This article is a guest contribution – read more about the author at the bottom of the post.
Are you feeling the FOMO yet?
At our agency, we certainly feel it when we see other companies score Position Zero Voice-Search SERP snippets for short and long-tail keywords.
As a result of seeing this happen with increasing frequency throughout 2019, we launched an initiative to understand how Position Zero Voice-Search works on a micro and macro level.
Our results were astonishing.
Now, we want to pass on the major take-aways to you and your team.
Before we jump right in, I must note: This guide isn’t for SEO beginners.
You need a comprehensive understanding of the terms used.
If there’s a phrase or concept you don’t understand, we recommend you conduct further research before continuing.
The first thing you need to do is assess your domain.
It’s crucial to understand how your digital property currently stacks up against the competition.
Following the steps below will help you determine whether the domain is likely to obtain a Position Zero Voice-Search in the SERPs before proceeding with the subsequent steps.
What to check:
Armed with the knowledge from Step 1, use your intuition as an SEO to calculate the appropriate search volume for the keyword or long-tail keyphrase you aim to gain Position Zero Voice-Search for.
I base this calculation primarily on traffic, bounce rate, and my site’s aggregate DA versus my competitors.
Example: If a competitor is achieving a position zero SERP result for a keyphrase similar to one I’m targeting or looking to beat, I ensure the difference in my site’s DA is within 8-10 points—the lower, the better.
If the competitor’s DA is higher by 10 points or more, I’ve found it much harder to obtain a Position Zero Voice-Search (not impossible, however).
A Note About Selecting Keywords
Currently, the easiest phrases to obtain Position Zero Voice-Search for are prepositional phrases with interrogative adverbs presented as questions.
An example of this structure is: “How do I use an excel spreadsheet?” or “How do I mix paint?”
While it’s possible to get Position Zero Voice-Search for terms that are not a question, it’s easier to answer the who, what, when, where, why, and how of a topic while internally linking to its primary entity or noun.
Over time, this approach has been shown in our studies to “teach” Google that you’re the best resource to serve all variations of the query and the surrounding search intent of the main topic or entity.
After you assess your domain’s strength and select a keyword, it’s time to begin constructing your page.
Your page’s success depends on a few different factors—one of the most crucial being how well you adhere to semantic SEO practices.
The other critical factors are relevance and timing.
As you’ll see from the instructions below, we’re able to obtain a quick Position Zero Voice-Search by ensuring the answer to our keyword’s “question” is more germane than any other result in the SERPs.
The first step is to create your URL.
Your URL permalink should be the direct keyword or long-tail phrase.
The next step in this process is adding your H1 and your H2.
Your H1 should reflect the keyphrase in question form.
H1 Example: How Do I Use an Excel Spreadsheet?
Combined, this gives your H1 and your URL permalink a 1:1 match and increases the relevance of your signal.
Next, your H2 should be the actionable takeaway you’re providing to searchers that solves the intent of the search.
H2 Example: How to Use an Excel Spreadsheet
Don’t write a How-To schema yet.
The H2 is used to compound the H1 signal for relevance but draws away from it if there is any body-text beneath it when you force fetch it in Google.
Remember how I mentioned timing and relevance above?
This plays an integral part in achieving it.
Next, in the body-text, you need to answer your H1 directly to provide the most relevance to the search intent of the query.
Example: To use an excel spreadsheet you…
Our research shows that when answering your query, it’s best to include as many commas as possible and to use 35-50 words.
Example: To use an excel spreadsheet, you first need to open up Excel by Microsoft, click the File menu, and then select the New option, which will provide you with a blank document formatted in columns and rows.
You’re more likely to get a larger Position Zero Voice-Search rich snippet box using commas than periods.
Periods finish a thought—commas extend them in written excerpts.
After you have written your answer out under your H1, add it directly to your meta description.
Note: We’re fully aware your answer could be more than 160 chars.
But by combining your direct answer with your H1 and compounding the signal up to the meta description and title, you create the strongest possible signal for the answer to the query through optimal relevance.
Lastly, what you need to do before requesting indexing through GSC is to add a picture to your page.
The picture itself should be named your question and use the first part of the answer in the alt tag.
This again compounds the signal up for relevance by asking a question and solving the query.
See a pattern yet?
Example: how-do-i-use-an-excel-spreadhseet.jpg, alt=”How to use an excel spreadsheet from Microsoft.”
You now need to fetch your page in GSC, while looking to see when it indexes.
How long it takes for Google to make your page available in its repository is highly dependent on how backed up new index queries are.
I recommend checking every hour through the Google “site:url” modifier to see when the page is indexed.
After it’s been indexed, directly copy and paste your H1 (minus the punctuation) into the Google search box and see if you get a return for your results.
Because you’ve answered a direct query and compounded your signals all the way up—top to bottom—you should see your page hit Position Zero Voice-Search if your domain assessment and keyword selection was accurate.
Lastly, once you begin to see yourself indexing for Zero Position Voice-Search, you need to do one last thing:
Add more content than your competitors!
That’s right—to stay in Position Zero Voice-Search, you need to add more content.
That means enough content to outposition your competitors.
You need to have more content—based on text length—in comparison to the average property returning the query.
If you don’t, our case studies show, you may lose Position Zero anywhere from within 24 hours to up to a week later.
We always recommend consolidating a long-term advantage over your competitors by publishing informative articles/blog posts.
The above guide can help you get your foot in the door at Position Zero Voice-Search.
It takes hard work to stay there.
Note: Schema isn’t currently necessary to obtain a Position Zero Voice-Search rank.
We suggest waiting to see if your ranking decreases over time.
If it does, employ schema as part of your effort to rebound in the rankings against your competitors. Most properties are still not using schema.
Are you not seeing your page in live search as Position Zero Voice-Search yet?
Don’t fret—there could be several reasons.
And several solutions.
The most common reasons you don’t see yourself in Position Zero are as follows:
Problem: Your Domain Authority wasn’t high enough to compete for that specific term or long-tail phrase.
Solution: Try going after something with less search volume to average out your aggregate average ranking position across your domain.
Problem: You didn’t ask and answer a question directly.
Solution: Google currently rewards prepositional phrases paired with interrogative adverbs.
In other words—concise questions with concise answers perform best.
Refer back to Section 2 and rewrite your headings and text if necessary.
Problem: Your PageRank isn’t high enough.
Solution: If you come up in a lower position than zero, try sending internal links to the target URL from another page on the site with a high PageRank value.
Then attempt to re-index the page the next day.
Internal links can help you gain position by passing on authority from other pages on the site.
If internal linking has no effect, try obtaining a backlink to the target page from a site with DA 10+ points higher than yours. Use sameAs schema when you request a re-index through GSC.
Problem: Your competitor answered the question more succinctly.
Solution: Make sure your answer to the query is straight to the point.
If a competitor already has Position Zero Voice-Search—use their answer and modify it to become more concise and direct.
Problem: The bounce rate on your domain is too high.
If the bounce rate from auxiliary pages is 55+%, you’re highly unlikely to reach Position Zero Voice-Search.
Focus on lowering the overall bounces from informational pages on your website.
Please note—this is likely niche-specific.
Problem: You didn’t follow the above steps strictly enough.
Solution: This method to reach Position Zero Voice-Search works because you’re compounding signals in a way that your competitors and other properties are probably not.
Your semantic SEO principles play a huge role here.
Problem: Google hasn’t indexed the page yet.
Solution: Confirm Google has indexed the page using “site: modifier” before assuming it didn’t work.
If you’ve followed all the steps above, this is unlikely to be the root problem.
By leveraging the methods above, our agency has captured Position Zero Voice-Search on over 50% of our client portfolios thus far.
We’ve increased the average traffic to their websites by 15%.
In addition to helping leverage traffic and new searches, creating pages that answer specific queries over time also drives up your property’s aggregate average position for all SERP returns.
In turn, this signals to Google that you are or are becoming an authority for queries relevant to your niche.
I hope this guide has been informative and helps those of you struggling to get your first Position Zero Voice-Search rank.
If you have any questions, please drop them below in the comments.
I’ll be more than happy to answer them directly.
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