Google has adopted its role as the de facto universal search engine to an even more extreme degree. The customer journey analytics company, Jumpshot and SparkToro, founded by Rand Fishkin, have released research that indicates that more than 50% of Google searches result in no clicks.
Interestingly, as Fishkin points out, Google declines the opportunity to explicitly state this situation is happening. A United States Congressional Panel asked a Google representative incredibly direct questions about Google’s strategy. It invited them to check a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the 50% zero-click statistic. Google chose to ignore this and criticised the methodology, realising this statement: “The author of the report cited in our letter did not make his specific methodology clear, but it’s inaccurate to portray featured snippets as simply answering a question and never resulting in a click. Many sites strive to have their content highlighted as a snippet, which can drive meaningful traffic.”
Why are zero-click searches happening?
The scale of this milestone is new – but this trend towards zero-click searches has been steadily growing since 2016.
This situation reflects Google’s obsession with understanding and answering user intent directly within search results. Rich snippets are Google’s chief method for answering user queries directly in search. The formats for these are paragraphs (the infamous ‘featured snippet’); lists; and tables.
Some companies are starting to point the finger. Reuters reported that 23 European job search websites have filed for an antitrust investigation into the prioritisation Google gives to its own job listings.
Short of calling for investigations into abusing market dominance, how can you ensure your business secures fruitful opportunities via organic search?
How can your business benefit?
Not all featured snippets are equal. Because of Google’s move towards zero-click enquiries, your brand could put a lot of work into dominating a term that doesn’t ‘perform’ in the traditional sense i.e. drive traffic to your website.
I’d argue securing rich / featured snippets could still bring your business:
- Greater SERP visibility
- Enhanced brand awareness
- Inclusion in voice search queries
It’s all about putting your brand in front of users with meaningful, relevant queries. From MozCon 2019, I liked Rand Fishkin’s summary of the thought process behind optimising for a query.
It’s worth noting that empirical studies indicate that featured snippets can still increase your traffic – it just shouldn’t be the sole reason you go after a featured snippet.
Search Engine Land calculated the CTR on a page increased from 2% to 8% after it secured a featured snippet. Our agency has also discovered this potential. For ecoPayz, the secure online payment provider, we secured snippets around sending money without a bank account. The graph below demonstrates the impact on their traffic.
I have three pieces of advice for securing featured snippets and beating Google’s zero-click trend.
Dominate intents, not keywords
First, ensure you’re getting relevant eyes on your content. This is all about understanding and optimising for the user intent behind simple keywords. SEO has shifted towards a ‘topic cluster’ model to respond to this.
It’s about progressively raising the ranking and authority of a chief, long-form ‘pillar’ page via creating ‘cluster’ content that hyperlinks to it. Read more detail about the current state of search, including topic, voice, visual and more.
Understanding intent means you can target the featured snippets that are meaningful for your business. Avoid those looking for simple answers and target researchers and action-takers, as the two groups most likely to have click-through.
This approach combines nicely with the hunt for featured snippets. You’re more likely to secure one if you’re ranked in the top 10 for that keyword. So, start by researching those (via Moz, SEMRush or Ahrefs) and then see whether your ranked keywords have featured snippets.
Enrich your SERP presence
Next, optimise your page. For example, your H1 copy should be close to the query that you’re trying to rank for. Of course, it should introduce content that’s highly relevant to the search query in a short, conversational way e.g. include a bullet-point summary at the end of each blog post.
At MozCon 2019, Britney Muller (Senior SEO Scientist, Moz) revealed trigger words you should use to help Google realise your content is great, organised for the three formats of featured snippets.
Here’s an example of Muller’s ideas for Paragraph triggers:
Muller also highlights the importance of testing different copy and mark-up for featured snippets. She provides detailed examples of the exact impact of her tests in lengthening and formatting content, for example.
Also, there’s more to life than just featured snippets. Implement structured data and schema to mark up more of your website. This means your articles, ratings, events and FAQs have a chance to appear in rich results. Ultimately, it could even help your rankings; structured data helps Google understand your content more.
Focus on your user experience
Lastly, the best SEO professional’s job doesn’t finish with securing rankings for keywords. Overall, your goal is to bring relevant users to your website – and help them fulfil their purpose (that aligns with your business goals).
You can’t do that without a website with a strong user experience. At Cyber-Duck, our research-driven, accredited process starts with user and stakeholder research to identify needs and goals. This insight informs all our design, development and marketing. If you’d like to know more about the techniques behind this approach, read our UX Handbook for practical tips about planning, designing and developing a project.
The rise of zero-click Google searches does seem like a threat. But, through producing content that answers intent (not purely keywords), enriching your SERPs and offering a solid user experience for your users, you can still generate organic exposure for your business.
Sofia Breg, Marketing manager at Cyber-Duck.