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Zero Click Searches

Zero click searches are queries in search engines such as Google, Bing, or Yandex that do not send you to a third-party website from an organic search result. Around 50 percent of searches currently end without a click on an organic search result.

Statistics on zero click searches

In June 2019, the clickstream analysis service Jumpshot (which has since been shut down following controversy over data use and privacy) published its latest analysis of desktop and mobile zero click searches on in the US. The results can be summarized as follows:

  • 50.3 percent of all searches end without a click to other content.
  • 5.3 percent of all searches lead to a click to organic content.
  • 4.4 percent of all searches lead to a click to a paid ad.

What this means is that more than half of all searches now generate no traffic for third-party websites outside Google services. In the US in particular, the number of zero click searches was found to have risen steadily over the past few years:

  • 1st quarter of 2016: 43.1 percent
  • 1st quarter of 2017: 46 percent
  • 1st quarter of 2018: 47.5 percent
  • 1st quarter of 2019: 49 percent

The number of zero click searches is especially high for searches made from mobile devices, with Jumpshot’s June 2019 analysis showing 62 percent of all searches made from mobile devise to be zero click searches; organic clicks, on the other hand, accounted for as little as 27.7 percent of mobile search queries.

Google’s reaps the benefits of zero click searches

Search engine giant Google aims to give users the best possible results as fast as possible, but at the same time wants the user to stay in the “Google-verse” of Google services as long as possible. The benefits for users and for Google speak for themselves. In terms of digital marketing and search engine optimization , however, this brings more disadvantages than advantages.

Google aims to give users the best possible results as fast as possible, increasing the user’s trust in Google and, ideally, increasing Google’s retention rate, meaning the number of people using it as their primary search engine.

The advantage for Google is that users stay longer in Google’s own services and move on to other content less quickly. If users click through to organic third-party websites , on the other hand, Google loses these users and cannot target them with advertising. Users that stay in the Google universe, in contrast, are more likely to click on a Google Ad , making Google money. Those looking for a direct answer to a search query may also be inclined to enter more search queries, which could ultimately also result in a paid click on a Google Ad or Google Shopping.

How Google has increased zero click searches

The launch of more and more new SERP features that give users all sorts of widgets alongside organic results has also led to an increase in the number of zero click searches. Examples of common SERP features are Google’s Direct Answers or Knowledge Panel.

Knowledge Panel

Google’s Knowledge Panel, an increasingly popular SERP feature, is now more than just an info tab on entities such as people, institutions or businesses. In fact, more and more searches now trigger a rich result in the form of a Knowledge Panel – queries related to health or entertainment, for example. Example: Searches for the “capital italy”.

According to the Searchmetrics SERP Features Monitor , in 36.6 percent of all Google desktop searches in Germany in March 2020, the results included a Knowledge Panel above or beside the organic search results; the corresponding figure in the US was 10.1.

Direct Answer

In its Direct Answer Box, Google provides the answer to searches for specific information on celebrities, geography or history itself. Search queries about the weather or stock market prices are also answered directly by Google. Unlike Featured Snippets, Google’s Direct Answers contain facts only. These facts come directly from Google’s own data sources, meaning they contain no links to relevant third-party content.
Example: Search queries such as “how old is the queen”.

According to the Searchmetrics SERP Features Monitor , 7.3 percent of all desktop search queries made in Germany in March 2020 were direct answers, compared with 10.1 percent in the US.

With, SEOs and webmasters can embed mark-ups for structured data into their websites. In doing so, they are making it easier for search engine crawlers to transform content into machine-readable data. By defining what sentence is best suited as an answer for the Voice Assistant to read out in response to a search query or what the most important questions and answers are for a given topic, webmasters are helping search engines provide more precise information and improve the level of detail in what are mammoth databases.

SEO and zero click searches

The SEO community is somewhat divided over how to respond to this increasing trend toward zero click searches. Websites are losing organic traffic to Google & Co., whose growing number of SERP features are helping them earn on traffic, either through ads or through direct conversions in the form of hotel and flight bookings, for instance.

In terms of SEO, what digital marketers can do to ensure they continue to pull in organic traffic is really scrutinize the topics and keywords that they are optimizing for: Do Google results for these already include a Google SERP feature such as a Direct Answer or large-format Knowledge Panel? If so, it might make more sense for them to step up their efforts on the SEO front elsewhere – for example by shifting the focus of a page or adding new content that satisfies a different user intent. Shifting the focus to more long-tail keywords and providing content with additional value for search engine users are also crucial to securing long-term traffic to your site.

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