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How to optimise zero-click searches into real business opportunities

By Lee Wilson, SEO

Vertical Leap


The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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September 25, 2019 | 6 min read

Zero-click searches now account for more than half of all sessions on Google Search, according to multiple studies. The latest findings from SparkToro put the current figure at 50.33%, up from 43.9% in Q1 2016.This meansSEOs need to start optimising for a search platform that generates less direct traffic.

Vertical Leap suggest that data analysis, content distribution and influencer marketing as techniques to supercharge SEO.

Vertical Leap assess the importance of zero-click search and help marketers to understand where new opportunities may lie.

This will come as a concern for brands and marketers who rely on traffic from Google Search but itdoesn’t mean the opportunities are disappearing. In this article, we look at how you can maintain traffic levels, turn zero-click searches into genuine business opportunities and how to optimise for them.

Roughly half of all searches still generate traffic

The stat that 50.33% of searches are zero-click sounds alarming but let’s keep in mind this means roughly half still generate traffic. More importantly, the kind of searches that are zero-click generally hold less purchase intent - things like the weather in London or a thesaurus search.

London weather

When Google detects a high purchase intent, it triggers an ad auction or shows relevant Google Shopping results. Likewise, informational searches with a high purchase intent still show organic results for content like buying guides, reviews, free downloads and the usual types of lead generation content.

Target keywords that are generating traffic

To deal with zero-click searches, you need to distinguish which searches are generating traffic from those that aren’t. This tells you which keywords to focus on in terms of bringing traffic to your site and which ones you need to optimise for as zero-click searches.

To do this, you need to look at CTRs when you’re doing keyword research and rather than targeting keywords with the highest search volumes, prioritise those with the highest CTRs (assuming traffic is your primary objective).

Aside from high-CTR keywords, also look for long-tail opportunities that other brands are missing out on.

Understand your zero-click opportunities

In most cases, zero-click searches are triggered by queries that don’t offer a great deal in terms of business opportunities - as shown by research from Ahrefs:

Top 30 words in search queries

People looking for recipes and definitions aren’t going to do much for your marketing strategy but this doesn't mean the business opportunities aren’t there. In fact, zero-click searches have resulted in some new opportunities that didn’t really exist previously.

For example:

  • Branding: Showing in featured snippets, the “Top stories” carousel, Google Shopping and other no-click search features help build your brand.
  • User trust: Zero-click searches allow you to build trust with users by providing quality information, making them more likely to click on your paid/organic results when their searches involve a stronger purchase intent.
  • Knowledge Panel: People who discover your brand on social media or other platforms can type your business name into Google and see a Knowledge Panelto get more information about your brand (which may or may not result in traffic).
  • Local Search: Much of the local search experience is zero-click but this can generate significant foot traffic - eg: people searchingfor “cafes” and using Google Maps to get directions.
  • Voice Search: This is inherently a no-click experience but searches with any real purchase intent direct users to their mobile devices for more information.

Start by identifying where your zero-click opportunities are and keep in mind the fact that people conducting zero-click searches now are going to come back with a stronger purchase intent in the future, which is when the branding and trust you’ve built during zero-click sessions can really pay off.

How to optimise for zero-click searches

The rise of zero-click search means moderns search optimisation is split into two distinct areas: optimising for CTR searches that generate traffic and optimising for zero-click searches that don’t.

The latter process looks like this:

  1. Pinpoint your zero-click opportunities: Are they on Google Maps, featured snippets, the Knowledge Graph or elsewhere?
  2. Implement structured data
  3. Create content for no-click formats- eg: step-by-step guides, FAQs, definitions, etc.
  4. Knowledge Panel: Claim your knowledge panel and make sure the information in it is accurate[1]
  5. Aim for position zero by creating the best content for informational searches.
  6. Optimise your no-click listings - eg: definitions that fit in featured snippets, better images on Google Maps than your competitors.
  7. Build your organic no-click presence by ranking in relevant featured snippets.
  8. Turn featured snippets into traffic by optimising your snippets for users to click through for more info.
  9. Optimise Google My Business to turn no click searches into phone calls and store visits.
  10. Attribute where possible: The biggest problem with zero-click searches is they’re difficult to attribute in analytics so aim for CTRs, calls or zero-click conversions where possible.

The key thing is to understand which no-click searches hold genuine value to your brand and where these opportunities lie in the wider consumer journey. Local search can generate a lot of foot traffic from zero-click sessions but, aside from this, you’ll generally be dealing with low-intent searches at the very early stages of the consumer journey.

The emergence of zero-click searches aren’t really taking business opportunities away (at least, not yet) but it does provide growing space for brands to build relationships with users before the consumer journey even really starts.

Link this to the latest Knowledge Graph Bitesize Blog?

Lee Wilson, Head of services at Vertical Leap.


Content by The Drum Network member:

Vertical Leap

We are an evidence-led search marketing agency that helps brands get found online, drive qualified traffic to their websites and increase conversions/sales.


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