Zero-Click Searches: What SEOs & Content Marketers Need to Know

Bio | As an SEO Account Director, Jordan defines Brainlabs' SEO strategy and drives innovation for our clients. Before joining us, Jordan was the director of SEO & Content at Morgan & Morgan, working with America’s largest personal injury law firm to increase retainers and ensure consistent messaging. With a BS in Marketing from the University of Maryland, Jordan brings an endless drive for success to the Brainlabs team.

To be an effective SEO is to keep up with a constantly changing digital landscape, taking note of the details and developing ways to successfully adapt. Zero-click searches are among the countless changes we’ve seen in the digital marketing industry over the years; just one of the latest trends that call for strategy tweaks. Keep reading and find out what you should know about zero-click searches.

What are zero-click searches?

Simply put, zero-click searches are those that give users the answer they’re looking for without requiring them to follow a link. This is convenient for users, but it changes things for SEOs and content marketers who rely on the search engine results page (SERP) to drive organic traffic to their websites.

How prevalent are zero-click searches?

Whether you’re a casual searcher or an SEO marketer, you’ve probably noticed the sharp rise in zero-click searches over the past couple of years. 

Here are a few fast facts about the popularity of these no-click results:

  • Zero-click searches were up by almost 65% in 2020.

  • This includes an increase to 46.5% of desktop and 77.2% of mobile searches.

  • Overall search volume also increased in 2020.

Since overall search volume was up in 2020 and more than three-quarters of mobile searches result in zero-click results, it makes sense that no-clicks made a significant jump. As for the nature of the general increase, it could speak to the way our search behaviors have changed throughout the COVID pandemic.

What do zero-click searches look like?

As is the case with any type of search, the answer to a zero-click search varies based on the type of information being sought out. “How to tie a tie”, “Italian food in LA”, and “13 times 38” are vastly different types of queries, so Google displays the results in the most logical format.

These are the different forms in which you might find zero-click search results:

  • Featured Snippet: The results that show up in “position zero”, above the first spot on the SERP; can be in the form of a paragraph, list, table, image, or video

  • Answer Box: Factual answer to a basic question; measurement conversion

  • Definition: Definition of a word and its usage

  • Map Result: Mark a given location on the map; calculate and display distance and directions

  • Calculator: Use the search bar exactly like a calculator (for both basic and complex operations)

  • Knowledge Panel: Offers more comprehensive information related to the search query

    • Brand: Information about a particular brand

      • “Taco Bell”; “New Jersey Devils”

    • Local: Information about what’s available in a given area

      • “Music venues near me”; “Roller rinks in NYC”

What do zero-click searches mean for content marketers?

Content marketers and SEOs love high click-through rates: They bring in organic traffic by directing visitors to the desired page. The more traffic to the page, the more potential there is for advertising and conversion. Unfortunately, zero-click searches impact CTR and complicate organic traffic for businesses that have been climbing the SERP rankings.

Zero-click searches allow Google to keep people in its sights (and on its sites), giving users ample opportunities to click on Google-based ads. Naturally, the search-engine mammoth wants to maximize the amount of time potential customers are exposed to its many products and services; zero-click searches go a long way in accomplishing this feature

This new wrinkle can be more problematic for some businesses than others. If a company deals in online reviews, travel booking, or other areas that are now nestled into Google’s zero-click sweet spot, it’s going to have a tough time competing.

Does that mean it’s game over for content marketers, SEO, and organic traffic? Of course not. It just means it’s time to change the way we play the game.

How do we keep generating organic traffic?

The good news is that zero-click searches aren’t limited to Google’s own spotlight; with the right strategy, any business can win them. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Rank on the first page of the SERP for keywords that appear in the featured snippet.

  2. Know what the user is looking for; provide the best form of content for the search intent.

  3. Provide clear, concise answers that are easy to follow.

  4. Keep an eye on your targets (even if you’ve already won featured snippets).

By winning featured snippets, we can still get name recognition and exposure even if we don’t get the click. That means more people find out about our brand, and we build up credibility as an authority in our industry.

Here are some other moves you can make to increase and maintain your organic traffic in the face of no-click competition:

  • Adjust the angle of your page

  • Aim to satisfy a different type of user intent

  • Focus on long-tail keywords

  • Provide as much value as possible with your content

Zero-click searches make things undoubtedly trickier for Google’s direct competitors, but a good SEO can handle tricky. For businesses that don’t directly compete with Google, on the other hand, the general increase in search volume may actually provide more opportunities to claim position zero.

How about a recap?

Change doesn’t have to be scary! Here’s what we learned about zero-click searches and how to adapt:

  • Zero-click searches display results at the top of the page, so users don’t have to click to satisfy their search queries.

  • With a quick uptick, these searches have become massively popular on both desktop and mobile.

  • This is to the detriment of CTR and organic traffic, which complicates things for marketers.

  • SEOs and content marketers can optimize to win featured snippets and land position zero.

  • Even if it doesn’t lead to clicks, winning the snippet can lead to name recognition and a stronger reputation.

Google has every incentive to keep zero-click searches around, so it’s up to SEOs and content marketers to adjust their strategies accordingly. But that’s not a new concept; it’s our job to recognize trends, patterns, and changes as they happen and be ready to swing at the next curveball. 

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