Monaco Formula One circuit

Drive to Survive is building the future of Formula One

Formula One at Monaco with fans watching

This article is a way of advocating for the continued production of sports documentaries like Drive to Survive.

Why? Because I love them. No, I joke. I do love them, but the real reason is that they’re a perfect way to introduce new audiences to the sports we love. They give unparalleled fly-on-the-wall access. Footage we haven’t even seen as fans. And they do so with Hollywood-esque storytelling.

Now that last sentence is where the controversy around Box to Box‘s Drive to Survive begins. So, here’s my attempt to explain why it’s worth taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture.

The controversy stems from one big question looming over Season 3 of Drive to Survive – who is the audience? The obvious answer to a lot of people would be F1 fans because it’s an F1 documentary, right? Nope. For me, the audience is the unconverted — the future.

Don’t get me wrong, F1 fans can get a lot out of the series. We see Seb Vettel’s awkward exit from Ferrari. And the relationship obstacles when Daniel Ricciardo announced he was leaving Renault. Events reported in the news but never genuinely understood at an emotional or intricate level.

But the true essence of Drive to Survive is storytelling. Narrative building. Creating heroes and villains. The aim wasn’t to satisfy the needs of the extreme race fan. Or to explore extensive technical analysis. The last thing the bosses of F1 want is to close off the sport to newcomers, to alienate the majority with technical jargon in an already complex world.

The aim was to conquer Netflix. To infiltrate the 200 million subscribers. To showcase the beauty and craziness of F1 to an audience that watches Bridgerton and The Crown, Stranger Things and Narcos. And to protect the future of the sport.

Formula One, like many sports, has to expand its fanbase. It can’t keep trundling along in the midfield. No sport can. When it comes to mechanical engineering, the sport is all about innovation. They need to replicate that with their marketing, and DTS does that.

The biggest indicator for me was this quote from Formula 1 managing director Ross Braun last year:

“And while Netflix in itself wasn’t for us a hugely profitable venture, in terms of giving greater coverage for F1, it’s been fantastic. And that’s the type of initiative that we’re doing, we’re looking at taken an holistic view of how we can lift F1.”

As F1 fans, we’re already in love with the sport. We’re hooked on weekends watching Friday practice through to the chequered flag on Sunday. Drive to Survive for us is a bonus. A teaser to get us even more excited for the season opener.

For the new fan, it’s so much more. It’s the shop window. The perception destroyer. The clear message that Formula One isn’t a man’s game anymore. It’s open for everyone.

I hope Drive to Survive can continue to break down barriers and capture new audiences, even if storylines need to be stretched. Based on the latest Google Trend data, the show is only going in one direction right now.

The Google Trend data for all three seasons of Drive to Survive

Zero-Click Film Poster

Don't be afraid of zero-click search

In life, to not be afraid of something, you first need to understand what that something is. Bang. Philosphy lesson. But this is an SEO article, so we need relevence. This article is about undertstanding zero-click search, and why it it’s not the worst thing. So, introduction paragraph over, now for a definition:

What is zero-click search?

Zero-click is where a user has their question answered directly within the search engine results page, thanks to the featured snippet. It could be a contact number, a how-to, or merely an answer to a basic question. There’s no click through to a website.

The implications of zero-click

There are pretty obvious, and valid points raised when discussing zero-click. Google is using all your content to populate its site. You do the heavy lifting; Google does the cherry-picking. True? Probably, yep. You’re also losing potential traffic to your website. There’ll be fewer clicks, fewer eyes in your ecosystem. Your conversion funnel may have to change. 

That’s the perceived bad news. But when you consider it, the issues aren’t really issues at all. We’ll evaluate both branded and non-branded searches in the next couple of paragraphs. 

Branded searches

You’ve got an audience that knows your name. They use it to find information about you, with clear intent. They’re going to be looking for your opening hours, or your contact number, or a product you sell. They know the content they want. Don’t disappoint them, or make them work hard to find it. And the fact is, only one of those examples actually requires users to hit your site. 

The experience of the customer is integral. It should be a big focus for every company. So why would you add unnecessary steps to the information-finding journey? If the user is looking for one thing, provide it at the first point of contact, even if it’s on Google branding. You’re still providing an excellent customer experience. You want to be seen as accessible. As easy to deal with.   

Non-branded searches

This one is a bit trickier. Featured snippets being displayed in non-branded searches means you’re losing traffic to the site that might actually be a new customer or a potential conversion. But this is something that needs to be accepted and embraced rather than ignored. The reason being is it’s here to stay, and you’ll lose out to your competitors if you turn your nose up at the opportunity. Google is all about providing a service to the user. And quick answers help do that. 

How do you embrace it? By providing a great answer. One that explains clearly to the customer the solution to their problem. One that makes them want to click through to learn more. And one that leaves a positive impression on them, imprinting your brand onto their thought process.

By appearing as a source of information, the user may come back to you with more questions on the subject, or the next time they see your brand, they could be more inclined to click through. It’s a long journey, but it’s all part of building up your brand.

So, a zero-click search can be good

To summarise, there is no point ignoring the hints Google provides. Target the brand-building opportunities presented to you, and always consider zero-click search as part of your strategy. Don’t be blinkered by vaniy metrics of clicks-to-site that aren’t actually adding any value, especially when the objective can be completed in one less click straight through Google.

Remember, Google is the traffic driver. The go-to source. And is, in a way, free-to-play. It’s pretty much a given you get more of an audience from organic search than you do organic social. Provide that audience with the best service possible, not the service that generates the most clicks for the monthly report. 

Position Zero film poster

Prioritising Position Zero

Position zero. A potential title for a sci-fi film. Also, an area to target if you want to add value to your search results.

Position Zero roadside advert

What is position zero?

Position zero refers to the featured snippet, the articles, the how-to guides. It’s the area that appears above the search results, ranking before the number one result. The goal for this area is to answer the user’s query there and then.

This user-optimised space allows Google to become the resource rather than the recommender. Rather than merely suggesting search results, Google provides the answer within its ecosystem. Users won’t need to open pages. The answer will be right there, directly in front of them.

The Trainline has a featured snippet when users search for train fare types

Why is that space so valuable?

It’s a chance to rank above competitors. What’s not to love? You’re using your brand’s voice to enhance user experience. It’s another touchpoint to interact with the consumer. And you still get clicks. All position zero content has links through to your site.

How do you achieve position zero?

First up, you need to already rank on the first page for the query you’re targeting. Then, simply answer the user’s need within that page. Doing so succinctly, within 50 words. A simple paragraph or step-by-step guide. It sounds basic. But we all know Google is smart. There’re no tricks here.

There are a few more things you can do on-site to encourage Google to pick your answer over competitors:

  • Place the exact question you want to rank for as a title using <h> tags, whether that’s <h1>, <h2>, <h3>. As long as it’s a subheading, you’re signposting.
  • Answer the need objectively. It shouldn’t be a sales pitch. If you’re ranking for a question, it’ll be related to your brand or product anyway.
  • If it’s a step-by-step process, use a numbered list. Make it clear to Google that you’re outlining a journey.

These are all basics. Follow best practices and you’ll be well on your way.

An annotated featured snippet example

Boris Johnson's SEO Sting Film Poster

SEO Hacks with Boris Johnson

I’d like first to say that this is a theory. But I’m not big on coincidences, especially when it comes to digital strategy results and Boris Johnson.

Politics is a minefield. Mention it on Twitter; you’ll get extreme views from every angle. But I’m still writing this blog. About politics. That’s because it’s also about SEO.

Now you’ve probably seen news articles appear at position zero. Articles authored by the likes of BBC, Sky, and newspapers. Trusted sources. This content is auto-populated by Google after being flagged in a site’s structured data as an article. You’ll see them displayed whenever using search terms related to recent news. And what are some of the hottest topics at the moment? Politics. Brexit. Boris Johnson.

A bold strategy for bad news?

Boris Johnson has been in the news a lot. There’s been story after story, and not all good. There have been ‘promises’ on buses and a bit of difficulty with a certain Routemaster model, and there’s been an incident with Jennifer Arcuri, a model who our Prime Minister has a history with. Both of which cast Mr Johnson in a negative light. But both were followed by speeches with, let’s say, unexpected words.

These two stories occupied position zero – heaps of the same story in a carousel. A carousel that appears right at the top of the search results. So what’s a quick way to get rid of them? You can’t con Google. Not anymore. It’s too smart. But what if you fed a keyword into the public domain. Something so left-field that it gets picked up. Something like how you build and paint model buses in your spare time. Or you’re a ‘model of restraint’.

How the Boris Bus search term was manipulated
The recent news articles for Boris Bus

The featured articles were quickly diluted, not gone, but diluted. Articles talking about the speech appeared. There were less of the negative results. And more of the middle-of-the-road results documenting the real-time news.

Quick fixes can have long-term consequences

These tactics are only a plaster. They’re a short-term fix. The more significant stories always rise to the top. The ones that the public wants to see. But in that crucial time when it’s big news, a diluted search result is the best you can get.

This technique may not be deliberate. We’ll never know if keywords are fed into speeches. And even if they are, they won’t produce long-term results.

If they were researched, I think the moral line may have been crossed. And Google doesn’t like manipulation. When part of a strategy, I firmly believe it’s ‘black hat’ taken offline.

I’ll be monitoring the next time something pops up in the news that casts a black cloud over Boris Johnson. We may see his speech contain a carefully placed phrase.

I’ve not included any of the facts and figures, but there’s a brilliant post by the guys at Parallax. You can find it here, and it’s well worth a read on the topic.