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For anyone tasked with the care and feeding of a blog, the single biggest problem in the long run is brainstorming worthy topics.

Further, in the perfect world, the topics you cover in your blog would coincide with the topics people are investigating on the Internet. When those two areas overlap, you increase your ability to reach people through organic search engine inquiries. This can be especially powerful if you create content that Google uses in what we call search engine “position zero,” and giving you a chance to earn that position is the goal of this article. However, let me first take a moment to explain position zero.

Often, an explanatory paragraph will appear at the top of Google search results, above “regular” listings of website pages. Below is an example when I searched Google for the best time to plant grass seeds.

I’m sure you recognize this kind of information that often appears at the top of search result pages. It can take different formats, such as recipes and visual galleries. But the kind we’ll be discussing are generally short paragraphs or numbered lists.

Now for the strategy: If you write blog articles that answer questions people ask on Google, you can get a chance to be listed in the coveted position zero. There are two basic strategies you have to follow to have a chance at this:

  • Have your blog written in a way that tells Google you are answering a specific question, and
  • Know the questions people ask.

Writing and organizing your article

Google publishes concise answers in these snippets. In other words, you can’t take five paragraphs to answer the question. You can take more space to expand on your answer, but you need to state the question and give the answer very succinctly. My grass seed example, comes from a page that answers several questions about planting grass. The question appears at the top of the page as a link to the answer below – where the question is asked again and answered in a short paragraph:

If you want the chance to grab one of these spots, repeat a question word-for-word, and then answer it in a short paragraph. It must be clear to search engine crawlers that you are answering a specific question.

Finding relevant topics

For content, your goal is to write articles that answer questions that are often asked on Google. Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to do a keyword search at Answer the Public. Enter just one solid keyword or keyword phrase on this website and you’ll get a long list of questions you can use for blog topics. Below you’ll see the results when I entered the keyword “travel.”

One thing I really like about this site is that you can download your results in a comma separated file so you can bring the questions into a spreadsheet. Once you do that, you can mix up questions on a variety of keywords related to your industry and then create a content calendar for your business.

I have some final advice and a couple of warnings for you before we leave the topic. First, if you are primarily a local business, where appearing in local searches is your bread and butter, don’t put a tremendous effort into creating content that would appear in position zero. I say this because local search results pages on Google don’t hand out position zero to answered questions. However, the strategy of answering often-asked questions is still a good one – just don’t be so concerned about formatting into one paragraph with the question right above it.

Lastly, claiming this position is not easy. If you don’t have much traffic, it will be difficult to grab the top of the Google search results page, no matter how great your answer. This is, of course, especially true for popular questions. You might have some luck with less frequently asked questions.

But even if you never grab a top spot, you still know that you are writing on topics that people care about.