Marketers, get ready.
The rise of the no-click search result is very real, and it could have a lasting effect on your SEO strategy.
Here’s everything we know about no-click searches and how you can optimize for these zero-click results.
What You’ll Learn:
- What no-click search results are (and why they matter to marketers)
- How to rank in no-click search results:
- How to do keyword research for no-click search results
- Do click-through rates still matter?
There’s no denying that the first page of Google looks a little different than it did just a few of years ago.
The front page is loaded with paid ads, maps, local results, featured snippets, and other media elements, pushing the top organic search results closer to dreaded page two status.
The SERPs are becoming an increasingly competitive landscape, with position-zero results taking up more space than ever and a whopping 34.4% of desktop searches and 62.5% of mobile searches resulting in no clicks at all.
Over the past few years, Google has been promoting more and more content directly on the front page, no-click required. These no-click searches are on the rise because they provide searchers with quick answers that eliminate the need to click through for more details.
So what does it all mean?
For SEO pros, no-click searches present some big challenges—including going up against Google itself.
But, there’s also opportunity.
What Are No-Click Search Results?
Simply put, zero-click search results are results that display in position zero and provide enough information that the user is satisfied without having to click to a second location.
Zero-click searches are becoming more common because people are using voice or mobile to enter queries and thus want quick answers to simple questions.
Generally, this content will appear in snippet form, either as a few lines of text, a list or table, or an image.
Searches like “where’s the nearest gas station?” Or “what is the weather in Los Angeles” don’t require more than a sentence or two.
Similarly, quick definitions and explanations will often be given the no-click treatment, as in the example below.
Other examples of zero-click results include things like:
- Currency conversions
- Time zone and time queries
- Definitions or “what is..” queries
- Local searches for restaurants, retailers, or anything containing “near me.”
- Flight information
For content creators and websites that rely on organic traffic, zero-click results and hyper-competitive snippets make SEO all the more difficult.
Essentially, Google is taking content from websites and displaying it on the front page, giving people little reason to check out the source website.
Where Google was once the middleman charged with directing users to the right place, they’re now increasingly focused on providing on-page utility that allows searchers to get more of what they need directly from the search giant.
For marketers, the rise of the no-click search isn’t something to take lightly.
A recent article from SparkToro revealed that for every 100 searches on Google mobile in September 2018, 61.5% yielded no-click search results. On desktop, 34.3% of results returned were no-click.
All in all, that same article reports that no-click search results have grown 11% over the past two years.
How to Get into Google’s No-Click Search Results
It should go without saying that when Google switches gears, you probably should follow suit.
No-click domination is a result of Google’s quest to own the experience. Over the past few years, ease of use and reliability in the SERPs have been a major focus of the search giant.
It wants to provide the most accurate and relevant information available for each search query and it doesn’t want its users to have to work very hard to get it.
This means that Google is pulling information from websites to answer questions, in full, to deliver a seamless experience to the user.
For marketers, this change means you’ll need to reframe how you approach SEO and move to a broader Google strategy.
In the past, SEO meant reviewing search terms, monthly volumes, and keyword difficulty. Today, media elements and snippets have entered the fold, resulting in an increasingly challenging organic environment.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution for getting into the no-click search results.
The reality is, we need to get smarter about who we target and provide those searchers with something of value. Marketers need to play the game when it comes to snippets, search intent, and pay attention to things like voice search and structured data.
No-Click Search Results: Blame it On the Snippets?
Featured snippets may well be to blame for all of these no-click search results and the fall of organic traffic. However, you have to optimize if you want to secure a top spot on page one.
Research from Ahrefs recently revealed, featured snippets account for about 12% of all search queries. For marketers, snippets also present a challenge. Most sites that manage to land position zero are already on page one and tend to be known brands.
Still, it’s worth pointing out that snippets are triggered based on familiar SEO best practices like using long-tail keywords and creating content that is easy to read and helpful.
According to Search Engine Land, you should start optimizing for the no-click with the following steps:
- Run a report to uncover relevant keywords.
- Filter keywords currently ranking between spots one and 10.
- Filter out any keywords that already display in the rich results. Those high-ranking keywords that don’t turn up in the snippets are the best place to start optimizing for the snippets.
Check your work by opening an Incognito browser and type yourwebsite.com “target keyword” into the search bar.
Once you’ve identified the best keyword opportunities, the next step is to update those pages so they are more likely to appear in position zero.
Following Google’s E-A-T guidelines can help, but here are a few more things to keep in mind:
- Update Your Copy—The goal is to create a concise answer (about 55-60 words) to the query you’re trying to rank for. Try using similar wording to any snippets you’ve already won. If you don’t have any, make a point of reviewing the top content for target keywords to get a sense of what Google looks for.
- Find Common Questions—Use Google’s “people also ask” found at the bottom of the page or Answer the Public to find questions you can incorporate into your copy to help you rank organically.
- Use Structured Markup—Google is adamant that adding Schema.org markup isn’t a ranking factor. However, marking up your page gives Google more information about the content on your website, thus increasing the odds the algorithm will find relevant content and award it the top spot.
It’s also a good idea to decide beforehand what kind of snippet you’re going for.
Google will usually pull answers to “how-to,” “what if’s” and list snippets from long-form articles.
To increase the likelihood that your content will appear, make sure your phrasing it with clear questions and answers. Adding FAQ sections to your articles will help here as well. Provide your answers to primary questions at the very top of your page for best results.
In the case of the explanation snippets, you’ll want to make it a priority to include long-tail keywords that include. For example, if your keyword is “financial planner,” make it more specific to user intent by using keywords such as “what is a financial planner,” or “how to become a financial planner.”
Optimizing for Voice May Help You Out
I talk about voice search in-depth over here, but again, it’s a growing piece of the SEO puzzle and a massive opportunity for marketers.
Voice search provides a direct link to the snippets. The Google Assistant often pulls from position zero when reading an answer out loud.
For best results, you’ll want to make a point of focusing on writing how people naturally speak and consider adding Speakable schema to the content you’d like to rank for.
Search Engine Journal recommends mapping your voice content strategy to different stages in the customer journey. This allows you to organize content into different categories and determine the search intent associated with your target keywords.
Optimize for Specific Rich Results
Part of taking up space on the first page depends on engaging in what Rand Fishkin has dubbed on-SERP SEO. While this means you’re creating content that likely won’t lead to clicks, it will help you become a more visible player in your industry.
Different markups are built for different types of content. Though Google is adding new entries to this list daily, the following markups can help you increase the chances of appearing as a no-click search result by providing the search giant with more context about what’s on that page.
- List and Database
Google’s Developers blog provides a bit more guidance on how you can markup content. They’ll break down eligibility requirements and go over how the process works.
Google My Business
This doesn’t apply to all SEO marketers, but those with a brick and mortar location should make sure they optimize their GMB account.
For more on GMB best practices, check out this list. A few quick tips include:
- Ensuring your NAP (name, address, phone number) is consistent across all directories
- Assigning a relevant category
- Linking your business correctly
- Fully filling out your description
- Collecting positive reviews
Keyword Research for No-Click Search Results
Keyword research remains a cornerstone of SEO, whether you’re angling for the snippets or fighting for the few clicks available in the organic landscape.
That said, keyword research, too, is evolving.
Content creators that depend on traffic for revenue may have trouble getting that traffic on the page, even if the number of queries remains the same.
Selecting Your Targets
A few things to think about as you choose keywords to inform your zero-click optimization approach.
- Relevance: Look at each keyword and determine how relevant it is to your business and its offerings. Will it send the right people to your site or generate the kind of traffic that bounces upon arrival? As you review your search terms, hide anything that isn’t relevant.
- Search volume: High search volume gives you a sense of how much traffic is on the table. Take a look at how many people search for the keyword on a monthly basis. Keywords Everywhere is a good resource for this—it’s a Chrome extension that provides keyword stats when you enter a query into the search bar. Tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs, and Moz also provide keyword reports that can help you out here, too.
- Competition: Looking at the competition will give you a sense of how hard it is to rank for a particular keyword. How many websites are competing for the same term?
- Existing performance: How do you rank for that keyword right now? Those keywords that land you in on the second page, say, are low-hanging fruit you can optimize without investing a whole lot of time.
Beyond these key factors, intent matching is vital. As you review your keywords, identify the intent associated with each one. You can do this by reviewing the top SERP results associated with each query, which will give you a sense of what Google is looking for.
From there, ask yourself if you can deliver content that matches that intent.
Build Outlines Around Target Keywords
Outlining is as old as writing itself. However, you may need to spend more time on this portion of your keyword research if you want to make it into the top slot.
Consider the inverted pyramid model used in journalism. Start with the most important information at the top, then use related questions as your H2 and H3 headings. You’ll also want to think about how you can incorporate a series of questions into those headings.
Intent and Opportunity
This in-depth Moz post brings up a good point about intent, noting that the majority of searches won’t have one definitive answer.
Factual questions like “what won best picture at the 2018 Oscars?” or “how many ounces make up a pound?” have one answer.
Do Click-Through Rates Still Matter?
In a no-click world, it may be surprising to learn that click-through rates do indeed still matter.
Not every question can be answered in a 55-word snippet. But, if someone enters a query that requires a long, complicated explanation, Google still scrapes for the best possible answer.
As you optimize for position zero, make sure your markups include a hook that compels the reader to click through to your website for more information.
We recommend prioritizing the keywords that have high click volumes and building content around those terms that demand a deeper dive.
Supplement SEO with Other Marketing Efforts
Digital marketing is becoming more fragmented and unified at the same time. You want your social media channels to complement your website, blog posts and long-form content should line up with what you’re advertising off-site.
For better performance in the SERPs, you may want to spend more time growing your brand awareness elsewhere, thus increasing branded search demand. If searchers like what they’ve seen elsewhere, they’ll type in your name versus a generic keyword.
Wrapping Up How to Rank in No-Click Search Results
Change can be scary—especially where Google is concerned.
We’ve seen game-changing algorithm updates before, but zero-click search, rich snippets, and voice search present some challenges we haven’t seen before.
It’s important to note, however, these changes present opportunities to develop better content and a better experience for the consumer.
As I mentioned above, it’s time to shift your thinking on SEO and start embracing a wider Google strategy that includes zero-click optimization, writing for the snippets, and aligning your SEO strategy with social and PPC.