What We Learned from a Year of Zero Click Searches in SEO

Franco Maffei, VP, Search Engine Optimization

June 3, 2021


The modern-day search user is incredibly impatient. Their expectations are simple yet pose a specific challenge to webmasters and search engines: they want answers, and they want them as quickly as possible. To accommodate this need, major search engines like Google have started to utilize advanced search features that take snippets of information and display them on the actual search results page of a relevant keyword query, enabling users to ask their question and get the information they need without having to venture onto a website. It’s an exciting experience for users when they’re able to gather the facts quickly but creates a situation for webmasters where although the answer sourced was generated from content on their site, and their link was positioned prominently under the snippet, the opportunity to connect with the user and drive them towards conversion might be interrupted because the user never ventures on to the webmaster’s site. They simply interact with the search results page, and  move on in some cases, never clicking the provided link to explore more content. This situation is called “Zero Click Searches.”

Current Status of Zero Click Searches

2020 specifically was an interesting year for Zero Click. With a worldwide pandemic and presidential election, people were looking for supportive information, and were using a lot of question-based queries, which are much more prone to displaying an advanced listing:
•“What are covid symptoms?”
•“When is election day?”
•“How many cases of covid are in my state?”
Overall, the industry has seen much more search activity than normal, which has contributed to an increase in commonality for Zero Click Searches. In fact, according to a study conducted by market research company Sparktoro, Zero Click Searches accounted for 65% of Google searches, which was a significant increase from 50% in 2019. Although this has caused some unique traffic trends for various webmasters, it’s important to keep something in mind: intention of search is still going to be a factor with how Zero Click has impacted your brand.

Zero Click in Pharmaceuticals

With pharmaceutical brands specifically, the journey for in-depth information on treatments and indications is congruent to more detailed research. HCPs and consumers who are performing treatment-related searches are more than likely not going to be interested in a “quick answer.” Their search is going to start with a question that usually leads to another question and formulates a search path that will take them through many stages. This is why we have seen less impact for Zero Click Searches in the pharma world, as other industries have seen. There are instances where we’re confident an advanced listing might fully resolve a user’s search journey (example: “What are side effects for Treatment X?”) but for the most part users in this realm are much more inclined to interact with an advanced listing and continue to explore more information in the source that has provided the response.

Opportunities for the Future

The advancement of search features and users’ ever-evolving search behavior continues to be our driving factor while creating SEO strategies that stay on the cutting edge. The team at CMI Media Group has put strong consideration on how we can leverage Google’s advanced listings and still be able to connect with audiences. Our stance is although advanced listing might create dead end searches for other industries, we’re confident that they can be a very useful element to our optimization strategy for brands, especially considering that these elements and obtaining placement in them have a significant impact on voice search results, which can be a larger part of our innovation strategy.

The balance will be identifying the best keyword opportunities to target for snippets so that we can receive the benefits of having a quick connection with users in the search result via advanced listings and voice search responses, while also optimizing for keywords that we know apply to a more defined search funnel.

Change is a regular part of SEO and being adaptable is the most effective way to continue to impactfully support your audience. Leveraging all elements to create a positive impression is the best way to ensure that you’re making the most out of your digital presence. Incorporating the potential for  Zero Click Searches strategically will help you arrange your resources to focus on short- and long-term audience connections that will give you the means to create a variety of touchpoints throughout the organic space and will reinforce your digital footprint, inform your audience and allow you to meet your business goals.