Around 50% of all searches on Google are zero click searches. This means that it is important for you to know what they are, how they impact your SEO efforts, and whether or not you should aim to get to position zero.
What are zero click searches?
Google introduced position zero in 2014.
Position zero shows featured snippets in the forms of paragraphs, lists, charts, tables, images, and videos. Google shows it above organic searches, as well as paid ads. One of the biggest impacts that position zero has had on the user experience is that it shows the user the requested information within the SERP – which means the user doesn’t have to click through to get the needed information. As you can imagine, this changes the dynamics of how SEO and content marketing works.
As seen in the screenshot above, I googled “when did google introduce position zero” and the answer “2014” was plastered all over my screen. I was curious to see where Google was getting this information from, so I looked at the displayed url. After that, I continued to write this article. In short, I just did a zero click search.
Usually, content marketers and SEOs work hand in hand to create useful content that people will search online. They build backlinks, track keyword rankings, promote their content on multiple channels, and finally get to a point where the page appears on the first page for the relevant keywords.
The idea behind the whole activity is to get organic traffic from search engines. The higher you rank, the more traffic you’ll get. People searching for keywords relevant to your website will see your website on the SERPs and will visit it. This gives you the chance to impress them, maybe turn them into a lead or a return visitor.
At least that’s how it worked before position zero was introduced. Now, people searching for useful information can get it from the SERP without visiting the website providing the information. Given that 50% of the people get the information from the SERP and just leave, it is safe to say that you are missing out on some useful traffic. Let’s explore this further in the next section.
Disadvantages of having your content on position zero
It can lose traffic for you
We have discussed this in some detail up to now. Position zero means zero click searches, and zero click searches mean that you will be losing out on traffic. However, there are several case studies online that suggest that position zero actually gets you traffic, and in fact, zero is the new one.
That being said, the experience will be different for every website. So keep a close eye on google analytics and see whether being on position zero and having that rich snippet is actually helping you in terms of traffic or not.
Trying to get to position zero can be a resource drain
Getting to position zero and having a rich snippet can, at times, be irresistible for SEOs. This means you will be spending a lot of time trying to structure your content in a way that it qualifies to become a rich snippet. This may take away from the user experience and you may end up dedicating time and resources to a page that may not even be related to your top 10 keywords. Make sure the keyword is a high priority keyword and there’s enough traffic to merit the resources spent.
Advantages of having your content on position zero/featured snippets
It is great for brand building
Most people don’t scroll past the first five listings on a SERP. Being on position zero helps you catch the maximum impressions for the keyword you are ranking for, and in most cases, people will at least look at the url and see where google is getting its impressions from.
This will help you establish yourself as an authority in your industry. Users who do not know you will come to know of you, and those who know of you will be reminded of your brand. If you show up on position zero for more than one keyword in your niche, you are likely to establish yourself as a reliable source of information. This should improve your direct traffic and conversion rate.
You enjoy greater real estate on the SERP
The position zero result (or featured snippet) is usually followed by the ‘people also ask’ section as well as ads before you can see other organic results. This means that all people will see among the organic results is your snippet, unless they do not find what they are looking for and continue to scroll down. This kind of real estate was hard to imagine before the introduction of position zero.
How to measure the impact of zero click searches?
You need to keep an eye on the following variables to measure the impact of zero click searches:
Organic impressions of the featured snippet
Your organic impressions should see a major uptick after you get a featured snippet on Google. An improvement in impressions should be counted as an improvement in brand awareness.
Click-through rate of the featured snippet
Ideally, your click-through rate should increase after getting to position zero. That being said, this will be different for every website. If your click through rate drops significantly and you see a noticeable drop in traffic and leads, you should consider using the nosnippet tag. It is very important to study historical data and take seasonality into consideration before you make that decision though.
Now that you are getting tons of impressions, people should be more and more aware about your website and your direct traffic should increase. This is based on the fact that direct traffic is usually an indicator of how strong your brand is. Since every marketing team does multiple brand building activities and brand awareness campaigns, a historical graph that clearly shows ‘before’ and ‘after’ direct traffic will do the trick here.
Conversion rate on your website
Stronger brands have a higher conversion rate. There are many things on your page that affect its conversion rate but if we can consider that all other factors are consistent, you should be able to notice a rise or drop in your conversation rate after you get a featured snippet.
Inbound phone calls
This is also related to brand strength. If you start getting more inbound phone calls after you make it to position zero, you can confidently attribute those inbound leads to your SEO efforts.
How to decide whether or not you need to add a nosnippet tag to your website
A nosnippet tag tells Google to not use your content as featured content at position zero. Usually people use this tag when the featured snippet is hurting them in some way. There are multiple ways you can use the nosnippet tag – you can tell google to skip part of the content or all of the content.
For a detailed version of how to use the nosnippet tag, you can refer to these guidelines by Google.
Usually, the effectiveness of your marketing efforts is measured on the basis of business success. Most ecommerce businesses either use online purchases or inbound leads and pipeline as a measure of online success. While your featured snippet can help in getting all of that accomplished and more, it will often be very difficult to isolate the results of the featured snippet.
You can, however, track impressions, click-through rate, and conversion rate on the page. In case of bigger websites, you will be targeting hundreds of keywords and will have several ranking pages with multiple ranking keywords. In such scenarios, a number of factors can affect your inbound leads, online purchases, and organic traffic.
So do zero click searches add value to your marketing efforts? The conclusion is yes. They help you get your name up there, improving impressions on relevant keywords and strengthening your brand. Featured snippets might lose you some traffic in certain cases, but if you had to choose, it is better for you to occupy position zero than your competitors.
Andrew Wilson is an SEO analyst at Rank Genie. He loves to watch movies, listen to podcasts, and plan about launching his own podcast. He has helped the Rank Genie team shape their rank tracker and make it one of the most easy-to-use and SEO friendly trackers out there. You can find him on LinkedIn and his blogs on www.RankGenie.com.