If you’ve never head of position zero or you don’t understand how it works, you could be missing out on increasing your content’s reach in Google search.
What is Position Zero?
A position zero result refers to the first block of information that appears above or to the right of some of your search results on Google (see example to the right). These are organic results that Google’s algorithm has decided to display because of factors such as relevance and effective search engine optimization (SEO) rather than because of paid search engine marketing. They appear above the traditional #1 search rank position. Typically, position zero results contain a:
- Display title,
- Extracted answer, and
Position zero content may also have an image, bulleted lists, related questions and simple tables. It’s important to note that not all searches will yield a position zero result, and Google determines on which pages they appear and what content to include in position zero (it is not advertisement that can be purchased).
Why is it Important for HIV service organizations?
HIV service organizations, and especially those organizations that use the internet to communicate HIV information, often intend to communicate health information that is clear, concise and, above all, accurate. Ensuring target audiences can easily find this information can greatly increase its impact.
Because position zero results appear at the top of the page, viewers often read them first or read only that content. In addition, position zero results appear bigger, taking up 25-75% of a desktop screen and often 100% of a smartphone screenwhich greatly increases the prominence of the content. Further, because Google’s algorithm has selected these results, readers may assume that they are more credible. Lastly, readers are likely to click on position zero links 20.5% more than the results in position one.
Given the size of position zero results on smartphone screens, they are particularly important for HIV communications. We know that many of the populations more likely to be impacted by HIV are also more likely to be smart-phone dependent, meaning their only means of access the Internet is via a mobile device. Getting accurate information in position zero can help those we serve, especially, if they don’t click through or scroll down to read other search results listed on the page.
For your organization, having your content in position zero may lead to:
- More traffic
- Greater visibility
- A healthy boost to your credibility
How to get your content into position zero
When considering position zero, it’s important to consider that certain types of content score higher in Google’s algorithm.
- Definitions should include the necessary complexity to provide a complete answer. If the content is too simple, Google will find a dictionary entry to promote as the position zero result.
- It’s important to note that voice search users will often ask full sentences, but mobile and desktop users are more likely to search for single words and stilted phrases.
- Answers to questions
- Answer one or more of the Five Ws (who, what, when, where, or why). However the content shouldn’t be too simple, otherwise, Google will supply a richer answer from their database.
- Write your content in short paragraphs but complex enough to warrant an entire page on your site. Paragraphs should be approximately 40-50 words in length.
- Consider using the specific questions users type into search as header in your content. Keep in mind that the average length of a question that appears in searches and in position zero is about six words.
- How to or instructions
- Provide easy-to-understand instructions that can be broken-down into steps.
- Tables and lists
- Use bulleted or numbered lists, tables and comparisons, where possible, especially those that contrast two or more items.
- Consider creating lists using terms like:
- Top 5, 10,…
We recognize that revising existing content on your website could require a lot of work. Before you begin, consider if someone else is providing good, clear information on a specific topic. Not all of your content may be well-suited for position zero, so consider which of your high-priority pages match the content list above and start there.
As HIV.gov’s David Vaughan puts it “refining your content for position zero will mean that your content is written well and incorporates search engine optimization (SEO) best practices. You may not reach position zero, but your website should improve its search engine rankings.”