When you pose a question to Google, the first result you get is Ranking 1. In short, that is the first result of the SERP (search engine research pages).
Until recently a content marketer goal was to reach the SERP. So, once a piece of content reached Google’s first pages, that was good enough. This game is still played by most content marketers. Yet it may be not effective anymore.
Why? In the expanding universe of vocal assistants you ask a question. And all you’ll get is one answer.
That answer is coming from the Rank Zero Snippet; the Featured Snippet
Since Google’s featured snippets (few lines of text that appear before the SERP) a new silent revolution had happened. It doesn’t really matter what position you are on Google’s first page. If your content doesn’t fit that text snippet, you’re out.
Can it be possible? If that is, how can you reach that rank zero position?
With theWordLift’s team we ran an experiment which is going to leave you jaw-dropped!
We asked a device like Google Home, “what is WordLift?” and It answered,
The answer came from a website called reviews.financesonline.com. In the SERP that website comes after WordLift’s website:
In other words, even though our website ranks higher on the keyword “what is wordlift.” Google is not using that content featured in the rich snippet area.
WordLift’s founder, Andrea Volpini created a purposeful strategy around it. You can see it explained in this article. This shows us that ranking is only part of the equation.
Why did that happen then?
We don’t know for sure how Google chooses the content for a featured snippet. Yet there are few hypotheses we can make:
Domain authority. This is not a new concept, as anyone knows in the SEO world, authority is a concept as old as the web. Each website can get ranked on a 0 to 100 logarithmic scale. Which means that going from 20 to 60 is way easier than going from 60 to 100. That’s because each step forward on that ranking requires an exponential progression.
In our case studyreviews.financesonline.com has more authority. How do we measure that? Its backlinks score is way higher compared to WordLift.
That is not surprising at all. Building up domain authority takes time (our website has been online since September 2016, thus for less than six months now). We can assert that backlinks are still a crucial part when it comes to domain authority. Thus it still plays a huge role to get featured as rich snippet.
Content organization. In short, the reason why Google features a piece of content might be due to its ability to answer a user’s question. That is why Google at times may prefer answers that do not rank first. Yet those answers are prone to give a clear and straight to the point definition.
Contextual foundation. Google launched RankBrain in 2013. The tech giant now uses NLP (natural language processing) to interpret search queries. When asked “what is WordLift?” Google interprets the query and understands that is referring to a software. Based on that, where could it find the best answer related to that? Fromreviews.financesonline.com. Why? Because when it comes to software reviews it has a strong contextual foundation.
Those of course are my conclusions but there might be other factors also affecting that.
So far the three main takeaways relate to domain authority, copy and context. How do we take action based on these three takeaways?
- Building up domain authority takes time. Thus, while building your own domain authority exploit other people’s network. How? Look for the keyword that has most potential for your business. See who is ranking in the SERP for that keyword. Put in place a strategy to get featured within the website (for instance through a guest post). This strategy alone will improve the chances of getting that snippet. At the same time, you will stile some domain authority of your competition. While providing them value.
- Define the most strategic concepts within your website. The greatest mistake newbies make when setting up a website is that of having no strategy at all. For instance, they end up writing about too many concepts (I’ve made the same mistake too). Instead, chose a niche and stick with it until Google knows what your website is about.
- Create a strong context of your website based on semantic similarity. This point relates to the previous. Rather than focusing on using and writing about too many topics. Define 20/30 concepts that make sense to your business. If your website is about personal finance, it makes sense to develop the website around saving, investing and passive income. Starting from those macro concepts you can branch them out to several new micro concepts. It may make sense to set up an internal vocabulary, where each concept becomes a lead magnet.
So far we saw how Google’s featured snippet is taking over the web. In fact, when asking a question to a vocal assistant all you get is a single, straight to the point answer. Coming straight from that snippet. Thus, either you are in that snippet or you’re out of the internet!
We also saw how ranking first does not automatically mean you become a featured snippet. Why? We made some hypotheses about that.
- Domain authority still matters a lot. Yet it takes time to build it. Thus, while implementing a link building strategy. It also makes sense to use other people’s network.
- Content organization is crucial. In fact, rather than focusing on too many concepts. When first setting up a website, it makes sense to create a content strategy based on a specific niche.
- Contextual foundation is what makes your website going toward the snippet. We saw that ever since RankBrain launch, Google uses AI to interpret language. Building a website around a strong contextual foundation will push a piece of content closer to that snippet.
In the last decades machines (search engines) were born with the intent of bringing order to the web. Yet we shifted toward an era where humans started to write for machines’ sake. The future looks brighter tough. In fact, even though search engines are becoming more and more powerful. We can now use them to address the reason why they first came to life. Which is to connect people with the content they are looking for.
* Adapted lead image: Public Domain, pixabay.com via getstencil.com