Recently, Google changed its definition of “position zero.” It is now counted as one of the primary search results and eliminated the duplicate listing. This is a big change in how the company treats Google positions and impacts SEO and other digital marketing.
We’ll examine the change and how you can better rank for featured snippets.
What is a Featured Snippet?
Google first started with just the primary search results and then AdWords ads above and below the main results. The company wanted a way to provide direct answers to questions people asked without clicking through to a website, so the featured snippet was born.
When a searcher enters a question into Google, it may provide a featured text snippet. The snippet takes the exact information from a web page and places it above the search results. There are also video and list snippets.
Over time, search engine optimization professionals called this position zero because it’s an organic listing above the primary search results and there is no way to buy it like an ad. In addition to position zero, you also had the URL in the primary search results.
Almost all the URLs in the featured snippet were on the first three search result listings.
Google and Duplicate Listings
For many years, it wasn’t uncommon to see the same website listed on the first page of the search results multiple times. If the site had lots of good content, then Google could list different pages two or three times in the search results.
Google believed this was what searchers wanted and it was until mobile search outpaced desktop. Smaller screen sizes and a different generation of searchers wanted more variety in the search results, so Google changed their algorithm.
While it wasn’t unheard of for the same website to be listed more than once on the first page, it was far less likely. The only issue was position zero ended up providing a second search listing and Google needed to do something about it.
Google Positions Algorithm Change
In January of 2020, Google made the decision to effectively eliminate position zero and instead make it position one. This removes the duplicate search result and treats the featured snippet as one of the primary top 10 results for the query.
While still the top spot and a valuable piece of Internet real estate, it’s no longer considered a separate result. For example, if you asked a question and a featured snippet was included, then there would be 10 search results on that page and not the usual 11.
This also counts in cases of multiple featured snippets. On rare occasions, Google would include two featured snippets and there would be 10 search results and two snippets on the page. After the change, the two featured snippets remain, but there are only additional search results on the page.
Featured Snippets and Click Through Rate
The biggest complaint about removing the duplicate link is the possible lowering of the click through rate. In essence, the featured snippet provides a basic answer to the question asked by the searcher. If they have the answer, then why would they need to click through to your website.
Also, if your snippet didn’t answer it fully, then they would likely continue down the result page and potentially click on your primary listing, which is now gone. Since traffic is the primary goal of organic search for websites, it led to a public outcry from e-commerce and other sites.
People began trying to decrease the chances of their site being used for rich snippets by using various HTML code including meta-nosnippet. This blocks Google from using the content for a snippet, but this also has a downside.
If you block rich snippets, then you decrease your chances of voice search. Google said that if a rich snippet was used for voice search, then sites blocking snippets wouldn’t be included. Voice search is growing and there’s no search page, it’s one result and done.
If voice search is part of your digital marketing plan, then don’t block rich snippets.
Snippets Increase Search Visibility
Before you go blocking snippets, remember that search visibility is important. While the impact of rich snippets is difficult to determine, answering people’s questions is a good thing.
If the snippet answers the question completely, then it does likely decrease the chance of them clicking through. If you block your content and a competitor gets the spot, they’re not going to get a click through either.
If your snippet is a list, then it likely includes a “more items” link that encourages people to click through. It appears rich snippets are here to stay and are now part of organic search results. They’re an important part of organic search, so optimize for them and don’t block them.
Optimizing for Rich Snippets
Google wants only the best content that answers the question to be featured in a snippet. Use your FAQ and blog posts to answer questions people might have. Make sure the question is the title of the blog post and provides expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.
You can also use schema markup to provide a definitive roadmap of your content for Google. When Google bots crawl a site, they’re doing their best to determine what the content is. Schema helps by providing context to what the content is on the page.
Keep an Eye on Search Positions
Google positions are never going away, but how they’re viewed and how you optimize for them will change. Knowledge is power, so keep a close eye on changes in Google algorithms as more are inevitably coming.
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