Hey everyone! This week we're digging into the hot topic of Zero Click Google Searches.
Google owns not only the largest search engine, but also the second-largest search engine (YouTube), the most-used operating system (Android) and the most-used browser (Chrome).
So, how do you compete against a company that basically owns the internet?
Check out the video or podcast above where Dan and the bees share some interesting insights to alleviate the frustration of trying to rank against Google and how you can actually use zero-click Google searches as opportunities for your business.
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Zero click searches have been a growing trend in recent years, and a topic of controversy for many small businesses trying to rank in search results. Why is that? Well...
What is a Zero Click Search?
Zero click searches are searches that result in no clicks from the search results page, due to Google supplying answers on the search results page itself in a Featured Snippet, removing the need to click through to a website or landing page to find what you are looking for.
Let's take a look at a common example, by searching for "how to make tea":
In this example, all of the steps to make tea have been laid out directly in a Featured Snippet, giving the user all the information they need without having to click through to the site at all.
What is Position Zero?
"Traditional" Organic Web Search results often have the "#1" ranking further down the page. Position Zero refers to the content that appears above the #1 ranking.
What is "On-SERP SEO"?
With Google moving to a zero-click reality and being very clear about their desire to continue indexing more and more structured data, On-SERP SEO is the process of optimizing your presence on the results page as much as possible.
To give you an idea of how much impact zero-click searches have, according to the SparkToro report, last year 50.33% of all Google searches ended without a click on any paid or organic search results.
Half of all Google searches. That's huge.
The number of zero-click searches has been increasing over the past few years, and will likely continue to do so.
As more searches end without users clicking through to a page, businesses are left with fewer opportunities to engage with their audience.
So, how does one compete in such a landscape? The good news is that zero clicks do not also mean zero opportunities.
Let's dig into how you can use zero-click searches as an opportunity for your business.
Content and how we consume it is so fluid it can be difficult to navigate the best plan of action, or even figure out what works and what doesn't.
That's why just sticking to the same old routine will not likely get you the results you're looking for. You need to test and iterate, and you need to be as fluid as the changing tides.
One word: Adapt.
Rather than trying to fight the zero-click reality, you need to adapt. Can you compete directly with Google? Not likely, unless you're Facebook. So stop trying.
Google owns top-level content. There's no way around that. So stop aiming for something you can't achieve. Do something different. Offer something Google isn't offering.
Think of what users want and expect from web content. Are they looking for top-level snackable bits? No, Google is all over that. It's just expected information at our fingertips at this point.
You want to offer something deeply layered - it doesn't matter if it's data, analytics, or trends. It just needs to be more comprehensive than Google's snippets, with real, unique value for users.
Simply put, if you want the clicks, you need to create content that's worth clicking for.
If Google is offering "surface-level" content through snippets, then focus your efforts on a website offering in-depth content that offers the user something of substance.
If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em.
Google is pushing traffic to its own sites, so optimize your content on Google platforms. This is really something you should be doing for your business, regardless of zero-click searches. It can truly make a world of difference.
Make sure your company is set up on Google My Business and is optimized with as much information as possible, high-quality photos and videos so that you show up on Google Images and YouTube, and your location, or locations, so you also show up on Google Maps. Check out our in-depth guide for setting up GMB here.
Optimizing for Google My Business
- Complete all of the extended Google My Business profile.
- Add your products and services.
- Connect an appointment booking platform (CRM) to enable appointments.
- Create a content schedule for your posts.
- Add images BUT understand that Google does not index images in Google Image Search when posted to Google My Business. You will want to properly optimize your images on your website to rank in Google Image Searches.
- Fill out the Q&A section to ensure your customers have easy access to information.
Ensure your videos are on YouTube with detailed descriptions, tags, and meta-descriptions to take full advantage of keyword ranking.
- Update all titles and descriptions using your brand keywords intelligently.
- Update all video thumbnails.
- Update your YouTube profile details.
- Embed your YouTube videos throughout your website(s).
- Optimize your website using as many Structured Data Features as possible including Video features.
- Add a video sitemap.xml to your website.
- Upload consistently to your YouTube channel.
- Created focused, topical playlists.
- Add meta descriptions when you upload your videos.
All of these options are harder to track than clicks, but it puts your business out there and makes it easier for you to be found by potential consumers, so it's not something you should ignore just because you want to be able to track your clicks.
Optimize Your Content for Featured Snippets
Optimize your website content to work with Featured snippets. I know I just said stop fighting for the top-level spot on the SERPs, but I didn't mean throw in the towel - just adjust your strategy for better results. There are a couple of ways you can still gain that coveted top spot.
Make lists. How to's. In-depth analysis, industry knowledge, topics that connect to your brand, your mission and vision, of whatever it is your business specializes in. Structure them the way the snippets are displayed.
Search Engine Land calculated the CTR on a page increased from 2% to 8% after it secured a featured snippet.
Win Definitions & Explanations
Broad queries like “digital marketing” are often hidden “what” queries, since people are ultimately searching for “what is digital marketing.”
To double-check your intuition, check the existing Page 1 and note the dominant style of pages it features.
Win the Image
You might have noticed that the text and the image of the featured snippet are usually pulled from different websites.
In order to make your image appear, add an image directly under your paragraph, list, or table.
In order to win the image, use an image alt tag that is a variation of the headline you used to intro your featured snippet paragraph.
Win Lists & Tables
If the existing featured snippet displays a list (ordered or unordered), you will want to replicate this structure, too.
List style posts and pages work well to win “how to” and “why” queries looking to find step-by-step guides.
Tables are best for comparison queries.
There are three types of zero-click searches
- Featured snippets
- Instant answers
- Knowledge graphs
In order to rank for featured snippets, we will first identify high-potential opportunities and then create a step-by-step plan on how to update your relevant pages to win them.
To find quality opportunities, just follow these three steps:
- Pull a ranking report for relevant keywords.
- Filter by those keywords that are currently ranking between positions 1 and 10.
- Filter by those keywords that are already displaying featured snippets. Tools such as Screaming Frog, ahrefs, SEMRush, Moz will all produce ranking reports displaying featured snippets.
What’s left are your high potentials for winning the featured snippet.
The 4 main forms of featured snippets include:
- Paragraph – Paragraph snippets appear when you search for queries with “how-to”, “who”, “why”, “what”, etc. That’s how they appear in the SERPs.
- Lists – Lists are further divided into two parts: numbered and bulleted. Numbered lists appear when users search for a step-by-step tutorial. The above “how to make tea” is an example of a numbered list.
- Table – Google features tables in the SERPs as well, but they are not as common as paragraphs and lists. 81.95% of Featured snippets are paragraphs, 10.77% are lists, and 7.28% are tables.
- Video - Videos also get featured in the snippets. They are featured entirely, or Google provides you with a suggested clip.
Google also shares snippets where contents from one website and an image from another website are coupled together to provide more productive results. So even if you're not chosen for the paragraph snippet, your photo could be chosen to be used with the snippet.
This is why you want to make sure all your photos are relevant, high quality, and optimized with filenames and alt-text.
Another form of snippets is Instant Answers. These are small tools that provide immediate answers to the user’s query, and can come in a few different forms:
Finally, there are the knowledge graphs. These contain additional information about your search query, and generally appear in the right panel of the SERPs, similar to how a business appears in search when a business has Google My Business set up and optimized.
Here are some examples of the Knowledge Graph.
Or when you look up a celebrity:
Or when you're looking up an illness or disease:
How to Optimize for Zero-Click Searches
Here's a quick summary to use as a guideline when optimizing your content for zero-click searches:
- Create High-Quality Content - make your content worth clicking for.
- Target Question-Based Keywords - Long-form keywords can be a great way to rank higher in the results, and question-based keywords have a higher chance of becoming a featured snippet. Just keep in mind that featured snippets appear mostly for questions like “what,” “where,” “when,” “who,” “why,” “can,” “how,” and so on.
- Use Relevant Images - Images break the monotony of text, and if they are relevant to your content, there's more of a chance they will be featured in the snippets. Also, use titles and alt-text to rank in the Google Image Search tool. BUT understand that Google does not index images in Google Image Search when posted to Google My Business. You will want to properly optimize your images on your website to rank in Google Image Searches.
- Structure Your Content - Providing structure not only improves the user experience, it also improves your chances of being a featured snippet. Structuring your content simply means the use of appropriate heading tags, title tags, and dividing the content into points and paragraphs while breaking the monotony of texts with visuals. Dividing your content into pointers and steps or lists also increases its chances to get featured in forms of lists and tables in the SERPs.
- Include a FAQ Section - A good FAQ section will not only help you rank for zero-click searches with question-based keywords, but also the “people also ask” section.
- Use Quality Links pointing to your content to boost its potential of ranking in the SERPs and the featured snippets. Link building can be incredibly important when trying to rank higher and increase your chances of being featured in a snippet.
Mobile-first indexing means Google predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. Historically, the index primarily used the desktop version of a page's content when evaluating the relevance of a page to a user's query. Since the majority of users now access Google Search with a mobile device, Googlebot primarily crawls and indexes pages with the smartphone agent going forward.
Starting July 1, 2019, mobile-first indexing is enabled by default for all new websites (new to the web or previously unknown to Google Search). For older or existing websites, we continue to monitor and evaluate pages based on the best practices detailed in this guide. We inform site owners in Search Console of the date when their site was switched to mobile-first indexing.
Look at the difference in SERPs on mobile. The majority of the results on the first page are not organic results, they're Google Properties or Structured Data.
- Google My Business
- Google My Business Posts
- Related Searches
Further reading on mobile-first indexing best practices can be found here.
Integrate Structured Data Into Your Content
Structured data, or Schema markup, is a form of microdata. Very few things in SEO, today, can move the dial quickly. This can. Having to mark every item on your page with microdata can be a heavy task, but the results are well worth it.
#SEODrama - Does Structured Data Increase Your Ranking?
No. But who cares? Structured Data is how the web would have been designed if anyone involved at the time realized what the Internet would become.
Structured Data and On-SERP SEO will vastly improve your brand presence online, provide you with more opportunities to be visible in various searches. Is it strictly a ranking factor? Nope. But again. Who cares?
Search Engine Journal has a great article that dives deeper into Schema markup and how to apply it to your content.
- The Twitter Structured Data display in Google Search is one of the best displays available.
- You can secure a large amount of Page 1 real estate.
- Upload images with the correct Twitter proportions (1024x512) this is important because we want to have the images appearing in Google Search results.
- Consistent posting.
- Optimize your Twitter profile for your brand terms. Help Google understand the connections between your social profiles, website and other properties.
- Add Twitter feeds to your website, throughout your website not just in one location.
- Use relevant hashtags to filter multiple topics throughout your website and display those filtered Twitter feeds.
Pay to Play
There is always the option to pay for that top spot. Paid ads may seem scary when you have a limited budget, but with the right approach, they can pay off.
It's also important to keep in mind that if you are not paying to rank for keywords, someone else is - and they can even pay to use your brand keywords so that they rank higher in the search even when someone is searching specifically for you. Some companies are not at all happy about this and have taken some shots at Google in some clever ways, like the example below:
- The Dirty Secret to Ranking #1 on Google (part 1 of 3) - An insightful read in 3 parts, with links to parts 2 & 3 at the end of the article.
- Now, more than 50% of Google searches end without a click to other content, study finds - A quick and easy read with some interesting statistics.
- Rising From the Ashes of Zero-Click Searches: The Future of Site Content - An intelligent and comprehensive look at how web content is evolving and how to build your strategy around that.
- Three Effective Strategies To Combat Zero-Click Searches On Google - A light read from Forbes with some interesting strategies and insights.
- How Zero-Click Searches Are Changing SEO and Digital Marketing - 2020 SEO Trends - A great article that talks about the importance of brand affinity in a zero-click world.