Zero-Click Searches

Less than Half of Google Searches Now Result in a Click

What Are Zero-Click Searches Exactly?

A zero-click SERP is one where the answer is displayed directly at the top of a Google search result.

The search intent of the user is satisfied without having to click any actual search result links.

We’ve passed a milestone in Google’s evolution from search engine to walled-garden. In June of 2019, for the first time, a majority of all browser-based searches on Google.com resulted in zero-clicks. 

Three trends are made clear by these numbers:

  1. The percent of searches available as organic traffic from Google is steadily declining, especially on mobile.
  2. Paid clicks tend to increase whenever Google makes changes to how those results are displayed, then slowly decline as searchers get more familiar with spotting and avoiding them.
  3. Google’s ongoing attempts to answer more searches without a click to any results OR a click to Google’s own properties are both proving successful. As a result, zero-click searches, and clicks that bring searchers to a Google-owned site keep rising.

What’s a smart marketer, entrepreneur, or web creator to do?

  • Find ways to get value from zero-click searches
  • Seek out keywords whose results have higher CTR opportunity
  • Get your content optimized on Google’s own properties (YouTube, Maps, Images, AMP, Knowledge Panels, etc.)
  • Hope that the recently opened investigations into Google’s anti-competitive behavior yield results (either findings that this behavior isn’t anti-competitive, or consequences that return market opportunity)

Is Google a Monopoly?

On July 23rd, 2019 after a United States Congressional panel asked Adam Cohen, Google’s representative, direct questions about Google’s activities (video link) and found his responses… lacking… the Chairman of the committee, David Cicilline (of Rhode Island), sent this extraordinarily clear request (full PDF here).

When zero-click searches in browsers passed 50%, and even before that, Google was sending a huge portion of search clicks to their own properties (~6% of queries and ~12% of clicks). Those properties include YouTube, Google Maps, Android, Google’s blog, subdomains of Google.com, and a dozen or so others (full list here).

Maybe Google’s websites are ranking exclusively because they’re the best result, but if Congress is asking questions about whether it's a monopoly it is undoubetedly abusing its market dominance. Google is almost certainly even more dominant than the chart suggests. That’s because mobile apps, which aren’t included in this data — this is only browser-based search data. However, the Google Maps App, Google Search App, and YouTube are installed on almost every mobile device in the US, and likely have so much usage that, if their search statistics were included, Google’s true market share would be 97%+.

That makes Google a clear monopoly in search. And a lot of folks think it’s somewhere between odd and suspicious how well Google’s features and properties have done over time. The general position among SEO's is that if you want to rank high, you give Google what it wants. It's a hard choice -- if you don't give them what they want you risk losing traffic and if your competitors do you'll still lose the traffic? So what is your position?

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