We all can agree the best source of traffic is organic search. We provide search engines with quality content and in return, we get clicks – and those clicks drive our businesses. The biggest search engine is Google with over 90% market share, and an unparalleled dominance in search.
Google became the industry leader because in its early days, it provided better search results, and content creators with good content were able to get themselves ranked easily. Both the content creators and the people who were searching were happy – it was a simple system that worked well. But lately, with the updates in the Google search engine results page (SERP), content creators are not delighted – and they have good reason.
Change in SERP
There was a time when you could search anything on Google and the SERP would be populated with nothing but blue links.
But now, the Google SERP has changed a lot. It’s getting more difficult to come out on the top of the organic results.
Today, ranking 1st organically doesn’t have the same value that it used to have 5 years ago.
Here’s an example. Here’s a search for social media marketing – and the results.
The fourth screen has the 1st organic search result. Before that, we have:
- Paid Ads
- Featured Snippet
- YouTube videos
- People also ask section
All of these are pushing organic results closer to the grave of the 2nd page.
By looking at this example we need to understand that even if you are ranking 1st in the organic result, your position on the page is 6th-8th!
If you notice, Google shows Google images and YouTube videos in results and sometimes, it will show you the Google maps listing in the SERP. All of these are owned by Google. This means Google is trying to keep searchers on their own properties, one way or another.
Why SERP changed ?
But how did Google do that, and why are they keeping at it?
Google is investing heavily in artificial intelligence.They purchased a company specialising in artificial intelligence called DeepMind for more than $500 million in 2014 – and over the course of the next few years, they bought 38 more companies specialising in artificial intelligence.
And they are doing this because they want to become more like Amazon Alexa – an answer for each question you pose. Users don’t want to dig through long blogs to get what they are looking for – and Google wants to satisfy users’ search intent – as a result, they are moving towards zero-click searches.
What Are Zero Click Searches
When any user searches for anything and leaves the search engine without even clicking a link, it’s defined as a zero click search.
In both of these examples, the user doesn’t have to click any link as their search intent is satisfied. In the first example, there is no need to even click the search button to get the answer. As a result, websites will not get any clicks.
Zero click searches are alarming for many industries. These windows appear just after paid ads.
We tried to search top locations in Bangalore, hotels in Bangalore, and a flight after that to Pune – and here’s what we found.
For top locations these were the results
For online hotel booking this is what google will show you
For online flight booking here is what you will see
There was no need for us to visit a website to get our results – all our queries were fulfiulled with information from the SERP.
This is alarming for large as well small businesses in the hospitality and travel industry and this is just an example.
In quarter 2 of 2019, zero click searches had a 50% share out of 150 billion+ searches in that quarter. And this number is rising year on year.
How CTR plays a huge role in these dynamic environment?
When websites won’t get enough organic clicks even when they rank, the important metric to look at is if the user took a look at the website on the SERP, and then clicked on that link and found your website. In this case, click through rates become a crucial part of SEO results. But take a look at the statistics.
As CTR to organic search decreased by 14.6%, CTR on Ads have increased by 105.97%. In the meantime, zero click searches have also increased by 13.32%.
But the statistics are not the same for mobile and desktop. We know that mobile search surpassed desktop search a while ago. And the major changes in SERP are made on mobile devices.
Organic CTR (mobile) declined by 35.11% but zero click (mobile) increased by 11.42% which is 61.94% of all the searches – WOW! In the meantime, paid CTR (mobile) increased by 245.58%.
Organic CTR (desktop) declined by 7.32% but zero click (desktop) increased by 5.8%. In the meantime, paid CTR (desktop) increased by 71.25%.
The data shows SERP in mobile is changing rapidly and this is a point of concern for SEO pros.
If you look at the complete picture:
Zero click search, Google maps, Google images and YouTube videos will keep users on Google properties. If a user goes further down the first few links, they will see paid links and if they pass that, then they will get to the number 1 ranking organic result.
What then, is the solution for websites that want to get clicks?
1) Get On Google Properties
Start making content on Google properties to get on top when somebody searches your targeted keyword. Make YouTube videos, use SEO optimised images on your website to rank on Google images, optimise your Google My Business listing and make Web Stories to rank on Google Discover (Learn how we got 1million+ impressions through Google Web Stories). This will help you to rank higher on SERPs for your targeted keyword.
While doing keyword research, look for keywords which are already ranking in featured snippets and make the headline enticing enough for the user to click on. Focus on long tail keywords as they are less likely to get answers through featured snippets.
3) Make ID And Influence Publishers
Featured snippets are made on the basis of high ranking organic results. So level up your SEO to get that high organic ranking. Along with that, influence the publishers that are already ranking. For example, you are into the hotel business and list your hotel on different platforms. These platforms already rank high and if Google finds you on all major platforms with good ratings and your own website is optimised, there is a very high chance that your hotel will appear in Google featured snippets.
We need to focus more on on-SERP SEO – people who think SEO is dying are wrong. SEO is evolving and we all have to level up our game to get a piece of the pie.