Google’s trying hard to satisfy search queries without users having to click onto another site. For our Predictions Deep Dive, Connective3’s Jamie White looks at what that means for brands.Google is constantly adapting the layout of its search engine result pages (SERPs) to ensure that users have access to the best information related to their queries.The past few years have seen this become more common, thanks in large part to the continued development of the Knowledge Graph, a huge database of entity information which allows Google, in its own words, to transition “from being an information engine [to] a knowledge engine”.Combined with technological advances around query understanding, this has resulted in Google using more of the SERP to present information around queries without users needing to navigate to external content.Google wants people to stay within Google. That’s what ‘zero-click search’ means: a search which does not result in a user clicking away from the SERP.A study conducted by Semrush in October 2022 suggests that nearly 26% of searches are zero-click. Evidence suggests that this trend is only developing further.The impact on organic traffic can be considerable, with every person that has their query answered within Google resulting in traffic being taken away from an external website.So, how can SEOs combat this to gain maximum visibility within the SERPs, either through encouraging clicks or building brand recognition by being the source of the information that Google is using?Featured snippetsOne of the best ways to optimize for a zero-click query is to focus on getting your content displayed in Google’s featured snippets. Often referred to as ‘position zero’, a featured snippet is an expanded listing at the top of the SERP which answers a question or provides more information related to your query.To be eligible for a featured snippet, your content must be highly relevant to the query, and presented in a clear and concise manner.The best way to determine this, and then optimize for it, is to check the SERP and understand why the current snippet is displayed at the top. Then decide whether you could provide a better source of information.Certain industry tools provide information about which of your keywords are ranking in SERPs with featured snippets, giving you easy access to the data you need to replace the current snippet.
The knowledge panelBesides featured snippets, you can also focus on Google’s ‘knowledge panel’, which is based on the knowledge graph and can appear very prominently.A knowledge panel will be displayed with information relevant to a query if Google determines that the user would be better served with detailed information about a specific entity.The query ‘Adidas’, for example, has ambiguous intent behind it, so Google displays a knowledge panel as well as traditional web and shopping listings to aid the query.
Optimize your existing organic listingsIn an era where Google is trying to keep users within the SERP, it’s important to ensure that your organic listings are attracting those clicks that are going to external content.Firstly, metadata (page title and description) should be used for both keyword and click-through rate (CTR) optimization. Include key messaging and USPs that will make your result stand out.Additionally, Google allows for the enhancement of SERP listings through structured data optimization. This involves marking up the content on your site so that search engines can understand the context and meaning behind it. You can mark up, for example, reviews, events, recipes, FAQs and product details.Optimizing structured data and having Google include it in your listing can significantly enhance visibility within the SERP. This is known as gaining a ‘rich result’; a 2020 study by Milestone Research found that 58% of organic clicks go to rich results versus 42% going to non-rich results.
People also askAround 2015, Google began featuring a new SERP element: ‘people also ask’. It’s a series of expandable questions that relate to the user’s query. This information is taken directly from external sources and can act as an additional traffic driver.As with featured snippets, the best way to optimize for ‘people also ask’ is to conduct manual checks and figure out how you can answer the question better than the source that Google is currently referencing.As we move into 2023 and beyond, Google will continue to ensure that it is presenting the best possible experience for users. It is striving toward becoming the single source of that information. Smart tactics will be imperative to SEO success in the years to come.For more 2023 tech takes, check out our Technology Predictions hub.