As of June of last year, for the first time, a majority of all browser-based searches on Google.com resulted in 0 clicks!

This coming from search expert Rand Fishkin. This has nothing to do with algorithm changes; rather, it’s all about the way Google’s search engine results pages (SERP) are configured. More and more, you’re seeing knowledge panels, answer boxes, and featured snippets that are taking up real estate on the page and they’re often answering the questions that people are searching to find which means that they no longer have to click through to your website to get the answer. They’re getting it right on the search results page.

Because of this, it can be argued that Google is turning into the competition!

If you’re not familiar with these SERP features, here’s a quick overview:

  • Knowledge Panels: These are information boxes that appear on Google when you search for people, places or things.
  • Answer Boxes: The answer box is a feature on the SERP that is powered by either a knowledge graph or it is information that Google has scraped from a website. The answer box is also referred to as Position Zero because it shows up above all other listings. We’ve written about Postion Zero and how to optimize for it, in the past.

Knowledge Panel

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Answer Box

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Of these two SERP features, the asnwser box represents the largest competition to most businesses. Historically, you optimized pages on your website to answer the questions that people were searching for. Now they can often times get their answer without even noticing you, even if you’re website page is in the 1st or 2nd position on the search results page.

Now We’ve Got BERT

BERT is Google’s biggest algorithm update in the past five years. According to Search Engine Land, BERT will impact 1 in 10 (a huge impact) of all searchs. BERT started to roll out last November and BERT stands for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers”. To put that into normal language, BERT is a learning algorithm that focuses on natural language processing to figure out the answer to “what does the user really want”.

The part of this algorithm update that needs to be pointed out is that BERT is applied to both rankings and featured snippets (which the answer box is one of). This seems to indicate that we can expect to see an increase in the answer box snippet as a result of the direction that Google is taking.

What To Do

There are a couple of things that you can do, strategically, to try to minimize the fall out of your search traffic.

  • Get In The Box: If Google is going to have answer boxes at the zero position, get your website listed in one. You may not get traffic from that listing but at least you’ll have a little brand exposure.
  • Phrase Strategy: Stop, for the love of all that is search, optimizing for one and two word phrases! Start optimizing for the long-tail phrases that people are using to get answers, answers that you can provide. Search queries that contain 3,4,5 or 6 words account for 54.31% of all searches.
  • Omnichannel: Reduce Google’s impact on your website traffic by using all of the marketing channels that make sense for your business.
  • Diversify: Give me a second before you start laughing. There are more than one search engine out there, diversify your optimization efforts. I’m not saying that you should stop optimizing for Googele. Rather, I’m saying that include Bing in your search optimization efforts.

Regardless of the strategy that you choose to employ, it’s going to take time so don’t wait until the majority of your search traffic falls off and you’re not getting enough traffic from other sources to make up for it. Start developing your plan and getting it implemented as soon as you can.

If you’re not sure who to talk to or what to do to adjust your digital marketing strategy, let’s chat. We’d be more than happy to offer some recommendations for your business.