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Gabriel Marguglio December 9, 2019 8 min read

How Zero-Click Searches Are Changing SEO and Digital Marketing - 2020 SEO Trends


Google’s constant attempts at making answers online easier and easier to find makes the job of an SEO even harder. Nowadays, you Google things like the weather, when your favorite team plays, or the net worth of Elton John and your answer is probably displayed on the top of the page. This means you don’t even have to click on a website to find your answers which, naturally, means getting people to click on your site is harder than ever.

So, if Google is starting to seem like the villain in the story of your career, you’re not alone. Marketers everywhere are scrambling to adapt.


What is a zero-click search?

A zero-click search is exactly what the name suggests: a search that results in a user having to make zero clicks to find their answer or desired information. That means no clicking on any site featured on the SERP and, instead, having their query answered by a featured snippet.

These types of searches have been steadily growing in the past few years. Now, 34% of desktop searches and 62% of mobile searches result in a zero-click search.

zero click search elton john net worth

A zero-click search in action, showing the answer without needing to click a link


Look at the example above and you’ll see why zero-click searching is a problem, specifically if you’re smoothradio.com. But, it’s not just smoothradio.com, it could be any site that’s next on Google’s hit list.

For anyone who relies heavily on organic search to be findable, this presents a problem. Not only does it make it harder to be found, it makes it harder to be clicked on even if you’re the featured snippet. For some sites, like recipes and lyrics, it gives you literally everything you’d ever be going to that site for. But, don’t worry, Google will give you credit in the form of a tiny grey link right after they’ve taken and given everything the searcher needs to go away without clicking.


how google attributes lyrics with a zero click searchGoogle will take your content right onto the front page with a tiny credit to your website underneath


This is already scary and we’re not even mentioning the potential zero-result searches that Google has tested in the past or the results you might find without ever having to even click “search.”

Even if you’ve achieved SEO success and are a featured snippet on Google’s front page, they’re still finding what searchers need and giving it to them right there on the SERP above all the links that SEOs have worked so hard to put there.

This presents a major problem: How do you drive traffic to your site when Google is driving it away? Especially when, according to Rand Fishkin from Sparktoro, “The largest source of traffic on the web (organic search) —both free and paid— is becoming a walled garden.”


How Google is turning into everyone's competitor from SparkToro


What does zero-click search mean for SEO?

Is this the end of SEO? No, not quite. But it does mean a slight strategy change on what optimizers deem important when planning an SEO and content strategy. The goal remains largely the same: get as high up on Google as possible (and maybe grab that featured snippet) but the way you go about getting there may change.


Focusing on click metrics for keyword research

Rather than just looking at search volume when looking for good keyword opportunities, you should be looking at click metrics of your keywords to find opportunities that are more likely not to result in zero-click searches.

how to track good keywords with Moz organic ctr

Organic CTR: When keyword researching, you’ll find this metric on SEO research sites like Moz. Essentially, it’s a percentage that shows you how many clicks are available for organic links. In the example, the CTR of “where is coffee grown” is 56% which means only 56% of searches for this keyword go to organic links. The rest will be ads, snippets, or other Google features. 

The majority of zero-click searches fall under certain categories like recipes, definitions, “what is” questions, “best [blank]” questions, directions, and comparison questions. All things that can be answered with a sentence or two. 


Finding keywords that don’t fall under these categories are less likely to fall victim to a zero-click. Combine that with a solid organic CTR score and you’ve found a good keyword opportunity. 


Create deeper and more valuable content

The days of top-level content could be numbered. 

Blogs like “Wood vs. Composite Decking” and “What’s the Best Water Filter” are quickly being swept up by featured snippets that pull the valuable information and present it right on the SERP which results in a zero-click search. From now on, you should be focusing on making deeper and more unique content that doesn’t just answer a question but delivers a lot of valuable information.

If your content is deeper than answering one simple question, the featured snippet returns to being a helpful tool that you should strive for because that paragraph at the top of the SERP becomes a chance to woo the searcher into clicking and finding out more rather than a simple answer that nullifies the need to continue on.


Optimize your content on Google platforms

With each update to the algorithm, a few things have been consistently happening. Decreased organic search clicks, increased searches that result in ad clicks or zero clicks, and an increase in clicks on Google-owned sites like Maps, Flights, YouTube, etc.

This means that making sure your content and website are optimized on Google’s own platforms is important to playing nice with the changing landscape.

Your business should show up clearly on Google Maps, your videos should be on YouTube and optimized for its own search engine, and your images should show up on Google Images, etc.

If Google is pushing traffic toward its own sites, you can at least make sure you’re ready and optimized on those sites.


Squeeze value out of a zero-click search

Even if you’ve become a victim of Google’s zero-click snippets, you can still make the best of it. No press is bad press, as they say, so having your site, your brand, and your content on top of the page is never a bad thing. 

how to effectively use a zero click search to your advantage

Like in the image above, the snippet can be used as a great advertising opportunity and it’s still the best place to be on a SERP. Plus, as in the list above, it doesn’t give up everything and will provide the best odds of pulling any clicks that are to be had on this search.

So, even though it may take some clicks, you should still strive to be that featured snippet and should work toward making all of your content valuable enough that people want to click on it even if their question is answered on the SERP.


The importance of brand affinity in a zero-click world

Marketers are the ultimate adapters. No matter what gets thrown their way, they figure out the best way to move forward and they’ve done it again. In the episode of Coffee Talks below, we talked with Wistia's Phil Nottingham about creating enriching content and how to shift your content strategy toward Brand Affinity Marketing.

Watch every episode of Coffee Talks now!

The rise of zero-click searches has made it necessary to change the way we think about creating content and the goals of that content. Brand Affinity Marketing is an up and coming trend in marketing that focuses on creating rich and meaningful content with the goal of building a connection with your audience rather than with the goal of showing up on Google. 


Your new goal isn’t to find people searching for a fun marketing video series, it’s to be the fun marketing video series that people are searching for.


Own your audience

When you rely on search engines like Google or YouTube to funnel people to your content, it acts like you’re “renting” your audience. It can be taken away from you in an instant from a new Google feature like snippets or zero-click searches, or from something simple like a change in YouTube’s terms of service. 

Don’t rely primarily on these search engines anymore. 


Wistia Vs. YouTube: Owning Vs. Renting Your Audience

Check out all our MarTechTuesday videos


Work on owning your audience by producing valuable long-form content like a video series, podcasts, or longer, richer blogs. Create the brand affinity with your audience to build a loyal base of people who will keep coming back for more and more.

Using a video software like Wistia to host your videos on your own website gives you many huge advantages that you won’t get on YouTube, advantages that will help you “own” your audience, such as:

  • Obtain an email address: Other than with a paid ad, you have no way to communicate with a specific YouTube subscriber. With subscribers via Wistia, you’ll obtain that coveted email address and be able to maintain a constant line of contact with them. Not only that, but all the information you have on them can be integrated into your CRM.
  • Remarket: With Wistia subscribers you have the power to remarket to your audience on any advertising platform, not just Google Ads. Along with that, you can send personalized emails to advertise your new videos rather than just the standard YouTube ones.

To take a real step toward owning your audience and not leaning so heavily on organic traffic, you must be able to make connections that YouTube simply doesn’t let you make.

People who do SEO know that things are always changing and the rise of zero-click searches presents a unique test. But, adaptation is part of the game for marketers and to meet the challenge, you’ve got to change the way you think when creating content.