Optimizing your website for voice search and position zero
Kent Lewis
February 1, 2018

In part one of this two-part series, I defined voice search and position zero and why they should matter to marketers. In the second installment, I will outline best practices for optimizing your website for voice search and position zero. Keep in mind that the following optimization strategies will only maximize your opportunity to own position zero, but if your website doesn’t already rank for the target term, you have a zero chance of owning the Answer Box.

Optimizing for voice search

The first step in optimizing for voice search is to structure your content to answer common search queries on the target topic. Start with the 5 Ws but don’t forget other modifiers like best, top or easy, which are gaining in popularity. When filtering possible questions, keep the conversational nature of voice queries in mind, and factor in the long-tail, which implies long and detailed questions. The more specific the query, the more likely you are to be able to optimize for and own it. Once you’ve compiled a list of possible queries, conduct searches to see which terms are generating Answer Boxes and which do not. For those that generate an Answer Box, you can reverse-engineer the current position zero snippet to gain insights into why and how they are ranking.

To streamline the research and discovery process consider utilizing a host of free and low-cost tools to facilitate. Leverage keyword research tools, some of which include voice search and position zero data, including: MOZ Keyword Explorer, Rank Ranger Keyword Finder and of course, Google AdWords Keyword Planner and Google Search Console. Use StoryBase, BlogSearchEngine and HubSpot Blog Topic Generator to identify topical content ideas and common questions. For research and ongoing tracking, consider using SEMrush, STAT Search Analytics and Searchmetrics Suite.

The next step is to build out content on your website around the target questions. The benefit of optimizing for voice search is that it will help you rank in regular (text) search results as well. Beyond restating and answering the question succinctly on the target page, be sure to incorporate the most relevant keywords in the page URL, title and H1 tag. STAT found that featured snippet URLs included an exact match query in the tag 21% more often than regular results. To maximize ranking relevance, utilize schema markup and structured microdata.

Optimizing for position zero

The optimization process for position 0/Answer Box is akin to website SEO. The most effective optimization strategy for position 0 can be simplified into this equation: KISS + MIFF = success. Keep it simple, stupid. Less is more, especially since you only have 40-55 words to work with. Most important facts first. Answer the question quickly and succinctly and you will have the highest probability of owning position zero.

The first step, like voice search optimization, is to determine which keyword phrases/queries are ideal opportunities for your brand. The second step is to identify which queries currently generate an Answer Box and which do not, utilizing the tools mentioned in the previous section. If a position zero exists, reverse-engineer the current result to improve your ranking page and displace it. If it does not, then you must follow a more complicated process to convince Google the question is worthy of an Answer Box. Typically, the queries that are best candidates for position zero results are higher-volume, longer-tail searches. Google’s People Also Ask (typically appearing under Answer Boxes) provides additional suggestions.

One way to identify which pages on your site are best candidates for position zero is to look at your high-performing pages in analytics. The easiest content to optimize for position zero includes questions and answers, including Q&A and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Blog posts and interviews are also excellent candidates for optimization. The objective is to answer the query as efficiently as possible, which requires you to ‘get to the point’ with content on your target pages.

As outlined previously, ranking for position zero is all about creating content that directly answers the query, in the proper format (paragraph, list or table), incorporating proof terms, adding additional content and internal links (especially to higher-ranking pages). Test less common modifiers than the 5 W’s as well, including terms like ‘cost’ which can appear frequently in specific types of snippets. When writing copy on your pages, target an 8th grade reading level, which appears to be Google’s ideal for position zero. Keep in mind you can optimize to answer more than one question, as long as the questions are related contextually.

Both voice search and position zero provide significant opportunities for brands not only to own competitive terms as an “expert” but to double visibility in highly desirable organic search results. By following the optimization strategies outlined in this article, you have an opportunity to take a leadership position in the search landscape. Make sure your digital marketing strategy factors in voice search and position zero optimization, so you will have a voice with your target audience.

Kent Lewis is the president and founder of Anvil Media.