Zero click search is a familiar concept to SEO practitioners, though mostly in an unfavorable light.
Many believe zero click searches have a negative impact on SEO and PPC campaigns. However, though traffic is indeed reduced, zero click searches can actually boost your site authority.
How can they do that? This article will help you understand in more detail about the nature of zero click searches and how to adapt your SEO strategies to best cope with its increasing impact.
Zero click searches give both users and brands the opportunity to enjoy a better experience.
Zero or no click searches are queries (i.e. “searches”) inputted in search engines that do not result in a click (hence “zero click”) on a third party website.
In some cases, “searches” also mean result pages or SERPs. So if one SERP doesn’t have any click, it can also be referred to as a zero click search.
No click is needed because the answer needed has been presented on SERPs in a “box” which can be a featured snippet or rich answer (more on these later).
There are 3 types of queries that have more chances to enjoy this convenience.
First, the “how to” type.
When you inquire Google about how to do something (as long as it’s common enough), there will be step-by-step tutorials or how-to videos right on SERPs.
Second, the “fact” type.
For example, the query “world population” will be returned with a graph over years, maybe even a table or Wikipedia definition.
Third, the “local business details” type.
As long as that business does well in local SEO, you will see their address (and a Google Maps link), phone number, operating hours, social media profile, etc. in Google Knowledge Graph/Panel.
This may result from a too general query such as “closet”, making it hard for the search engine to understand your intent.
So, it’s very likely that searchers will have to try again with a more specific query, such as “closet design” or “closet store near me”, and the previous try has been recorded as a zero click search.
This is often the case if you’re using mobile devices to search for things to shop or streaming services.
You will be directed to a social media, marketplace app or Netflix and the like.
As long as the click doesn’t lead to a site, it is considered a “zero click” search on Google.
Zero click searches are proof of Google’s user experience improvement effort.
In fact, users now spend less and less effort in searching because Google has been trying hard to present the most relevant content right on SERPs.
However, many think this comes at a cost for businesses. The concern about reduced effectiveness of SEO and PPC has been bubbling away, and it exacerbates when a research claims that two-thirds of Google searches end up being zero click searches.
Well, the good news is Google refuted it in March 2021, saying that “Google Search sends billions of clicks to websites every day”. Though Google does try to show more and more direct results on SERPs, the growing search volume is expected to somewhat negate the impact of zero click searches.
The number of blue links on a Google SERP has jumped from 10 to 26 on average, meaning more chances for businesses to reach their customers.
And with Google’s featured snippets, a site can appear twice on one SERP.
Also, as mentioned in the article The Importance of SEO, though no click searches may make it more challenging for businesses, once your content is chosen as a featured snippet, branding and visibility will enjoy a great boost.
Here we will focus on the first reason people don’t click: Because the answer is presented directly on SERPs. And what businesses are competing for is not “Position One” on SERPs anymore. It is “Position Zero” – the place that belongs to the famous featured snippets.
Featured snippets are information from 3rd party sites that Google extract to provide quick answers to queries.
Featured snippets almost always appear before the first organic search result, i.e. “Position Zero”.
In a featured snippet, the content comes before the link and can take many forms, from a paragraph, a list, a table, to a video. But there’s one thing in common: it is automatically chosen by Google.
When a searcher clicks on a featured snippet, they will be directed to that exact content on the corresponding site, such as in the middle of a blog post.
Because they are located in a highly strategic position, and their Google-filtered content often hits the nail on the head.
And when it comes to mobile screens, a featured snippet tends to take up at least half of it, which means an even stronger competitive advantage for brands who make it.
As more and more users perform Search on mobile devices, the competition for Position Zero becomes more and more fierce.
CAUTION! Your featured snippets can be removed.
Do you know that there are policies for featured snippets on Google? And users can provide direct feedback too.
So don’t get complacent. The tide can turn unfavorably for you if you let your guard down.
Also, if your site provides more than one featured snippet and just one violates the rules, your whole site may be disqualified for Position Zero.
BONUS: How about Rich Answer?
Rich answers are Google’s attempts to provide quick and factual answers without credit to any website because those are considered a part of public domain.
Be noted that some categorizes featured snippets as a type of rich answer.
Though no one knows for sure (maybe except insiders) which rules or algorithms Google use to choose featured snippets, it doesn’t change the fact that everyone wants that strategic position.
To reach that goal, your SEO plan will need to go through a makeover, with 3 aspects that need the highest focus.
Keyword research is the first step in an SEO process, and your goal here is to identify the keywords or queries that have zero-click features.
Featured snippets appear more frequently for questions, long-tail keywords and keywords with a specific intent at a certain stage of the buyer journey.
When doing the research, pay attention to the keyword metric CPS or clicks-per-search. Calculated based on the number of Clicks and Search Volume of a keyword, CPS will help you reach a better estimation of traffic potential.
And don’t forget to run a reality check: Google the shortlisted keywords and study the featured snippets and relevant content such as the “People Also Ask” section.
Now that you have a list of keywords with zero-click features, it’s time to optimize your existing and future pages.
It means you need to optimize every on page SEO elements which includes:
When your high quality content is chosen as a featured snippet, the number of zero click searches will increase together with your site authority.
Therefore, create content that focuses on answering a question in a short, succinct way.
Google favors content presented in a clear structure, with reliable data, bullet points and relevant images.
The most common format for featured snippets are paragraphs (70%) while videos only take up a very small part (4.6%).
If you go for paragraphs, prioritize numbered lists and step-by-step guides. And when it comes to video, how-to or tutorial video may fare the best.
Of course there is still more to do in SEO, such as optimizing your Google My Business account, off page SEO and social media to get featured in Knowledge Panels.
All in all, adapting your SEO strategy to zero click searches will require more work, including competitor research and analysis, and a strong base in SEO.
That’s why many businesses choose to outsource the whole SEO process to a trusted digital marketing agency. By this way, they have more at hand to focus on other equally important aspects.
BONUS: How about PPC?
Rest assured that Google will not let this source of revenue go down the drain. But you will need to do a more thorough cost-benefit analysis of your PPC campaigns, taking into account the impact of zero click searches.
As zero click searches are moving in the direction of user experience improvement, they are here to stay.
To future-proof your business, adapt your way of doing SEO to compete for the opportunity to appear in featured snippets. As long as you win over that Position Zero, your branding and digital results will certainly benefit.
With extensive experience in various SEO projects across industries, On Digitals is honored to be your loyal partner on this optimization mission. Contact us today for free consultancy on the most suitable solutions tailored to your needs.