 500 clicks, 5 people will make a $100 purchase, giving you $500 a month.
When the answer box comes in, and you’re not in it, you’re now only getting 300 clicks per month, which is costing you $200 a month – if your conversion rate stays the same. That’s almost half the revenue difference – and that’s on a relatively small scale. Imagine what it could do to someone with millions of clicks and hundreds of thousands of conversions?
START WITH A STRONG SEO FOUNDATION
Most of the time, the site where you see the answer in the answer box is the number one result, but not always. One thing we know though, it’s always ranked within the top five for whatever the query may be. As such, your site needs to be there, too, and if you want to knock the others down, you’ll at least 1,000, if not more high quality referring domains. This means creating content that’s worthy of others linking to it. But, beyond that, you’ll also need to have a high level of engagement on the specific page you’re trying to get ranked in the Answer Box.
You’ll also need high-value content that’s fewer than 2,000 words in length. The more relevant your information, the more value it offers, and the more updated your website is, the better. If it fails at basic optimization tasks such as being optimized for mobile devices, none of the rest of your SEO work will matter. More than half of all web traffic comes from mobile devices – so if you haven’t already, make sure you’re using the Mobile-Friendly tool to see if your website is mobile-friendly. Even if it is, Google can still provide some suggestions to help you improve the user experience. When your website helps Google provide a quality user experience for the searchers, Google will thank you with an improved ranking.
GO AFTER LOW-HANGING FRUIT: FIND QUESTIONS WITHOUT ANSWER BOXES
The search engine results page will only have one answer box, so if you already see one for a query you’d like to get your results in, you’ll have a much harder fight – especially if you’re not already ranking in the top five for that phrase – getting into that answer box than if you were trying to rank for a question that doesn’t have an answer box at all yet. Though it’s a bit harder to find pages without answer boxes, you can still use a variety of keyword research tools to help you find them.
If you’re up for the challenge of trying to knock a current result out of place – you’ll have to start with a bit of competitive audit, to make sure you know exactly what you’re up against. You’ll need to see how many backlinks the current answer has in place, how many referring domains, and most importantly, how well the content answers the question. Then, you’ll have to make sure your content is better, you have more backlinks and more referring domains. You’ll see the process won’t happen overnight, and you’ll have to closely monitor ranking changes because you don’t know how many other websites are also making an effort to knock an answer out of place to try to get their own site there.
EDIT YOUR OLD CONTENT WITH THE ANSWER BOX IN MIND
Whether you’re going back to refresh some old content, or writing new content, always keep the answer box in mind. Nothing that’s valuable, well written, or informative will ever detract from content you write specifically for the Answer Box. Most people who are going to your website are doing so to find the answer to a question, whether they’re given the answer directly on the search results page or not. If they’re not directly searching for an answer to a question, they’re at least searching for a solution to one of their pain points.
Start with that answer or solution and work backward. Creating content that way ensures the overall content doesn’t suffer and increases your chances of landing in the Google Answer Box from the beginning.
FIND ENTITIES TO STRUCTURE YOUR CONTENT
Entities can be considered a type of keyword. While Google has a rather complex definition of what an entity is, it’s basically people and places. Like in the screenshot above, actor and comedian Jim Carrey is considered an entity. When you create content around an entity and use related keywords with it, you’re creating the ideal situation for Google.
Google is able to learn more about how the keywords you’re using relate to what you’re saying thanks to topic modeling. This helps them figure out which pages are most relevant to the user based on their search query, allowing the best results to rank higher, while pushing the low-quality results further away from users.
IMPROVE YOUR ANSWER SCORE
Though we may never know exactly how the Google algorithm works, we know it looks for what it calls “Answer Elements.” It scores yours, and all other content, based on those. If the best answer to the question is in a paragraph, that’s the paragraph that will make it to the answer box. If you can provide more detail than the paragraph, you’re providing Google with more answer elements, thus improving your answer score.
Depending on the nature of the question and its natural answer, you’ll see answers that feature step-by-step directions, images, and tables of data. Google considers all elements of an answer, so the more you have, the better. If you include data, statistics, or graphs at the end of your answer, you’re making improvements to your Google Answer Score. When you take the time to answer questions that supplement larger questions, you’re making even more improvements.
Though it seems like it could be overwhelming to choose one of these tactics to focus on, the best way to get your site in the featured snippet is to work on all of them. Yes, you can do them one at a time, but it will slow down the speed of your overall progress. Create a plan of attack that starts small, focusing on the most popular unanswered questions your content can answer, and then work up from there.