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How to Win in the World of Zero-Click Searches

Posted by Jesse McCambridge on August 7, 2019 at 9:30 AM

2For years, Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) has been a critical driver of digital success for brands. The simple concept (boost rankings and get clicks) has become a full-fledged billion-dollar industry. Competition for top keywords is fierce with some of the most expensive PPC keywords run well over $50 per click.

Over 90% of online experiences start on a search engine. Whether these are funnel-driven experiences or simply click-by-shoppers, SEO helps brands boost conversions and stay digitally relevant. So, what happens when users stop finding your website through search engines? And, how do brands evolve when over half of the population stops clicking?

Welcome to zero-click searches where over half of all digital searches come from.

What Are Zero-Click Searches?

Zero-click (or no-click) searches happen when users find the relevant information to their Google search before clicking on a link. So, let's say a user wants to attend a Dave Matthews Band concert in Atlanta. Uh oh! They forgot the date! When that user searches "Dave Matthews Band concert Atlanta" in Google, they may find their answer displayed on the front page without ever needing to click a link. This user just performed a zero-click search.

These zero-click searches can come in a variety of ways. Maybe Google displays the simple answer to a math problem. Or, maybe a user is looking for the phone number for a local business. In the past, they would have to visit that business's website and scout out the number. Today, Google My Business displays that number front-and-center.

And zero-click searches aren't just happening sometimes. Over 60% of mobile searches are zero-click searches. The days of measuring the value of SEO campaigns by click-through-rates is slowly dying. Instead, Google's hyper-intent driven algorithms are forcing brands to get savvy with SEO and use it to help them build a larger, more robust marketing strategy.

Understanding Zero-Click Searches

So, how did we get here? Why are zero-click searches even a thing? In the "golden days," clicks were virtually guaranteed to one of the top 10 pages on an organic search. Today, half of Google users aren't clicking a single link.

First, it's important to clarify that there are three main search types that end up as zero-click searches:

The Three Ds of Zero-Click Searches

  1. Direction-oriented searches: Search results for places, locations, and businesses. These are almost always local and often carry tags like "near me" or "open now."
  2. Database-oriented searches: Search results for dates, times, currency, math, or any other small snippet of information that can be quickly answered by Google.
  3. Dictionary-oriented searches: Search results for names, places, things, or anything that can be answered by a dictionary, thesaurus, or encyclopedia.

So, why do these types of searches typically end as no clicks? It's almost always due to SERP features. In particular, Google has 5 SERP features that can satisfy the search intent of users without ever requiring a click.

  1. Knowledge Panel
  2. Knowledge Cards
  3. Local Packs
  4. Related Questions
  5. News Box

These 5 features make the bulk of those zero-click searches. And, trying to fight knowledge panels and answer boxes with SEO juice isn't going to work. Yes! You can break into the Local Pack (a.k.a the "Snack Pack") And, you can break into some of the snippets (e.g., News Box, Related Questions, etc.) But, the zero-click search economy requires a different approach to ranking.

It's no longer about whether or not you can rank for a high-traffic keyword. It's about whether you should.

Marketing for Opportunity Over Intent

Since the birth of SEO, we've all been chasing intent. It's the golden word. But, intent in today's world of zero-click searches and voice searches in complicated. Trying to rank an article about the year George Washington was born is probably futile. The vast majority of people are going to see the year in the knowledge card and walk away satisfied.

In today's ecosystem, it's all about chasing opportunity over intent. What kinds of searches lead to open-ended questions that aren't easily answered? And, how can you find opportunity in keywords and search phrases?

Open-ended questions are great rank material -- since a knowledge card or factoid isn't going to stop the user dead in their tracks. Additionally, long-form content that addresses broader questions is also a surefire way to get clicks.

You can rank for the most popular keyword in the universe. But, if 80% of people searching for that keyword aren't clicking links, is it really that valuable? Surviving the zero-click age of search requires a keen eye for keywords and keyword research. You should leverage a digital agency that understands the nuances of keywords beyond the click-through-rate -- this includes agencies that understand the value of Google My Business.

Google My Business and Zero-Click Searches

While all of the Google SERP features like rich snippets have certainly created zero-click searches, they aren't the largest driver of them. That would be Google My Business (or GMB). Over 45% of ALL Google searches are local in nature. And, 1 in 2 of those local searches will end up visiting that local location within hours of their search. That's a TON of business being driven by local searches.

It may be easy to point to zero-click searches as a villainous CTR destroyer. But, most of those no-clicks aren't lost conversions, they're just not digital conversions.

Here we run into two primary opportunities for brands.

  1. Getting in the Google My Business listings (particularly the "snack pack") can net you tons of conversions.
  2. If you're not location-oriented (e.g., an eCommerce brand) you can save time and money by targeting non-local keywords.

1. Getting in Google My Business Listings

If you want to win with zero-click searches, you need to be on Google My Business. Really, every local business needs to be on Google My Business.  By 2021, local searches from mobile alone will drive $1.4 trillion to local businesses. And, 78% of local searches result in offline purchases.

And, almost ALL Google My Business searches are no-clicks. So, measuring clicks isn't the best strategy for local businesses. The majority of your digital traffic will come from no-clicks. And, that traffic is still bringing you tangible value in the form of purchases; they're just more difficult to track.

For local businesses, this means getting on local search directories like Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, etc. is crucial towards your success as a brand. You want to be easily found. And, you're banking on those zero-click searches. They're your bread-and-butter.

2. Anti-Targeting Local Keywords

For non-location-oriented brands, staying clear of local keywords is a great way to remain lean and drive more opportunity to your business. Why spend time ranking for "best t-shirts in Atlanta" if the first results are ALL going to be locations. Sure, your brand may make t-shirts in Atlanta. But, if you don't have a location, you're missing out on a serious revenue stream from clicks. Instead, work with your digital agency to create a strategy that involves opportunity-driven keywords.

How Cox Media Group Local Solutions Empowers Brands in the Zero-Click Search Economy

At Cox Media Group Local Solutions, we're focused on delivering unique solutions to businesses based on their needs and pain points. So, if you're a local business looking to convert offline using digital strategies, you shouldn't be worried about click-through-rates or any other vanity metric that could overshadow your results.

Instead, you should be focused on appearing in as many local and global directories as possible and driving high-value local traffic to your business. Similarly, if you're a non-location-oriented business, you should be focused on opportunity-driven search strategies that leverage industry insights and smart keyword analysis to rank for high-value searches with conversion intents.

With unique solutions like Cox Targeted Display and Cox OneSearch, we can help your brand define and execute a robust marketing strategy that reaches far and wide. And, with Cox Analytics, we can use best-of-breed analytics and conversion metrics to help you measure success across a wide variety of channels, marketing atmospheres, and digital locations.

We've been in the media business for well over 100 years and we've learned a thing-or-two about customers during that time. It's not about finding your customers; it's about giving them a reason to find you.

Leveraging fluid customer journeys, we help businesses Get Noticed. Be Found. And Convert. In that order.

Are You Ready to Get Noticed, Be Found, and Convert?

With data-driven campaigns, smart strategies, and cutting-edge insights, Cox Media Group Local Solutions can help you take your campaigns to the next level. Zero-click searches are just one of the thousands of nuances that litter the SEO space. And, SEO particulars like zero-click searches can have a profound impact on your goals and strategies.

Are you ready to grow your local business faster using digitally-proven marketing methods that get more customers in your door? Or, are you a digitally native brand looking to explode your growth and set up the building blocks for a bigger, brighter future? Contact us! We're ready to help you win!

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