How old is Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Punch that question into Google, and you’ll have an immediate answer at the top of the page (along with pictures, his birthday, height, a short bio, and other tidbits of information). 

This is a zero-click search because you got the information you wanted without clicking on any search results. 

These types of searches are nothing new, as Google has used SERP (search engine results pages) features like rich snippets and knowledge bars for quite some time now. 

Yet, zero-click searches have been on the rise recently, and that trend is set to intensify. 

Things like voice-powered search, brand-new SERP features, and generative AI have increased the number of zero-click searches by a significant margin. 

According to a recent SEMrush study, 25.6% of all Google searches end without the user clicking on any organic results. 

This concerns SEO professionals since the whole point of optimizing content for search engines is to generate more website traffic. If users aren’t clicking on any organic results, your hard-earned SERP rankings are for nothing. 

What should SEOs do about it?

You’ll need to determine whether you want to target zero-click searches or avoid them like the plague, which is what we’re going to cover today. 

Read on to determine whether zero-click searches are your best friend or your worst enemy. 

Why is Zero-Click Search Gaining Popularity?

Besides improving the search experience by providing quick, direct answers to simple queries – zero-click searches are Google’s attempt to encourage platform-native content to its users. 

Why direct users elsewhere when you can keep them engaged on your platform?

This is Google’s philosophy on the matter, but it doesn’t exactly align with the goals of digital marketers and search engine optimizers. 

The fact that Google actively tries to facilitate a zero-click environment doesn’t make things any easier, either. Their newest plan in the works is Google SGE (Search Generative Experience), which has been in its testing phase since May 2023. 

SGE uses artificial intelligence to create ‘Snapshots’ for specific user queries. These AI-powered Snapshots provide direct answers to user queries via a chatbot. 

This is concerning because, with the power of generative AI, the Snapshot can provide direct answers to more complicated queries. 

Old man talking about what Google was for back in the day

At the moment, most SERP features appear for very basic questions and inquiries, such as ‘What time is it in Australia.’ 

Yet, with deep learning and natural language processing, Google’s AI chatbot can provide direct answers to more complex questions. That means whenever SGE goes live, you can expect to see a huge uptick in zero-click searches. 

Voice-powered search is another reason why zero-click searches are taking over. 

If you’ve ever asked Siri or Alexa a question and received an answer, you’ve conducted a zero-click voice search. Since AI virtual assistants are available through smartphones and other devices, this type of search has become extremely popular (there are 1 billion voice searches each month). 

How Do Zero-Click Searches Hurt SEO?

Whenever a SERP feature or AI-generated Snapshot appears at the top of the results page for a keyword, you’ll always be at a disadvantage traffic-wise, even if you’re ranked in the #1 organic spot. 

It has to do with a concept called ‘page real estate.’ 

SERP features and SGE Snapshots appear at the top of the page in a spot dubbed position zero. Not only that, but these types of features have been gobbling up even more real estate as they add pictures, videos, ‘people also ask’ sections and knowledge bars. 

As an example, here’s what Google looks like whenever we enter the keyword ‘SEO.’ 

screenshot of Google Search Result for SEO

As you can see, a featured snippet defines the term SEO for us, and there’s also a ‘people also ask’ section and a knowledge bar on the right. 

In this scenario, you can’t even see the #1-ranked organic result, and this screenshot came from a PC. 

That means the page real estate problem is even more of an issue on mobile devices, which is how most users browse the web. 

SEO’ is a huge keyword, and there are countless websites with targeted content attempting to rank for it. Yet, their efforts were largely all for naught, as most users will get all the information they need from the screenshot listed above. 

The team at Mailchimp are the true winners here, as they’re the lucky dogs that snagged position zero due to some clever optimization, but we’ll get into how you can target SERP features in a bit. 

Doing Detective Work: How to Uncover Zero-Click Search Keywords 

The best way to ensure zero-click searches don’t affect your SEO is to uncover which keywords are most likely to trigger SERP features and AI Snapshots. 

Luckily, it’s not too difficult to identify zero-click search keywords. 

Here are some telltale signs of keywords that have no click potential:

  • Can you answer the question the keyword poses in a sentence or two? 
  • Does the keyword feature lots of paid ads?
  • Does the keyword have lots of SERP features when you run it through Google?

These are all red flags if you want to avoid zero-click search keywords. 

SEMrush’s Keyword Magic Tool makes the process even easier. 

With it, you can quickly determine whether a keyword triggers any SERP features or not. 

Under the Filters tab, go to the SERP features filter and select None

This will filter your results so that only keywords without SERP features will appear, which is extremely handy if you’re trying to avoid zero-click searches. 

Of course, you can always do things the slow way and manually plug each keyword you want to target into Google to see if they’re dominated by snippets and knowledge bars. 

If you’re sticking with traditional organic SEO, you’ll enjoy better click-through rates (CTR) for keywords without any SERP features. These results pages start listing organic results right off the bat, so you won’t be fighting for page real estate. 

To Target Zero-Click Searches or Not to Target Zero-Click Searches: That is the Question 

Now that you know more about zero-click search and how it’s taking over Google, what should you do about it?

First, you need to factor zero-click search into your overall SEO strategy, whether you choose to target them or not. These types of searches are here to stay, so you need to find ways to either get around them or work with them. 

If you ignore zero-click search, you could wind up wasting your marketing budget creating high-quality content for keywords that yield no clicks. 

You’ll have two options: targeting zero-click search keywords to build brand awareness or avoiding them to keep generating as much traffic as possible. 

Option #1: Using Position Zero to Build Brand Awareness and Loyalty 

This is the ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ option. 

Since zero-click search keywords exist, why not use them to your advantage by building brand awareness and credibility?

This tactic involves intentionally targeting zero-click keywords and creating content for them that appears in SERP features like snippets. 

In other words, your brand will be the one providing quick answers to user’s questions at the top of the SERPs. 

Here’s a look at the different types of SERP features you can target to acquire position zero

Featured snippets 

Featured snippets are the most popular type of zero-click search content, and they come in many forms. There are paragraph snippets, carousel snippets, video snippets, table snippets, and list snippets. 

Remember how Mailchimp’s content provided the paragraph snippet for the keyword ‘SEO’?

Well, that wasn’t by accident. 

Their content team intentionally targeted the snippet by optimizing their content for it. For instance, the webpage in question immediately answers the question, ‘What is SEO?’ within the first 100 words. 

This appeals to Google’s algorithm because it was able to find a succinct definition for SEO at the very beginning of the content. That makes it easy for the algorithm to identify the definition and include it in a snippet. 

Imagine if they decided to include the SEO definition smack dab in the middle or at the end of the article. 

The algorithm wouldn’t pick up on it, and they wouldn’t be staring down at the organic results from position zero. 

Featured snippets tend to appear for question-based keywords. To target them, include the titular question at the beginning of the article and answer it in a few clear sentences. 

People also ask (PAA) 

The keyword ‘SEO’ also triggered a ‘people also ask’ section, which is a SERP feature containing a drop-down list of commonly asked questions related to a search query. 

Whenever users click on one of the questions to learn more, a paragraph snippet appears that answers it. Google also cites the web page it drew the answer from, which is something you can target. 

Even if users don’t click through to your content, they’ll see your brand name alongside the paragraph snippet that answers their question. 

That’s why it’s wise to target PAA sections in addition to featured snippets for boosted brand visibility. 

What’s the best way to get featured in PAA sections?

Since Google’s search algorithm is looking for answers to common questions, including FAQ (frequently asked questions) sections at the end of your blogs is the way to go. However, you shouldn’t answer random questions you think your target audience will ask. 

Instead, back your questions up through research by digging through relevant Reddit and Quora posts from your core audience. 

You can also use our free keyword planner tool to uncover commonly asked questions related to your products and services. 

Video snippets 

Arguably, the most effective way to promote your brand through zero-click search is to create engaging short videos that answer common questions related to your industry. 

Why is that?

It’s because a video will contain your brand’s logo, colors, jingles, and brand name. Not only that, but your video’s thumbnail serves as a promotional image, so don’t forget to include your brand’s logo front and center. 

Other SERP features, like paragraph snippets, will only include a blue hyperlink to your website (and possibly a small logo), which doesn’t give you much of a chance to get your brand in front of your audience’s eyes. 

More often than not, users will read the giant text written in bold that answers their question and then immediately click off the page. 

That’s why video snippets are so powerful because they provide full brand exposure in a zero-click environment. 

Local packs 

If you run a local business, then you’ll want to target Google’s local packs, which you’ve seen before if you’ve ever searched for restaurants in your area. 

Certain local SEO keywords, such as ‘sushi near me,’ trigger the local pack, which contains a map along with 3 relevant local businesses (including their address, rating out of five stars, and hours of operation). 

Getting featured in the local pack is a must for any business with a brick-and-mortar location. 

To target local packs, you need to optimize your Google Business Profile (GBP). Make sure that you fill out every section of the profile, and don’t forget to include as many 5-star reviews as possible. 

Option #2: Avoid Zero-Click Search Keywords 

The other option is to keep your keyword lists free and clear of zero-click search queries. That way, you won’t have to compete with any SERP features. 

That means if you snag the #1-ranked organic spot, you’ll be the king of the SERP castle. 

When doing keyword research, exclusively target keywords that don’t trigger any SERP features or AI Snapshots. 

Long-tail keywords are your best friend in this regard, as they’re more obscure and tend not to have snippets and knowledge bars. 

A long-tail keyword is a search query that receives very little search volume – typically around 100 searches per month. 

Despite this, long-tail keywords convert at higher rates than shorter keywords, and it’s easier to identify their intent (such as whether a user is ready to make a purchase). 

There’s also next to no competition due to the low search volume. As a result, you can reach the top of the SERPs for long-tail keywords with minimal effort, and there won’t be any SERP features getting in your way. 

Improving Online Visibility Despite Zero-Click Search 

While those are the two main options for dealing with zero-click searches, there’s no rule stating you can’t combine them for the best of both worlds. 

In fact, that’s the route we recommend you take. 

For zero-click search keywords, you should create content that answers the user’s questions in the most concise way possible. 

When attempting to drive traffic to your most important landing and product pages, ensure you target keywords that don’t trigger SERP features. 

Do you want to thrive with SEO in the age of zero-click search and SGE?

Then don’t wait to put your digital marketing on autopilot with HOTH X, our managed SEO service featuring dedicated campaign managers who will take your online visibility to the next level.