When Google first launched SERP Position Zero, it rocked the marketing community. SEO specialists were already facing growing pressure to bring clients to the top ten results of the SERP (search engine results page). Getting into the top three results was even better. This was getting harder to do in an increasingly competitive market. Then came the ranking snippets that fell into Position Zero.

It turned marketing on its head for a moment. Where did this come from? How did companies rank for this position? What was even more confusing is that some of the results that ranked in SERP Position Zero weren’t even in the top three results. Never before had marketers wanted to pick apart the Google ranking algorithm as they did then. Fast-forward to 2020 and Google has made yet another change that took effect last month.


What Is Search Position Zero?

Not everyone has heard about the remarkable featured snippets addition. Those who have might not understand where it came from or why it’s there. When you do a search query, this is the first result that appears after the ads in some searches. It expands much larger than the rest and offers enough information to answer the basics of your question.

Snippets serve another purpose as well. When you complete a voice search and Google or Alexa responds immediately with the answer to your question, this is where that information comes from. These clickless searches are growing in importance and should see exponential growth for 2020.

Why is this important for marketing? As Forbes puts it, it eliminates the drive to be number one. That hardly matters when there’s now a position above even that.


What Changes Did Google Make?

As alluded to before, when companies made it to Position Zero, they still ranked elsewhere in the top ten results of a SERP. Sometimes this was at the very top of the results. Other times, it could be six spaces down. To some people, this seemed unfair. Why should the same webpage rank twice? Google apparently felt the same way because this promotion now comes with a demotion.

Webpages that make it to the featured snippets section will no longer rank on page one among the rest of the results. That listing will get immediately pushed to the top of the second page or at Position 11. There are instances where two results make it to Position Zero. In these instances, both will get “deduplicated” by moving them to the second page.

While this is a reasonable expectation, it’s worth noting that getting to page two or at the top of it is no guarantee. Google algorithms make that final call. Marketers have been watching this closely since January 22nd to see how it plays out.


What Happens If You Lose Your Snippet?

As you might imagine, holding Position Zero requires a Herculean effort. It is a highly coveted position and many marketers are trying to optimize their way into it. Google algorithms are also only too eager to move the next best answer into the position if it helps people find better answers to their questions.

So, what happens when someone pushes you out of this position? Do you move back into the spot you would have otherwise held? There is no clear answer from Google at present. A reasonable conclusion is that the algorithms should re-rank the result in with the others. After all, it had to be a top result to hold a featured position. Google would hardly want to miss out on displaying this to its users.

As with the case of deduplicating results, however, there is no guarantee. Marketers will need to continue to monitor the situation to see how it pans out for clients. Proactive marketers are already running simulations daily to reverse engineer this new change to SEO calculations.


What Does This Mean for Marketers?

Until marketers fully assess the situation and begin to share more information about their findings, it’s impossible to say with certainty what it means for SEO moving forward. One professional may also choose to go about it one way. Another may follow the opposite route. Consider for instance the difference between a risk-averse person and a risk-taker.

The risk-taker prefers to optimize for SERP Position Zero because being in the top spot now is well worth the risk of potentially missing out on first-page ranking later. A risk-averse person might prefer to know with certainty that they will maintain a consistent position on the first page no matter what. Risk-averse businesses might, therefore, help pave the way for risk-takers to finally claim the Position Zero Position.


The businesses that will benefit from this most are those that previously occupied positions toward the end of page one or at the start of page two. This is because the semi-demotion of Position Zero webpages provides the perfect opportunity for the others to move up and get increased exposure.

In addition to this, companies that decide to keep optimizing for Position Zero will be at the front of the line when voice search takes over. Many of the risk-averse business owners would then choose this point to boost their SEO strategies again. They might find that they have fallen too far behind to beat out the competition.

The biggest beneficiaries of this update, however, are people who use the internet to get information. This includes business owners when they have taken off the suit and tie and left the office. Removing duplicates from the list ensures that you get the best 11 results on the first page, every time.


Marketers will need to account for personality differences and a manager’s comfort with risk. This can cause restlessness among business owners and tense relationships. It certainly adds a new complication that will require diplomatic skills to navigate.

Businesses also miss the opportunity to catch buyers’ eyes twice. When the readers skim the featured answer, they might keep scrolling instead of clicking. When the readers come across the result a second time, this was once another opportunity to get them to click on the listing.


What Should Business Owners Do?

Business owners will need to become accustomed to some degree of uncertainty while marketers work to better understand the implications of this new change. Still, this is not to say that there is nothing you can do.

  • Don’t Panic: Google makes updates all the time. It may lead to a spike or decrease in your traffic, but this is temporary. Your marketer will soon get a grasp of the changes and optimize to get you back in line.
  • Meet With Your Marketer: Naturally, you might have your own thoughts on how to proceed. This stems from how comfortable you are with taking on risk. Be candid with your marketer about this so you can proceed with a plan that is best for your business but that you feel you can root for.
  • Change Nothing: One of the big mistakes business owners and marketers make is rushing to make changes when Google updates its algorithms. This disrupts the analysis process. It’s important to see how the current algorithms affect your old marketing strategy. This is how you know what to fix in the new one.
  • Consider the Budget: If you decide to keep optimizing for Position Zero, you might need to put in a little extra work to ensure you keep it. This is because the potential consequences of losing it are more serious than before. Find out if you have or can create room in the budget for this.
  • Give It Time: Whatever strategy your marketer comes up with, it won’t start working immediately. Give it a few weeks or months to take effect based on how competitive the market for your keywords is. Be patient and trust the process.

If your marketing agency fails to deliver the results you need, then it might be time to find a new one. With such uncertainty ahead, why settle for less than the best?


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Mike is a former SEO Manager at Boostability and has been in the online marketing industry since 2012. He has extensive experience with SEO, email marketing and link building campaigns for in-house and agency teams around the country.