Your Brand Can't Afford To Sleep On Your On-SERP SEO, Here's Why
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 goals and how the search engine UX is being updated to accomplish them. In this article, I identify what these goals are and the changes that are being made. As well, I cover an SEO tactic you can easily incorporate into your strategy to stay ahead of the curve.
Google’s ultimate goal is to provide its users with the smoothest experience possible. 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 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 it’s users.
Introducing Position 0
Google has been updating its first results page (page 1) with new features to fix this issue. You’ve likely noticed them yourself - they appear above the traditional organic position 1 ranking, in what’s known as “position 0”. Notable position 0 features include knowledge panels, the “people also ask” box, and featured snippets. These snippets 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 leave the results page.
Although this is good for Google and its 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 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. If you do SEO, your brand needs to start caring about position 0 elements or risk getting crushed by your competition. 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, in 2019 and beyond:
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.
Ninety-nine percent of pages selected for featured snippets rank in the top 10 positions in Google for the query that has been searched; meanwhile, thirty three percent 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 you’ve followed all these steps, you’ll be in great shape to rank for a featured snippet.
To recap, Google’s ultimate goal is to provide its users with the best experience 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. Marketers will have to adapt by using On-SERP SEO.