Instead of aiming to rank first on a search engine results page, your new goal should be to rank “zero.” A few years ago, Google developed a feature to give searchers their answer as quickly as possible. This feature is called the Google Answer Box, and it is considered “position zero” because it appears above all other search results.
The last time you searched “How to bake a cake” or “How many feet are in a mile,” you probably found your answer in Google's Answer Box. It often appears as a list, chart or short paragraph with the answer to your query. Google pulls this content from a trusted website with high domain authority and well-structured content.
Why You Should Try to Rank for a Google Answer Box
Beyond being placed above all other results, there’s another important benefit to being represented in the Answer Box: It shows that Google trusts your company. This trust can translate to the user. By associating your brand with the best answer, the user will likely trust you as the expert.
How to Organize Your Content
For its Answer Boxes, Google typically pulls content that is organized into a few short sentences, a chart or a list. Make sure your answer is concise enough to be featured in a Google Answer Box. Determine the question or keyword that you are trying to optimize for, then make it a subhead, or H2, directly above your answer. If your answer is a table, chart or list, the question should be the title of the chart or list.
How to Optimize Your Content
Use basic SEO principles to optimize your content. First, you will need to do keyword research to make sure that people are searching for this question or keyword. Google your keyword to find out if any sites are already in “position zero” for that keyword. If they have a decent answer and also rank first on the search engine results page (SERP), consider trying a different keyword. It is unlikely you will be able to take over “position zero” if the number one ranked site already holds that spot.
Once you choose your keyword, write your content. Make sure your selected keyword is in your header, body copy, meta description and alt tags. Repeat your keyword no more than five times. Add videos or helpful graphics to your content. Include both internal and external links. Download a plugin like Yoast to help you optimize your pages.
How to Gain Higher Domain Authority
According to a study by CognitiveSEO, content in Google's Answer Boxes was pulled from the first ranking website 33% of the time. The top five ranked sites accounted for 77% of Google Answer Box content. In other words, in order to be considered for an Answer Box, your website needs to rank in the top five on a SERP.
Google ranks pages on a number of factors — one of those being domain authority. You can check your rank and domain authority by using sites like Ahrefs or Moz. Domain authority is ranked on a scale from 1 to 100, with 100 being the highest.
To improve your domain authority, focus on your site's links and backlinks to your site. Include internal and external links in all of your articles. Reach out to bloggers and industry influencers and ask them to link to your content. The more high-ranking backlinks you have, the higher your domain authority will be. This also means getting rid of bad links; run a report on Ahrefs or SEMrush to determine which links should be removed from your site.
Make sure all of your citations (Google My Business, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc.) are update with your correct hours, phone number and URL. Incorrect information on these directories can greatly decrease your domain authority.
While you can’t buy your way into a Google Answer Box, you can follow the above steps to improve your chances. By ranking as “position zero,” your brand will receive more exposure and your site will receive more visits. If you have any questions about how to improve your rankings through your content marketing, schedule a consultation today.