There’s a new trend emerging in the past year in the SEO industry and per usual Google is at the heart of it. In the early days of the expanded knowledge graph, rich snippets, schema.org information pulling through into the search engine results page…the writing was on the wall. Google was playing the long game to keep users somewhere on their entities, finding the information they needed without clicking into anyone’s website.
If you haven’t heard of the phenomenon before, it’s called “Zero-click searches” in which a user looks up a specific query in a search engine and locates the information they need without clicking into any third party URL. This new trend has forced the SEO industry to work even harder to compete for fewer clicks.
Rand Fishkin of SparkToro even compiled data showing that for the first time, monthly zero-click searches surpassed the 50% mark, meaning that more than half of all searches, result in no click at all!
This intriguing trend has our team wondering what’s next? How do we stay competitive in a zero-click world? What are some ways to engage our audience outside of search rankings?
The Zero-Click SEO Strategy
SEO won’t be going away any time soon, there is still a huge market for it and has a high long term benefit for websites and brands alike. But knowing that over 50% of searches result in zero-clicks at all, how does that change the way we optimize sites?
Optimize for Rich Snippets
- Rich snippets provide added value when you optimize correctly. Google will serve your search listing along with some other pertinent information; could be review stars, product information, music information, knowledge graph, top stories, event information, etc.
- Example: Use Question and Answer content with bullets/numbers. We have optimized pages around “how to…” and listed the steps in bulleted or numbered format, which ends up serving as the search result.
Optimize your site with Schema Markup
- Like the above, if you optimize your site for a markup language in the HTML, the search engine is more likely to expand your search listing with the information the user is searching for. That way your listing can start providing the answer for the zero-click search and become a trusted source in the industry
Optimize your presence on ALL Google Properties (Youtube, Google Maps, Images, AMP, Knowledge Graph, etc.)
- That saying…”if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” definitely applies to outmaneuvering Google. If they’re trying to keep people on their platforms, than provide the most detailed brand presence on every platform!
- There are in-depth ways to optimize each Google entity for visibility, accuracy, searchability, etc. Make sure your marketing team is considering them all
Go after niche topics / keywords that need a longer answer, information, solution
- You know I wasn’t going to write an SEO article without pointing out that “Content is king”, so take the time to research what your potential buyer audience is looking for. What specific questions are they deep diving into?
- Write deep quality content for your site that Google won’t be able to fully cover in a 2 minute window. Competitive advantage information, full walkthroughs of issues you’ve faced, case studies of previous projects, etc.
- Do you think Google will be able to give a step-by-step guide for the search, “How do I protect my site’s organic traffic from the Zero-Click Search Trend?” It is quite possible in the long term that they’ll be able to coach you through a strategy with information, but it hasn’t come to that yet.
Lay the on-page groundwork like you’ve always done
- Had to throw this softball in there. At the end of the day, desktop searches haven’t entirely been affected by the zero-click trend. There is still a great deal of traffic to go around and convert from actual clicks, so don’t change your entire strategy. What has worked in the past will continue to be a strong foundation to the rest of your SEO strategy.
Other Strategies to Consider
There are other things to consider outside of SEO to help offset the loss of some organic clicks. A few strategies will help your business/website continue to draw in qualified traffic over time.
Consider running a paid search campaign if you haven’t already
- Fishkin points out with great data and charts that since January 2019, Paid CTR % has risen with the percentage of zero-click searches
- It isn’t ideal to pay for your ads to serve at the top of each search results page, but what better way to compete with a knowledge graph full of information than top position ad text + 6 site links leading users to different landing pages on your site
Go where your audience is spending a lot of their time; on social channels
- Paid and Organic Social are a great way to engage a specific audience and prospect new users
- Facebook is a great way to engage your audience at a low CPL, test different targeting among behaviors. This won’t be the hand raiser audience that paid search or organic search provides but it does take your brand in front of a semi qualified audience.
- LinkedIn also gives you an audience targeted by information on professional profiles. Supplement the organic traffic with an audience you’re directly trying to sell to, a c-suite member from a food & beverage company with over 500 employees? That’s easy.
Get innovative, get creative, and document everything!
- On top of the above, meet with vendors, challenge their channels, find something that works for your brand. Organic search may turn into an uphill battle depending on how the courts sort out the Search Engine algorithmic competition battles.
- Test and learn. Have theories on the data from your website and prove it through analytics. Write articles like Rand Fishkin does about what you’ve found or you’ve come across online.
We in the SEO industry have seen a lot of things come and go (okay, not go…but mostly stay put), keyword transparency turned into (not provided), unsecured HTTP not being an effective URL beginning anymore, authorship photos on every article and then disappearing, and many in between. This will be another update, which may not be an official update, but could be seen from 10 miles away. We will adapt, learn to live sanctimoniously with Google once again, and grow our traffic (organic and otherwise) through creative and innovative channels.