Google's Position Zero: Are Your Pages Eligible? | Michael Grover | Michael Grover

Google's Position Zero:
Are Your Pages Eligible?

In the Google universe, there is a position referred to as Position Zero. It appears at the top of the organic results. Sometimes it displays as a list, sometimes a table, sometimes a snippet. It's an enviable spot which boosts click-through anywhere from 114% to 516%, according to Hubspot and SearchEngineLand.

It's a smart bit of programming on Google's part. For SEO, though, it has some complexities that take some work to untangle, and it relates directly to how I want to help you.

Why does beat out Consumer Reports for Position Zero?
Here's an example that I found when I searched for "How do I buy a computer?"

The first result (Position Zero) was an informative and compelling list from listing everything you need to consider when buying a computer.

The second result – separated from the first by a set of related questions – was from an arguably more credible source: Consumer Reports.

Why does beat out Consumer Reports for Position Zero?

Why Does score higher than Consumer Reports?

I can't help but wonder why the venerable Consumer Reports gets outranked by an ad-filled and some might say gaudy competitor.

Both articles answer the question well and both were created at about the same time. Consumer Reports has the brand authority in this comparison. Meanwhile,'s design is flashy and ad-filled while Consumer Reports' design is somber and mission-driven.

So, why did Google choose over Consumer Reports for Position Zero?

Let's look at this in slow motion. I ran both pages through an analysis tool that I built which surfaced the following observations.

  • uses basic HTML tags in a straight-forward way: a title that matches the headline (with additional branding), an H1 tag for their headline, and H3 tags as sub-headings in the story. Each of those sub-heads maps directly to the list that Google returns, although curiously Google turned it into a numbered list.
  • Meanwhile, Consumer Reports' use of tags is less than optimal. The page has 2 title's (clearly an error). There is not an H1 anywhere on the page (the headline is surrounded by a custom tag), and H3 tags apply to each of the 3 subheadings and 48 other elements on the page! (Mostly menu items so this is systemic.) The snippet returned by Google is from the meta description. Significantly, Google picked up their breadcrumbs.

Here's an annotated view of how Google treats these two pages.

It's not that Google can't read the Consumer Reports site. That Google picked up the their breadcrumbs is a sign that Google has a deep understanding of the web site's structure.

What this shows is the importance of H tags. I'd go so far as to say that sites using H tags as they were intended – as a method for outlining the story the page is telling (what the SEO Manifesto calls the "Aboutness" of the page) – are more eligible to achieve Position Zero.

Or, to put it in another light, the Consumer Reports article is not as eligible to occupy Position Zero because they make it impossible to programatically connect the dots between the title, the headline, and the sub-heads.

Parsing pages is hard work so it seems prudent to keep it easy for Google to understand the relationship between the headline and all the sub-headings.

But, even with the deference Google shows Consumer Reports by including its breadcrumbs, the appropriate way H tags are used on are what gives it the edge. For this reason, Google chose to feature the article in Position Zero.

Sites using the H tags as they were intended – that is, as a method for outlining the story's "Aboutness" – are making themselves eligible to be at the very top of the search results.
SEO Manifesto

All of this is exactly why the SEO Manifesto advocates applying H tags, especially H1 through H3, only to those elements that support the "Aboutness" of a page.

What difference Does It Make?

Being the second result is not bad at all. It still gets almost 16% of the clicks. But, the first position gets 30+% of the attention. You don't even really need to do the math on that one.

Google Click-through-Rates from Advanced Web Ranking

I don't mean to suggest that the H tags are going to propel you to number one. They won't. There's a reason that writing good content is the first item in the SEO Manifesto. You still have to write good, informative content that answers the questions people are asking.

But, without properly using the tags to which search engines are most sensitive, even the best-written content is climbing a steeper hill in search results than is necessary.

And, as you can see in the case of Consumer Reports vs., not paying enough attention to the use of basic H tags can make a big difference.

About Michael Grover

Los Angeles, CA • Working Worldwide
Senior-level media, technology, and marketing professional. I am an analytics-driven, bilingual (Spanish/English), senior-level marketing and product professional with extensive SEO, analytics, technical, and international expertise. Based in Los Angeles, working worldwide.

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