The term, “zero-click search“, refers to when a user makes a search and finds the answer without needing to click on a result. The prevalence of zero-click searches has risen in recent years following various updates to Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) – particularly featured snippets and knowledge graph. The outcome of these changes means that, where previously a website would have received traffic from these searches, the user no longer needs to visit any site to get the answer. The obvious issue for site owners is all the missed opportunities from losing visitors, particularly for searches higher in the marketing funnel that are focused on data capture or brand awareness. These kind of search terms are often questions or research-based and therefore easier to be displayed in a Google answer box. Zero-click searches have led to Google being challenged in court over copyright claims, disputes rising from them displaying and profiting from someone else’s content.
To give some frame of reference, around 65% of all searches in 2020 were classed as zero-click searches. That’s quite a large portion. The split is different between desktop and mobile, with around 77% of mobile searches resulting in no clicks, whereas only 46% on desktop. While the numbers are high, there’s no reason to panic over potentially lost visitors right now. Zero-click results have already been around for a few years. If you haven’t experienced any dramatic shifts in traffic then it’s unlikely your site will. Recently, Google have responded to reports published by the SEO community with several causes for zero-click searches, including:
- Reformulating queries to find more relevant results
- Quickly checking facts
- Finding local business details
- Navigating from the results directly to an app
SEO agencies should already be familiar working on SERP appearance. Google features that are leading to zero-click searches fall into this bracket and should be considered as part of an SEO strategy. Users who see information in SERPs, rather than directly on a website, are different to regular visitors. However, you are still receiving exposure from the result including the information itself and URL, building trust and familiarity with your brand. Sometimes, features such as answer boxes are a good method to bunny-hop competitors who are ranking higher but aren’t optimised for rich snippets. Sites that embrace zero-click features will naturally benefit more than those that do not.
Please get in touch if you have any questions about zero-click searches or any of our SEO processes.
UPDATE 2022: More recent analysis puts the zero-click figure closer to 25% but there is debate over the study’s definition of what constitutes a “zero click search”. Here, researches look at other interactions within SERPs as clicks (rather than focusing on clicks through to a website). There is certainly value in these different sorts of interactions, such as finding directions or business opening times. Nevertheless, both reports show sizeable portions of zero click searches and so should be factored into any SEO strategy.