If you’re reading this, you’ve been on the internet long enough to know Google’s core objective is user experience. To Google, satisfying user intent is paramount; other things will follow.
That underlying philosophy of keeping users happy is true regardless of how many times Google rolls out new algorithm changes each year. So, to improve user experience and provide people with information faster, Google continually tweaks its interface and algorithm. One consequence of this is zero click searches.
As a regular Google user, this is a welcome development. But as a content marketer, this might pose a little problem. This article will discuss zero click searches, how it affects marketers, and ways to work around it to yield the best SEO results.
What are zero-click searches?
Zero click searches are search results that don’t generate a click-through to a site. Often, people don’t click through because Google provides an instant answer at the top of the search results. The answer satisfies search intent swiftly without a person having to click through to a resource.
In other words, the answer to a question like, “What year was Abraham Lincoln born?” is provided in the search results.
Alongside zero click searches, you’ll have search results that see a reduced click-through rate (CTR).
You will often get a lower CTR where a featured snippet is provided. For example, here, I used a broad term, “digital marketing content.”
You can see the featured snippet appears. It provides some information about the term. If you were looking for a definition, that answer might suffice. Many people won’t feel a need to click through to a resource.
Some people will still want more information, though.
Featured snippets and Google Instant Answers help provide a better user experience.
More than seven out of ten mobile searches are zero-click searches. That’s great for people using Google to search online, but it’s a problem for marketers.
Imagine seeing a high keyword search volume, creating a great piece of content, putting a lot of effort into making that content rank, and then getting no clicks. That would be frustrating. Unfortunately, it happens all the time.
This guide will help you avoid those zero-click searches, so you still get visitors to your site.
How can you avoid zero-click searches?
Google’s featured snippets and instant answers are here to stay. People like the feature, and it provides a better user experience.
SEO marketers must adapt to this reality. Follow these actionable tips to avoid creating content that won’t get any clicks.
1. Consider user intent
“Focus on the user and all else will follow.”
Borrowing a leaf from Google’s philosophy handbook — think about the user experience when selecting your target keywords.
Consider what information a person searching would want. Avoid keywords that might have succinct answers, such as date of birth, death, or the exchange rate. Be wary of definitions, as they will often have a reduced CTR.
Even though these keywords might have a high search volume, chances are Google will provide a concise one-way answer when users search for them online.
Remember the Abraham Lincoln date of birth example above? Queries like these often yield zero-click searches. Hence a content ranking for keywords with similar intent will likely get zero clicks.
Another thing to consider is Google's objective. For example, while Google aims for a superb user experience, they also want to make money from paid ads. That being the case, terms with higher monetary value are less likely to appear as featured snippets or have instant answers.
Remember that Abraham Lincoln example?
The Cost Per Click (CPC) is zero dollars. Google doesn’t lose money here by providing an improved user experience.
2. Use long-tail keywords
To avoid zero-click searches you need to target relevant keywords where people want to gain more insights than they’d be shown in the search results. One approach involves targeting long-tail keywords.
People who search for information using long-tail keywords are likely looking for comprehensive answers. In that case, a featured snippet suggestion won’t suffice.
Take the keyword “digital marketing,” for example. As you can see, although it’s a broad and generic term, there’s a featured snippet suggestion for this keyword.
If a user’s search intent is to find the meaning of digital marketing only, then the chances of a website click-through are lower. Whereas optimizing your content for a long-tail keyword such as “digital marketing strategy for small businesses,” will record more click-throughs because it offers more information that satisfies user intent:
Accessible and scannable articles such as list posts are always a good choice. Also, information searches. For example, an article on how to avoid zero click searches.
People will generally want to dive deep into the topic.
3. Review the search results
Once you have your list of suitable keywords, the next thing to do is review the search results. Here, you want to put yourself in the position of a regular Google user to determine:
- What kind of information turns up for that keyword: Featured snippets? People also ask boxes? Just SERP results?
- Does it require further research to satisfy the searcher’s intent?
- If so, are you encouraged to click through the SERP results?
If Google search brings up succinct answers for that keyword, without need for further elaboration — skip it. Chances are, these search terms have a low CTR or generate zero clicks. You’re better off channeling your efforts into other search terms.
Moreover, reviewing search results reveals how the competition structures their content so you can structure yours similarly or make it better. While this might not improve your chances of ranking, it makes it easier for Google to understand your content and facts.
For example, targeting a search term with constantly changing values like football scores, destination maps, or weather will likely not yield you any clicks. Equally, targeting terms that compete with Google’s own products, such as information you can find on Maps, is going to be risky.
Review each of the terms you want to target against the search results. Remove terms that you feel are unsuitable based on what Google shows users. That vetting process will significantly reduce the likelihood of you targeting zero-click searches.
And finally, as zero clicks are a fact of life, here's what you can do if you can't avoid them.
4. Embrace the zero click results
This article is geared at lowering the amount of zero click results your traffic generates, but there are some situations where it’s inevitable that you end up ranking for them, or indeed already are.
After all, you never know what the CTR is until you’re ranking for the term.
If this is the case, you should review your Google Search Console data to measure your website traffic and content performance. Luckily Wordtracker have their excellent Google Search Console integration so you can pull your existing data straight into your keyword research.
If you’re ranking for a term and generating no clicks, put together a strategy to target more relevant terms. You may also analyze the CTR for specific keywords.
The thing is, if you choose to embrace those results which generate zero click results Google has a range of platforms that you can use to maximise those results.
For instance, creating or claiming a Google My Business profile plays right into Google’s strategy of emphasizing local searches. You can take advantage of this strategy by adding your contact details, website, and business hours or by responding to customer reviews. This approach can funnel traffic and inquiries your way.
You may also create content that answers questions and post it on Google-owned platforms. Publishing explainer videos on YouTube, for instance, is an effective source of click-throughs and helps build awareness of your brand. To accomplish this, you also need to learn how to optimize for YouTube searches, which is another topic altogether.
Finally, optimizing your images by adding alt tags to them can bring some additional traffic to your website. Alt tags tell Google what an image is supposed to depict and make them more searchable on Google Images.
You can’t really beat Google at its own game, but you can certainly use Google to generate more interest in your business.
Zero-click searches are common in SERP results. As a marketer, you want to avoid targeting these search terms. You’ll need to invest resources ranking for the terms but won’t benefit from being at the top of the search results.
The good news is with the practical steps outlined in this article, you can avoid zero-click searches. Start by considering user intent, then review the search results, finally optimize your content based on the results you’re seeing through Google Search Console.