Search engine optimization (SEO) is everything that goes into earning your site a top-tier ranking on search engines for keywords related to the services or products your organization provides.
The entire point of SEO is to pull more visitors into your site by getting your links at the top of the search engine food chain and onto the coveted first page of search engine results. In other words, the goal of SEO is to get people to click on your URLs. And getting your URLs on that first page of results will generally achieve that, but zero-click searches are making things a little bit more difficult these days.
What Are Zero-Click Searches?
For our purposes, zero-click searches are any searches that don’t result in the user clicking on a link that redirects them to a new page. Some searches are technically not “zero”-clicks because the user might click on an internal Google link to listen to how a word is pronounced. Interactions like this fall under the umbrella of zero-click searches because they don’t result in external links getting clicked.
Google’s featured snippets system is designed to help searchers more quickly get to the information they’re looking for. Google focuses on providing search engine users with the quickest and most reliable answers to their questions. And featured snippets are one of the ways Google is trying to accomplish this goal.
However, searches that don’t result in other websites getting visitors instantly set alarm bells off inside most digital media marketers’ brains. Recently, the number of searches that no longer result in traffic being directed from Google to another domain has risen drastically, giving SEO specialists even more reason to fret than usual.
According to a SimilarWeb and SparkToro data analysis, nearly 2/3rds (64.82%) of all Google searches in 2020 did not result in the user clicking an external link.
Interestingly, their data also has a breakdown of mobile vs. desktop user search comparisons. It shows that mobile searches are much more likely to end with zero-click results (77.22% of mobile searches in 2020 were zero-click searches.) Desktop fares considerably better, but their numbers are still alarming, with zero-click searches accounting for 46.48% of 2020 desktop searches.
This all seems incredibly alarming at first, but the sky isn’t falling and SEO, hate it or love it, still plays an essential role in digital marketing.
The Reality of Zero-Click Searches
The reality is that Google’s featured snippets have been around since January 2014, and the internet has yet to catch on fire, the sky remains soaring above us, and SEO marketers still have most of the hair (although admittedly, they have torn some out their roots over the years).
Featured snippets are intended to provide quick answers to fairly cut and dry questions. And, for the most part, that’s what they do. The fact that most searches result in zero-click interactions has more to do with the nature of how people use Google and the types of answers that are most commonly sought.
If someone just wants to know the temperature in Alaska right now, they don’t need a five-day forecast and a news story about water-skiing squirrels. So Google tells them the temperature with a featured snippet, and that user goes on about their day.
There are still plenty of people searching for more than what can be provided in a small table, brief list, or video segment. And those are the people who you should direct your content.
What Can You Do About Zero Click Searches?
For many sites, zero-click searches and featured snippets might actually be helping them jump ahead of their SERP competition. This is because Google attempts to concisely answer search queries using the featured snippet system. The result is that many sites found themselves leap-frogged over their competition when searches lead to featured snippets.
You can, if you wish, opt out of the featured snippet system. Google has a handy guide on how to do just that. But before you do, you might want to see whether your snippet is hurting you or helping you.
Kevin Richard from Twitter offers an easy method for discovering what a website’s SERP placement would be without featured snippets active, though this method only works for pages that are in the top nine results for the keyword.
But honestly, zero-click searches don’t really change any of the SEO best practices from a content strategy standpoint. High-quality content that provides value to your audience will continue to increase your website’s performance.
Some keywords and content styles are more likely to result in zero-click searches, but what was true yesterday remains true today: be informative, back up your claims with stats, and focus on providing value to your customers.
Contact Cardinal with any digital marketing questions you might have.