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The Six Things SEOs Need to Understand About the Post-Spot-Zero World

It’s been a little over a month since Google announced that SERPs that had a featured snippet would no longer serve the URL of the featured snippet an additional time in that same SERP. In other words, spot zero was terminated.

If you need a refresher on the basics of this update, 97th Floor’s VP of SEO, Joe Robledo, gave a succinct write-up of what this update is, what it means for SEOs, and the immediate action items and considerations you should be aware of. You can read that here

Since the update, 97th Floor has been hard at work to determine the action items SEOs need to take. We conducted formal research on nearly 3,000 SERPs and have presented these findings on the Moz blog yesterday. If you find yourself interested in the nitty gritty details of the methodology and specific findings of this study, we encourage you to read the companion article on Moz’s blog here

For those that don't need to see all the data and would rather jump right into the actionable information, we’ve created this follow up post. Here are the six things SEOs should have top of mind when working with featured snippets in this post-spot-zero world. 

 

1. Find new keywords that are attached to less dynamic SERPs

Much of the research we conducted yielded findings that were situational. Or in other words, it was difficult to produce wide-reaching recommendations. (For more information on situation findings, visit our post on Moz.) Even with varied findings, this nugget remains truer than before; SERPs that house a featured snippet or a “People Also Ask” box are seeing reduced clicks. In most cases, the most clicked result on the SERP isn't even bringing in 10% of the clicks. 

SEOs wanting to stay ahead of this trend will begin incorporating new methods into their keyword research projects. There’s many ways to go about this, but two concrete ways SEOs should be shaping up their research include 1) including metrics like clicks to a SERP, and 2) excluding SERPs with snippets or “People Also Ask” boxes.

 

2. Check traffic on your below-the-fold (but still page-one) keywords

The numbers behind our research are showing that URLs serving in below-the-fold spots (like spots 4, 5, and 6) are seeing increased click-through rates on SERPs with featured snippets.

SEOs should utilize Google Search Console to check for click-through rates of specific keywords. While it’s true the Google Search Console shows less data than Google Analytics, it does allow SEOs the ability to segment their research to specific keywords, which Google Analytics restricts to page-level analysis. 

If you find that these keywords are seeing increased click-through rates, you may consider repeating this success on keywords that are ranking in spots 7–20 across your targeted SERPs to see if you can earn more clicks without getting to a spot 1–3 position.

3. Check traffic on your longtime snippet holders

The data shows that long-time snippet holders are seeing significant traffic losses. If you have keywords that have held the featured snippet position for a significant time before January 22nd, you will want to check their click-through rates on Google Search Console. 

We’ve seen extreme situations where single pages are likely to experience losses exceeding $300,000 from longtime snippet holders losing significant clicks on high-volume snippets. It’s in cases like this where SEOs should consider deoptimizing for featured snippets. 

4. Learn when (and how) to deoptimize for a snippet

You’ll rarely have a definitive answer to when to deoptimize for a snippet. Our data suggests that most longtime snippet holders are getting fewer clicks. However, the data is not suggesting that this applies to all snippets, rather a majority.

If your result isn’t a snippet holder, and hasn’t served for a snippet, you probably don’t need to worry about deoptimizing. This advice applies to web pages that rank for a featured snippet on a highly searched keyword where they would likely get more clicks in a spot 2 position rather than the snippet itself.

If you decide to deoptimize for the snippet in the hopes that your spot 2 position will earn you more clicks, you won’t need to do anything to your copy to harm your chances of earning the snippet. Rather you’ll implement data-nosnippet to the HTTP of a specific page. Here’s the exact code: 

 

<meta name="googlebot" content="nosnippet">

 

SEO’s wanting to implement a more technical rollout of the “nosnippet” tag (like segmenting specific blocks of text on your page) can refer to this resource provided from Google

If you do decide to deoptimize for the snippet, know that your result will be out of the running for serving in voice search. But voice search virtually never results in a visit to a site anyway (though some sites rely on voice search for branding purposes). 

5. Learn when to go for the snippet

There are times when it will make sense to go for the snippet, and many SEOs should find themselves pursuing featured snippets after the January 22nd spot-zero-termination.

When keywords are ranking lower than spot 6 or 7, SEOs may want to consider pursuing a vulnerable snippet, as our research shows that URLs ranking in those lower half positions can take a snippet. 

Through our data, we are able to infer that direct question SERPs (i.e. what is…) get more clicks in the snippet than non questions. As such, SEOs should consider directing attention toward winning the snippets in questions SERPs. Similarly, SEOs should focus attention toward earning snippets on searches that are more likely to be the answer to a voice search. 

The optimizations for earning a snippet have remained the same. SEOs wanting to earn the featured snippet spot for their URL should continue paying close attention to the formatting, word choice, and subheaders surrounding the block of text intended to rank for the featured snippet.

6. Increase search result clickability 

This is possibly the biggest and most wide-reaching takeaway to make note of at this point. More than ever, clickability is a factor in your results getting clicked (rather than position alone).

SEOs should start thinking more seriously about their meta descriptions. While meta descriptions don’t directly increase rankings, it is essentially the advertising copy that will convince the user to click, or pass up the results.

An even more complex situation is the title tag, which does have a direct effect on a URL’s ranking in the SERP. URLs wanting to get more clicks than their neighbors will need to walk the fine balance between clickability and rankability. This requires deft copy skills on the part of SEOs — skills that will only become more valuable as time passes.

For SERPs where schema data calls out information in a SERP (such as in customer reviews or prices), be sure to implement your schema properly, as clickability will determine success as directly (if not more so) than your position in SERPs with a featured snippet.

While the data points are scattered and action items remained tailored to specific situations, all SEOs should be paying close attention to how their sites are faring in the fallout of the featured snippet shake-up. 

PJ Howland

PJ is the VP of Industry Insights at 97th Floor. He coordinates insights with others at 97th Floor to ensure we're all elevating each other through good content.

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