Direct answers, aka the zero position, are one of the most desired objectives in terms of Google search results. Check out our article to find out how to increase your chances of being displayed in the direct answer box and learn what are the pros and cons of this functionality.
The history of a direct answer box
We got used to the fact that Google constantly introduces various updates and modifications to refine its search engine. Some of them are a tribute to website owners while others are meant to make users’ lives easier. Direct answers aim at making browsing more approachable for website visitors. Thanks to them, they don’t need to enter hundreds of pages to access the necessary information, they get it on a silver platter.
Algorithms dealing with direct answers were introduced in 2016. Obviously, the main functionalities were optimized for English and the USA, however, at the time of the launch, Google made them available also to several European countries.
Direct answers – what are they?
Google’s direct answers are displayed in the so-called zero position. This means that direct answers (also called answer boxes) are displayed above search results and Google Ads. If Google bots consider given website content to be the most valuable and accurate, they honor it in this way. This functionality has a significant impact on the search results because before its implementation, users were getting hundreds of pages corresponding to a given search query, and ads were displayed above them. It was almost beyond the bounds of possibility for a website to be ranked above ads in organic search results. Of course, it shouldn’t be surprising as ads are highly profitable for the creators of the greatest search engine in the world. After the implementation of direct answers, it’s possible to be displayed above-paid ads, in the answer box. This is a huge opportunity for websites fighting for high positions in the search results as Google doesn’t display the content of pages that are ranked high in the SERPs but instead it focuses on the most accurate information. To obtain a direct answer, first, you need to ask a question that the search engine can respond to.
Which words to use to obtain direct answers?
Obviously, the English version of the search engine is the most precise so far. Now, Google reacts mainly to phrases like “what is…” and websites with such questions and answers are displayed in the Google direct answer box. Other popular questions include:
It’s worth switching your search engine to English to see how this functionality works in this case. Thanks to it, you’ll increase your chances of outdoing your market rivals and adjusting your page to the questions direct answers respond to. For this purpose, you can benefit from free tools available online, with their use you can easily check what types of questions are frequently asked by users. Answer The Public is an excellent example of such a tool.
What are the benefits of being ranked in the zero position?
There are numerous benefits of direct answers. The first, and the most obvious one, includes reaching the highest possible Google position. This is especially important as, as we’ve mentioned above, thanks to it you can outdo your market rivals even if your SEO activities haven’t been particularly fruitful so far. Unfortunately, the task isn’t a piece of cake. First, you need to be ranked in TOP10 to be shown in the direct answer box.
Second of all, from the users’ point of view, being ranked in the zero position shows that the site and its editors are real experts in the field. If Google bots decided that given content is the most valuable and corresponds to a specific query the most accurately, it’s a sign that it’s worth visiting the website. This helps to inspire users’ trust in the page.
Moreover, in the case of direct answers, Google graphically highlights the content and the website link is more visible when compared to standard search results which attract attention and increases the chances that the Internet users will visit your page.
What’s the recipe for success?
This is what you should focus on to increase your chances of being displayed in the direct answer box:
- Optimize your content so that it answers questions like “how..”, “what is…”, “where…”, “when…”. The content needs to resemble a definition that provides clear answers and contains specific phrases. So, if you create a definition of “what is SEO”, then your website should include not only answers and definitions such as “SEO – Search Engine Optimization” but also phrases like “what is SEO”. For that purpose, it’s a good idea to run a company blog or a guide section where you can explain everything in detail.
- Place questions in the website title (title tag).
- Create a user-friendly URL that takes the questions into account.
- Provide a photo with an alt text that contains the question and the keyword.
- Ensure proper website visibility by conducting appropriate SEO activities.
Bringing all these suggestions to life gives you the greatest opportunity of getting a direct answer box on Google.
Are there any disadvantages of direct answers?
Obviously, there’s also the other side of the coin. Being displayed at the very top of the search results in a specially designed window doesn’t bring solely benefits. The biggest disadvantage of being ranked in the zero position is the possibility of a decrease in traffic and website impressions. There’s a probability that users seeing a satisfactory and comprehensive answer in the answer box will no longer have to click on the link and enter your site. This means that they’ll read your content without visiting the website which may translate into a traffic decrease. Since the functionalities of direct answers are being constantly developed, this solution works best with short definitions and questions with up to five words.
However, if you notice that being displayed in direct answers has a negative impact on your website and organic traffic, you can disable this functionality and prevent the content from being shown in the zero position. To do this, ,b>use the tag <meta name=”googlebot” content=”nosnippet”>. To learn more, go to Google Support.
Novelties in the industry
Some time ago, Google introduced to support that was supposed to clarify the asked question or elaborate on it in some way. Thanks to it, after asking the question, the search engine provides answers in the zero position and adds information “people also ask” to suggest related topics.
Currently, direct answers are specified in the tags placed under the answer box. You can read more in the Google Expands Featured Snippet article, written by SearchEngineJournal.
As you can see, being displayed in direct answers has both advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, it’s crucial to develop an appropriate strategy – it’s definitely beneficial to be shown in the answer box as it’s helpful in positioning the website owner as an expert. However, you still need to remain vigilant and observe organic traffic to your site. In times when Google pays more and more attention to mobile-friendliness and solutions revolving around artificial intelligence, it’s necessary to focus on such advanced functionalities of the search engine and use them to your advantage.