Zero-click searches – the results appearing at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs), negating the need for a click-through – have long intrigued the SEO community. Virtually impossible to measure, these searches bring value to web pages, but their results cannot be tracked or analyzed. And, with Google’s slew of new SERP features keeping users on results pages without requiring them to click through, zero-click searches feel like an impossible gray area and a major gap in SEO.
Of course, that doesn’t stop SEOs from trying to understand them. New research into zero-click searches comes from Rand Fishkin, founder of SparkToro. If this feels like déjà vu, it’s because Fishkin ran a similar study in 2019 that went viral, using data from Jumpshot, the now-defunct clickstream data company. For this latest research, released as a follow-up to the 2019 study, Fishkin used data from SimilarWeb (already, this poses a problem).
The SimilarWeb data, gathered from 5.1 trillion global Google searches on both mobile and desktop, found that nearly 65 percent of all Google searches ended without a click, up from 50 percent in 2019. The Jumpshot data, on the other hand, had been collected from 1 billion searches from desktop and Android devices – meaning these results should be taken with an even bigger grain of salt.
In the study, Fishkin all but states outright that Google is “stealing” traffic, sending fewer visitors to websites every year to assert its monopoly power and control over the search sphere. Well, someone disagrees, and that someone is Google.
Releasing an article, written by Danny Sullivan, on Wednesday, Google contradicted SparkToro’s research with a few facts of its own, claiming that the traffic sent to the open web has increased year-over-year since Google Search was launched. Google also raises another valid point: Search connects users with businesses in many different ways that go beyond clicking through to a website, such as enabling a phone call.
Sullivan includes three additional examples of context that were omitted from Fishkin’s report:
- People reformulate their search queries.
- People search for quick facts.
- People navigate directly to apps.
While Google as a business is far from innocent, the consensus in the SEO community is that, well, Google has a point. Research without context simply doesn’t paint the full picture, and by ignoring several valid limitations, the results are questionable at best. Having said that, many search engine marketers are siding with SparkToro. What’s your stance on the matter?
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