The SEO world has been buzzing about Featured Snippets for a while now. I’ve written at length about Featured Snippets and I’ve developed strategies for many of my clients, helping them achieve “Position Zero” for high-traffic terms.
Many rightly see Featured Snippets as an opportunity. After all, optimizing for Featured Snippets also means you are optimizing for voice search, as this is where most voice search answers are sourced from.
But innovations like Featured Snippets, along with knowledge panels, maps, videos, and other elements that now appear on results pages have eliminated the need for many searchers to click through to the website hosting the original content. This phenomenon has been termed the “no-click search” and according to several studies, it has seen a dramatic increase over the past few years.
According to research by Jumpshot commissioned by Sparktoro, in Q1 of 2019 almost 49% of Google searches were resolved without a click, meaning the searcher found the answer they were looking for within Google and never had to click through to another website.
On the surface, this looks like bad news for website owners. The truth is a little more complicated, but it is certain that for many searches Google wants to provide as much information as possible within the search result. For companies who invest time and money to create content in order to attract clicks, the rise of no-click searches will seem like an incredibly frustrating phenomenon.
No-Click Searches Are Not the End of SEO
You might think, “If Google is going to use my content and not even give me a click, why should I bother?”
For my money, SEO is still a much better investment than social media or paid search. Why?
The other part of the story is that, according to the same research, in Q1 2019 Google directed a click to non Google/Alphabet owned websites after 45% of queries.
When you consider that Google handles around 5 billion searches a day (according to Internet Live Stats) that’s still a ton of organic traffic out there. And, the total number of Google searches has continued to grow year on year. New innovations like voice search could add to that growth.
While there has been an increase in paid clicks over the last few years, they still only make up about 15% of total clicks.
It’s also true that Google has been getting a lot of attention lately, most notably from the 2018 Congressional hearing but also from many in the marketing and SEO industry who are worried about Google’s practices of sending traffic to its own sites.
If Google pushes too far, there is likely to be an uproar from the many small and medium sized businesses, entrepreneurs and others who depend on organic search for their livelihood.
Beating the No-Click Trend
The truth is, organic traffic and SEO are not going anywhere anytime soon. Google is unlikely to move to a 100% paid search model and even if organic clicks decline further, optimization will only become more important, as you will be fighting with your competitors over a smaller slice of the search pie.
Investing in SEO now is an insurance policy that will put you ahead of your competitors should the worst case scenario play out. And if it doesn’t, you’ll still be ahead.
But remember that Google currently handles around 5 billion searches per day. Even if the number of no-click searches grows, there’s still going to be billions of searches with clicks.
It’s also time to start thinking about “On-SERP SEO”. Optimizing for Featured Snippets, knowledge panels, and other no-click results isn’t a waste of time. If you manage to secure multiple high-traffic featured snippets in your niche, searchers will start to remember your name. It can build interest in your offering and eventually lead to more clicks.
More than anything, you should be looking at building your brand and authority outside of Google in anyway you can. Not every problem can be solved by an answer box, and if you are a respected voice in your niche, eventually prospects with more substantial questions will be compelled to visit your website.
For more great content on SEO, check out my interview with Mike King on the Marketing Speak podcast.