Whether through featured snippets and knowledge graphs, or carousels of movie times and podcast episodes, Google’s SERPs have increasingly become a one-stop-shop for users’ needs. This has led to a rise in what has been termed “zero-click search”, where results pages provide enough information to save users from clicking onto any organic results at all.
As previously reported, these zero-click searches account for just shy of 55% of all Google search results, outdoing organic results altogether. And with users becoming more reliant on these integrated SERP features — including job listings and social media feeds, as well as familiar paid results, all viewable on Google itself — SEO practitioners might think they have their work cut out trying to optimize for space in that remaining 45%.
But rather than think of it as futile, consider it instead as an opportunity. As with any significant change to how Google presents its results pages, zero-click is not as much of a hurdle as you might think. Read on to learn more about how you can tailor your search strategy to make zero-click work for you.
If you work in SEO, you’ll be familiar with the strands of data which are used by the main keyword tools to help you determine which terms are most worth optimizing for, such as search volume and where your pages currently rank for those terms. In an increasingly zero-click SERP landscape, however, there is one often neglected metric which could see you rethinking your wider strategy. That is CPS, or clicks-per-search.
CPS data is particularly useful in the context of zero-click, as it takes into account the rate of traffic these keywords obtain from people finding your page through SERPs, rather than simply how many people are looking for the term itself. If your pages rank well but achieve a low CPS, then you’ll know it’s time to re-optimize your content for related keywords with a better CPS rate.
Featured snippets make up a huge part of the zero-click landscape, though they only appear for 12.3% of search results in total. Ahrefs has noted that around 82% of them are presented in paragraph form, with 11% showing as a list, and 7% as a table. Consequently, not only should you be identifying featured snippet opportunities relevant to your website, but you should also be considering how to best format your content to have the best chance of occupying a given featured snippet.
SEO tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush can tell you which queries already exist with featured snippets, helping you to find opportunities to create relevant snippet-worthy content that appeals for long-tail search queries. You should keep it concise, no more than 55 words and use HTML to appropriately mark up any lists or tables.
Keep user intent in mind, and be sure to adapt your content to the way a query’s current featured snippet is presented on SERPs.
One other reason for zero-click search’s increased prevalence is the sheer number of resources and tools that Google has at its disposal. Naturally, from a commercial point of view, Google wants to promote and prioritise these features to users. It’s therefore critical that your business’s profiles and content on each Google property are optimized accordingly. This can give it the best chance of being seen at the top of SERPs, which goes beyond the confines of regular organic search.
To maximize your chances of visibility in these areas of SERPs, you should ensure that you have filled out all relevant information on your Google My Business profile, which will also be beneficial when it comes to your Google Maps appearance. Likewise, optimizing your YouTube videos with informative, keyword-rich titles and descriptions, and categorizing them correctly will give you the best chances of being seen, and improving your CPS rate.
Despite not necessarily being a ranking factor per se, schema markup is important. Making use of it in tandem with keeping your Google My Business profile updated can encourage crucial data regarding opening times and contact details to be pulled through in SERPs.
Marking your content up will also have benefits when trying to rank for rich answers, snippets or “People Also Ask” queries related to your target keywords, as well as events or information which could appear in carousel view. As noted above, optimizing for these features will allow you to take up more real estate within a results page — and in an increasingly clickless search landscape, this kind of visibility is vital.
In a zero-click SERP landscape, optimizing for all of Google’s metrics is key, and that includes image search. Incorporating eye-catching, unique and relevant images throughout your website is something you learn in web design 101, but it’s easy to make them work for you in an SEO context.
Image filenames and alt-text are two signals that have traditionally been used to rank images within Google’s image search tool. But beyond appearing higher in image results, optimizing images can hold benefits within Google’s organic SERPs. For example, the image in a featured snippet is often provided by a different website than the one from which the text content is taken. This means that, even if your website has been unable to obtain the featured snippet’s text, you have a second opportunity to do so via the featured image.
Edward Coram James is an SEO professional and the Chief Executive at Go Up Ltd, an international agency dedicated to helping its clients navigate the complexities of global SEO and the technical aspects of delivering location-specific pages to targeted audiences.