Case study: How ScrumGenius ranked in featured snippet for a +17k traffic keyword with 0 backlinks

Search **progress report **on Google. This keyword gets more than 17,000 global searches per month.

Do you see the ScrumGenius article? A month after we published the article, it reached Position 0 and entered the top 5 rankings on Google. It receives traffic from thousands of visitors per month from the search term progress report and its long-tail variations.

Here’s a mini-case study on how we got to Position 0 and in the top 5 rankings.

What is Position 0, AKA the featured snippet?

On Google, when you type in a question or a particular keyword, you can see an informational box that previews a direct answer to your query above all the rest of the search results.

That, my friend, is the mythical Position 0, or the featured snippet that every SEO content marketer wants to capture by creating great content.

Most of the time, Google alternates placing different results from the top 5 in Position 0. On rare occasions, it gets content from the second page to see how it performs. This happened to us. More on that later.

Position 0 ranking factors

Let’s get the most important thing out of the way: Your content should answer the main keyword query!

For this article, the main keyword we were targeting was Progress report. Using this keyword, we derived key questions that would help us get to Position 0 and put us in the top 5 search results.

In particular, this is the article section that helped us rank:

As a best practice, turn this section’s H2 heading into a relevant question that might help you rank in Position 0.

Other important factors include:

  • Producing great content that gets high engagement from Google searchers
  • Content depth (the easiest way to measure this is through word count)
  • Your domain rating (the higher it is, the faster you’ll rank…normally).
  • The keyword difficulty of your target keyword (the lower, the better)
  • How long you’ve been blogging
  • Your content positioning and content format

How did we get to rank in Position 0?

#1 Content that answers the keyword query

We’ve answered this in the previous section. If you’re targeting a keyword and want to get in Position 0, make sure that some of your sections clearly answer questions people ask on Google related to that keyword. Turn those H2 headings into questions as a best practice!

#2 Make sure Google searchers LOVE your content

Here’s the average reading time for our article from people coming from Google Search.

6 minutes and 32 seconds! The industry average stands at 90 seconds.

Google sometimes “trials” content for a day or two to see how searchers react to it. I have a hunch this happened to us. If your content doesn’t get clicks or has lousy engagement, Google will “derank” it again.

Google liked our content enough to put it in the top 5 search results after a month and leave it there.

I’m not going to get too granular with this. But something as simple as addressing the readers’ potential pain-points at the start of the article and hinting at possible solutions in the introduction is an excellent way to catch their attention and encourage them to read the rest of the blog post. Don’t be generic! Focus on tactics over empty promises.

#3 Increase your word count

This article was over 2000 words long. While word count does not ensure depth, you can pack in more information with 2000 words than with 200 words.

If your writing is clear, concise, and rich in value, the longer your content, the easier time you’ll have to rank for a keyword.

#4 Prioritize looking for keywords with below 15 keyword difficulty (KD)

At Embarque, we specialize in startup SEO. Many of our startup clients are just beginning their SEO journey. Therefore, they might have lower domain ratings than those of more established companies using SEO as a growth channel.

For this, we have adopted a keyword research strategy that prioritizes:

  • Searching for keywords that have under 15 keyword difficulty
  • Identifying keywords that mainly include pain paints the domain directly solves

ScrumGenius – a platform offering automated report templates that can be integrated into Slack, Microsoft Teams, or WebEx Teams – already had a relatively high domain rating. But startup-first keyword research works for all types of companies, including those with a more established SEO presence.

ScrumGenius has been publishing articles on the subject for almost two years now, so you can see how it’s well-primed to rank for search terms like progress report, which has a keyword difficulty under 10 and 17,000 monthly global searches.

Because of the high volume of monthly searches and low KD, any article that hits in the top 5 for that keyword can automatically get a stream of traffic and huge returns.

#5 The ABS optimization framework

Traffic is one thing, but conversion is another story. One thing that we’ve realized at Embarque is that excellent SEO content needs to undergo a series of optimizations to convert.

Optimizing for SEO is not enough. Your content needs to deliver significant value to its readers, and you need to show the brand’s usefulness in tackling their pain points.

This is a topic for another blog post, but we have a company optimization framework called ABS. Here are what each letter means and some critical questions to ask:

  • Audience
  • Who is reading this article?
  • Is the information in-depth enough for this reader?
  • Is the content easy to digest?
  • Are we offering diverse perspectives to this content?
  • What tactics, frameworks, models, and theories can we employ to prevent this article from being generic?
  • What are the readers’ most relevant pain points?
  • Brand
  • Are we positioning the brand as the solution to the readers’ pain points?
  • How can we center the topic around the brand we’re marketing?
  • In which parts of the blog can we strategically mention the brand?
  • How can we effectively show the reader the value of this brand?
  • Have we effectively told this brand’s story concerning the topic?
  • Search
  • Is the content format right for this keyword?
  • Does the content abide to EAT?
  • Do we have academic and reputable sources/external links?
  • Do we have sections that target the featured snippet?
  • Do we have answers to the People Also Ask questions?
  • Do we have a unique angle compared to the top 5 rankings for this keyword?
  • Have we completed the SEO checklist? (Internal document to ensure every blog post is SEO optimized.)
  • Have we run the content through a topic optimization tool like Frase?
  • Are the images SEO?

The ABS framework allows us to quickly align our SEO content initiatives to conversion and business objectives.

It’s also easy enough for each writer to internalize. You don’t have to remember all of the questions. The abbreviation should be enough for you to remember to optimize for these three segments.

#6 Study the content format and look for content gaps

Whenever you’re targeting a keyword, look at the existing content ranking in the top 10 search results! In SEO, there’s a thing called search intent, which describes why a person searches for a particular keyword. Here are the main search intent types and some keyword phrases meant to target them:

  • Informational – Searchers are looking for helpful information
  • How do you…
  • What is…
  • Who is…
  • Transactional – They want to use a tool or a product
  • Add text to video
  • Drag and drop design-builder
  • Buy latest MacBook
  • Commercial – They are comparing things to purchase
  • Best laptop for students
  • Top apps for productivity
  • Best CRM for founders
  • Navigational – They want to go to a website
  • Go on Facebook
  • Ahrefs free tool
  • Coronavirus graph

Here are the types of content optimized for each search intent:

  • Informational
  • Blog posts
  • Transactional
  • Landing pages
  • Marketplace pages
  • Commercial
  • Marketplace pages
  • Comparison tables
  • Review posts
  • Listicles

Here are the top pages ranking for the progress report keyword:

As you can see here, the search results are filled with guides and with the odd landing page template.

#7 Keep on publishing great content

Remember when I said that domain rating isn’t enough? ScrumGenius indeed has a high domain rating of 53, but it’s also been blogging consistently for almost two years now.

The longer you’re blogging, the faster you’ll rank. Point blank.

Create SEO content that converts with Embarque

As a final note, these tips won’t ensure that you’ll rank in Position 0, but they can increase your chances of doing so. There are so many ranking factors that interact in complex ways, so it’s impossible to create a framework to ensure that your content ranks first.

The main takeaway here is this: Create great in-depth content that works for your brand. The difference in returns between creating excellent SEO content, as opposed to generic content, can be absolutely night and day. This can be a question of ranking on the first page instead of staying stuck on page 2 or beyond.

Invest in producing great SEO content early on. There are no shortcuts to this, but Embarque can help you in that regard. :)

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at julian@embarque.io.