Zero-click searches provide the whole answer to a search query on the search engine results page itself, without the need to click on a link to an external website. They are becoming increasingly common – especially among mobile users, where over 50% of searches result in no links being clicked on – and have obvious implications for businesses looking to drive traffic to their website.

Google is constantly looking to improve user experience by providing information in the quickest way possible. But they are also keen to keep users on their search engine instead of losing them to other sites. Zero click answers allow them to achieve both these goals simultaneously.

This may sound disastrous for businesses looking to drive more traffic to their website. But zero-click searches are not going anywhere, and there are plenty of positives to be gained by them. So by embracing them, businesses can use these searches to their advantage.

What is a Zero Click Search?

A Zero-click search is a search where the answer to the search query is provided at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) in position #0, so the user doesn’t need to click on a link to find the answer.

It may be a short one or two-word answer to a simple question, or a paragraph pulled directly from a source website that answers the question without further research needed. Zero click searches are best suited to particular types of query – specifically those that require an instant, simple answer.

Common types of Zero Click Searches

Instant Answer

Many Google searches are made because people want a quick answer to a specific question. Perhaps they are arguing with their friend about which city is the capital of Australia. Or they want to know the age of their favourite actress. Instant answer features the answer in a few words in large font, often followed by more information and a link to the source webpage.

Featured Snippets

Featured snippets will display a selected paragraph from a webpage that specifically and concisely answers the search query. The source website will still be linked to, with the option for users to click to see the full article. However, the essence of their question will already have been answered by the snippet, reducing the need to continue reading.

Lists

Google will often feature answers to a question in the form of a list. This may be taken directly from a list within a page, or be formed of the subheadings within an article.

Knowledge Panel

The knowledge panel appears as a block to the right-hand side of the screen. It gives basic information about a business, person or country for example, displayed in list form. Businesses, musicians or artists can submit an information sheet to Google to be entered into their database, so that their information is displayed in this way. This can be a useful way to make your business easily searchable. And by optimising keywords in your business description, you can improve your chances of being featured for searches related to your goods or services.

Other Google Native functions

Google has developed – and continues to develop - various native functions to answer particular searches directly. These include:

  • Maps
  • Weather
  • Calculator
  • Dictionary
  • Finance (for currency conversions)

Whilst some of these collaborate with other organisations – for example the currency conversion data is provided by Morningstar – these functions enable Google to be independent of external websites and provide the solution to the users query themselves. Once again, they achieve the dual aim of satisfying their user’s request in a clear and easy format, whilst maintaining the attention of internet users and building their own authority in a range of areas.

How should businesses react to zero-click searches?

Although the volume of no-click results may seem daunting – 33% of desktop searches and 55% of mobile searches according to the Perficient Digital report – there is still plenty of room for optimism:

  • Zero click searches are suited to a specific search type – one where the user is looking for a short simple answer to a question, rather than to browse or read more detailed information. For many businesses - particularly those targeting transactional searches – this will not detract from their usual users.
  • Paid ads are shown to take clicks from zero click results. So paid ads remain generally unaffected by the no-click format.
  • Branded Ads have a far higher click through rate (CTR) than non-branded ads. Branded searches are therefore fare more likely to result in a click through to your website.
  • Being featured in the zero-click search result such as featured snippets or the knowledge panel can greatly improve the authority and visibility of your website or business. Users will have greater trust in your site since Google is positioning you as the top source for the information they provide.

All the same, since zero-click searches continue to build momentum, there are several things businesses can do to adapt and keep up with these changes.

How to optimise for zero-click searches

  • Optimise for Carousels, Featured Snippets, Lists, etc – Whilst these features may reduce the overall CTR on searches, they generally enhance the CTR of the featured website. Consider including concise, clear answers to specific questions within the body text of your blog or website content, to increase chances of it being used in a featured snippet.
  • Submit information for a knowledge panel about your business– make sure Google has detailed – optimised – information about your brand that can be made available to users. You will also want to ensure you are optimised to be featured highly in Local Pack – where Google lists local businesses on maps.
  • Use Analytics to measure CTR – not just search volume – of a keyword. Just because a keyword has a high search volume does not mean it is likely to translate into a high number of search visits. Some search terms have a far higher CTR than others due to the nature of the content they are searching for (i.e. whether it lends itself to a zero-click search). Make sure you are optimising for keywords that have a high CTR.
  • Prioritise long tail search queries in your SEO - these are much harder for Google to provide zero-click answers to, so CTR remains high.