Long ago, a Google search yielded 10 links to helpful websites—that’s it.
But now, any given search can turn up featured snippets and knowledge graphs answering the query. Additionally, a “people also ask” section now provides context and seemingly endless ads.
As a result, more searchers are finding answers without making a single click.
But content marketers shouldn’t lose hope!
Instead of abandoning SEO, embrace the Google algorithm. Keep providing your audience with key insights by optimizing for featured snippets.
This article will explain zero-click searches. Plus, how to keep earning valuable traffic and conversions while working with Google’s knowledge.
What is a zero-click search?
A zero-click search occurs when a user finds their answer without needing to visit any website outside the search engine results page (SERP).
Zero-click searches are everywhere.
Analyzing more than 600,000 searches, Semrush found that as many as 57% of users on mobile and 53% on desktop don’t click on an organic or paid result.
The majority of zero-click searches are a result of Google’s SERP features. This could be the Local Pack for businesses-near-me searches, carousels for recipes, or the expanded Google Shopping features.
For eCommerce businesses, Google’s SERP evolution has caused stress.
According to Semrush, 83% of all traffic comes from people navigating directly to retailer sites. Meaning the ability to shop directly from the SERP is a major concern. But for businesses building a full content strategy, zero-click searches are less of a challenge and more of an opportunity.
How do featured snippets affect web traffic?
As mentioned above, zero-click searches are on the rise.
Nearly 60% of searchers found their answers without visiting any results. But that 60% does not mean your top-performing content is going to take a 60% decrease in traffic.
Many users will find an answer in the featured snippet at the top of the SERP.
A featured snippet, sometimes called “position zero” is a rich result at the top of the page. It’s often in larger text. Google shows a sentence or two directly answering the search query from an organic result.
According to an oft-cited Ahrefs study, prior to the introduction of the featured snippet, almost all organic traffic went to the top three results. Specifically, 30% to the first, 25% to the second, and 15% to the third. After featured snippets started showing up, the SERP-provided link stole 10% away from the top result.
For websites that now find their first position usurped by a different website’s position zero, that can sting. But for a website optimized for the featured snippet, it’s great news.
How to optimize for featured snippets
Google primarily determines indexing and ranking by crawling the web with bots.
Featured or rich snippets are no different.
While Google combs your site to index and ranks its content, the algorithm also gauges whether your content might make an ideal featured snippet to highlight for a search query. That means the best way to earn a featured snippet is to keep providing high-quality, helpful content.
However, there are some tips and tricks to make your content more likely to be featured:
Answer frequently asked questions
Those “people also asked” and “related searches” sections should be giving you ideas for content. Directly answering question-based queries related to your topic could earn you a featured snippet in related searches.
Focus on question words
Even outside of FAQ or related searches, question-based queries are your friend in the game of featured snippets. According to Semrush, 29% of keywords that triggered a featured snippet start with a question word like “why” or “can.”
Structure information naturally
If you Google “how to do laundry,” the featured snippet is a numbered list of steps (good luck!). If you Google “types of cat toys,” it shows a few bullet points. Those queries ask for more than a sentence. If it makes sense to do so, bulleted or numbered lists can help both humans and Google bots understand that you’re answering a question.
Stay on topic
Google pulls 2-3 sentences for a featured snippet. If you’re trying to be the Google-approved definition, try to have a short and sweet answer without venturing too far into the weeds.
Google, and readers, love visual content. According to Semrush, featured snippet hubs have an average of 8 images breaking up long walls of text. If you want your image to be a part of the snippet, make sure to optimize them for thumbnails in terms of the crop.
Deploy schema markup
Schema markup is a way to tell Google exactly what your content is trying to say. Also called structured data, schema markup uses code to help sort your content into different boxes, such as:
- Organization Schema: who you are
- Local Business: where you are
- Product page: what it is
- Job Listing: what you want
- Event Page: what to do
- Video Page: how to see
- How To: how to
- FAQ: did you know
- Article: what you say
Many content management systems automatically implement schema for structured lists. However, a content agency may need to help you with a more complex schema.
When to optimize for zero-click searches
Now that you know how to benefit from a zero-click search, let’s talk about when to do it.
There are some queries you’ll want to let go of.
Location-based questions answered on your blog likely aren’t going to beat the local pack for “best bagels near me.” Similarly, it will be easier to optimize your product listing to appear in Google shopping than aim for a blog or content page.
If you have a high-quality piece of content that hasn’t earned a snippet, consider going back and updating it. Add fresh data so you’re more up-to-date than the current position zero. Answer more questions to snag snippets for related queries.
Alternatively, check Google Search Console and see other searches people are making to land on that page.
Work smarter, not harder, for clicks
In the past, Google was the people’s platform. Running only on the idea of connecting those who know with those who want to know. The platform has changed significantly since then. Not in small part because it’s a billion-dollar company. However, the tenants of helping people learn are still there.
When faced with zero-click searches, try to build content that is helpful and makes people want the long answer. Even though they have the short one right there.
If you need help identifying opportunities for featured snippet optimization, get help with SEO best practices from ClearVoice.