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SEO & Clickless Google SERPs: How to Deal with Them

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SEO & Clickless Google SERPs: How to Deal with Them

We hear a lot in the SEO community about zero-click searches and the clickless (sic) SERP and much rhetoric (laced with a little conspiracy theory) about Google “not sending users to websites”, just to their own properties.

This is causing people to think Google is the enemy and is destroying their business because they are getting less traffic.

What’s the point of Google sending a user to a website (adding a click, a further task) if there’s no need?

If the answer to a question can be returned right there in the result, isn’t that a perfect end-user experience?

If you go right to the core of what Google does (and has done since day one), it’s satisfying the human need for information.

Yes, you can monetize some of that (as in paid search).

And yes, external content creators that form the basis of Google’s index can frequently benefit from visitors to their web properties.

But that’s exactly what it is: a benefit – not a right.

Over the years, Google has developed (indeed, invented) advanced technology to continually keep a fresh and updated index while at the same time harvesting new content.

It’s a great trade-off: You create content and Google helps end-users find it.

Think about it – if there were no search engines, how would anybody find anything online?

In the early days, Google (and the many other search engines around at the time) returned only the title tag and URL of a web page. Just 10 blue links (there weren’t even ads at that time).

And all was well in the world of SEO.

But then Google introduced something called the snippet – and that was received in much the same way as this zero-click uproar.

In a similar manner, what if the snippet satisfied the information need and the user, therefore, didn’t need to click through to the page?

Well, look, we survived that. In fact, optimizing the snippet for better UX has become an essential element of the art and science of SEO.

Is SEO Dead with Snippets?

In my opinion, the answer is a strong no.

Understanding user intent and developing content to satisfy the information need is crucial as users go through the cognitive stages of:

  • Informational
  • Navigational
  • Transactional

At the informational stage, literally a requirement for early-stage content, the user experience should be instant, simple, and enlightening all at the same time.

Yes, just answering a question provides exactly that.

Not making the user jump through hoops is a mission for Google and if you help Google to achieve that – yes, even with a zero-click result – then Google will surely reward you for it.

The more you can provide a seamless result for Google to provide to the end-user, with your brand attached to it, the earlier you can begin to create brand affinity.

Think about all the co-promotion and sponsorship activity that can tie you to zero-click results with maximum information satisfaction for the end-user.

The main consideration for different approaches on how information is presented to the end-user orbits entirely around the mobile device experience.

But let’s look at how we can optimize rich snippets for better user experience – even when it’s a zero-click result – so that everyone benefits.

How to Optimize for Snippets

Optimizing for snippets can help your brand be more visible at the top of the SERPs.

There are several different formats for snippets but the three most common formats for earning rankings as a Direct Answer or Answer box based on my experience are:

  • Bulleted, itemized list
  • Chart format
  • A short paragraph

GetStat.com studied over 92,000 featured snippet queries and found that:

“Paragraph snippets were most common, showing up in 82 percent of featured snippets. List snippets appeared in 10.8 percent, and table snippets in 7.3 percent. All three occasionally showed images, but the formats never overlapped one another.”

Structuring your content into one of these three formats will give your page the best chance at earning a spot in a Google Answer box when someone asks a question that is related to your business.

In order to make sure your page is optimized, I recommend the following.

  • Adding the search query in the <title> tag
  • Adding the search query in <h1>
  • Marking up code with structured data (Subjective)
  • Using <ol> or <ul> lists or <table>

When using structured data, if applicable, use Speakable schema which helps you identify sections within an article or webpage that are best suited for audio playback using text-to-speech (TTS).

Adding markup allows search engines and other applications to identify content to read aloud on Google Assistant-enabled devices using TTS.

Measuring Snippets  

There are several different tools readily available.

If you use Conductor, SEOClarity, BrightEdge, etc., those tools provide types of searches that are being triggered as a snippet or if your site has featured snippets like quick answers and where they are ranking in the SERPs.

SEMrush is a great alternative which allows you to see if any answer boxes are being displayed by Google for keywords your domain ranks for.

Wrapping Up

Showing up in the featured snippets is an SEO strategy that should not be ignored.

Learn to play the game Google’s way and you will be rewarded in the future and in other ways.

Understand intent. 100% zero-click searches are not transactional so you were never going to get a sale anyway).

Think like a marketer:

  • TV ads are zero-click.
  • Magazine ads are zero-click.
  • Outdoor ads are zero-click.

If advertisers thought like SEO professionals, it would be the end of the advertising industry. However, that does not appear to be the case.

Start with the basics that you do have some control over (you may not have much control immediately over certain zero-click results) and start working on those beautifully rich and end-user rewarding snippets.

Here’s something to think about:

If you’re an SEO professional connected directly to the marketing department and you understand the world of advertising, this should mean something to you.

Instead of looking for the negative of zero-click with an SEO hat on, think about this.

I was on a plane the other day and I pulled the airline magazine out of the seatback to read it. I saw an advert in it for one of our clients. I tried clicking on it many times, but nothing happened.

However, I think I can figure out why it was there and the benefit that comes from it. Now that is food for thought.

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Winston Burton

VP, SEO at Acronym

Winston Burton is an SEO and digital marketing expert with over 12 years of experience. Winston is currently the VP, ... [Read full bio]

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