Zero click searches have been at the core of numerous marketing debates as of late. Missed opportunity, lost conversions, and search engine monopolization are just a few of the issues arising in these discussions. These fears and anxieties resurfaced in large part due to a second study published by Rand Fishkin, founder of Sparktoro, using data from SimilarWeb. The title of the study boldly claims “In 2020, two-thirds of Google searches ended without a click”.
According to the study, nearly 65% of Google searches ended without a click to another web property in 2020. Diving deeper, 77.22% of searches on mobile resulted in a zero-click search, and 46.48% of searches made on a desktop being zero-click searches. Previous research conducted by Sparktoro had indicated that nearly 50% of searches resulted in a zero-click search.
While the new study has prompted both widespread discussion and rebuttals among local SEOs and businesses alike, we wanted to enlist the help of local marketing experts to hear from their perspective about the validity of the research, how zero-click searches impact businesses, and address concerns we’ve been hearing.
To do this, we hosted a webinar recently where we were joined by Jeff Ferguson, Head of Production at Amplitude Digital, Jeff Coyle, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer for MarketMuse, and Noah Learner, Product Director at Two Octobers.
We encourage you to watch the full-on-demand recording, however, we’ve rounded up some of our panel’s key takeaways below.
The Zero-Click Search Study Has Its Flaws
As with most research studies, sample size and location of respondents plays a critical role in determining the validity of the study. As Sparktoro indicates in their follow-up study, “this data isn’t apples to apples” with what was published in 2019. In the initial study, Jumpshot’s panel was US-only. The data for this study came from SimilarWeb, which is worldwide and combines both mobile and desktop devices.
Aside from using a different panel from their first study, our panel collectively agreed: the data from the study has its flaws and is not an accurate portrayal of the exact percentage of zero-click searches. Additionally, they noted the third-party provider data does not take into consideration why people a click may not have been made due to:
- A search that wouldn’t require a click (such as looking for a definition, the score of a sporting event, calculations, looking for a phone number, weather in a certain city, and many more instances.)
- Navigating to Google Maps instead of a link for driving directions
- Finding the answer to their question in a featured snippet
- Reformulating a search to return better search results
When questioned about the aforementioned, Fishkin stated that:
The study made no attempt to explain why a searcher might not click, but numerous explanations are possible.
I think “more & more searchers are unhappy with Google’s results” is actually quite unlikely vs. more get direct answers in the SERPs, but this data can’t prove that.
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) March 22, 2021
In a rare rebuttal, Google responded to Fishkin’s study stating “Google Search sends billions of clicks to websites every day, and we’ve sent more traffic to the open web every year since Google was first created”. The search platform delved deeper into the reasons why searchers may not click a search result and how these types of searches shouldn’t be categorized as a zero-click search.
Google Remains King In Search, Despite Recent Controversy
Google remains a cause of contention for businesses and recently, even the Australian government. Does Google have too much power and can they be stopped? Taking down the largest search platform in the world is a battle that likely won’t be won anytime soon. As of March 2021, Google had a search engine market share of 92.41%.
Our panel agreed that Google is becoming more of a power player than ever before, and became arguably even more of an inevitable need for local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic when quick updates to key business information became a necessity. New updates to attributes, health and safety features and more became a priority amid the pandemic, and we anticipate Google will continue to consider businesses’ needs for future developments.
“The results on Google are the best I’ve seen. There are things I can find on Google now that I’ve been trying to find for years. We are getting into the golden age of search.” -Jeff Ferguson, Head of Production at Amplitude Digital
Brands Must Evolve With Search To Avoid Being Left Behind
Technology is ever-evolving and local search is no exception. The exact percentage of zero-click searches may be unknown and can only be somewhat predicted by studies similar to Fishkin’s study (until Google conducts their own study), the fact is search is changing. Consumers are seeking answers quickly, easily, and effortlessly. They’re finding that information in their search results, without needing to click your website’s link. To keep up, businesses must evolve and shift with current consumer behavior trends. This starts with revisiting current content that’s performing well to see where updates can be made and identifying any gaps where new content is needed.
To guide your local marketing efforts in an era of zero-click search, our panel suggests:
Want more zero-click search insights and opportunities? Check out the following resources:
- Why Should Enterprise Brands Care About Zero-Click Searches?
- INFOGRAPHIC: 10 Compelling Insights That Prove the Opportunities Zero-Click Searches Present
- Local Search Trends and Predictions for 2021: Ask the Experts