Google My Business & Optimising for Zero-Click Search

With Google constantly ramping up new Google My Business (GMB) features and implementing new-look ‘Insights’, if you’re not using your (completely free!) Google My Business account to engage both your current and existing customers in search results, you’re missing out on the opportunity to make your mark on some pretty impressive digital real estate.

First launched in June 2014, Google My Business has been continuously increasing in importance over the years. But across 2020 and 2021, Google has really stepped things up — to the point where having a Google My Business listing is absolutely essential for any business, and not only businesses with bricks-and-mortar locations that want to be found on Google Search and Google Maps. 

Until recently, for many businesses, having a local search listing was just about the ranking benefits it delivers — in 2020, Whitespark’s Local Search Ranking Factors survey found that Google My Business was the fourth most important ranking signal in local search results after on-page optimisations, backlinks and behaviour signals (e.g. average click-through rate, average time on page). From then, the importance of having and optimising a Google My Business listing in relation to search rankings has only increased. 

In addition to search results rankings (which are, naturally, essential) Google My Business listings have increased in importance recently because of Google’s efforts to create a search ecosystem in which users are encouraged to search, interact and buy products and services entirely in search results without accessing a web page. In June 2019, ‘zero-click searches’ exceeded 50% of all searches and between January and December 2020, nearly 65% of Google searches ended without a click to a webpage or a digital ad. 

Broken down by device, 46.5% of desktop searches were zero-click while 77.2% of mobile searches ended without a click. Zero-click searches are also not evenly distributed across sectors, with Google-competing businesses — such as travel agencies, cooking sites and review platforms — bearing the brunt of visitor loss, while traffic to Alphabet-owned properties continues to rise

While Google refutes this and plays down the importance of zero-click searches, any percentage approaching the vicinity of 65% zero-click searches should make everyone — business owners, stakeholders and digital marketers — sit up and pay attention. 

How does Google My Business fit into the picture? 

On Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), there are three types of zero-click searches — direction, database and dictionary-oriented searches —  that deliver five high-visibility features which are capable of satisfying users’ search intent without a single click:

  • Knowledge Panel 
  • Knowledge Cards 
  • Related Questions
  • News Box
  • Local Packs

While these features have heavily contributed to the increase of zero-click searches, the largest driver of zero-click search is Google My Business — over 45% of Google searches are local and 50% of those searches resulted in the user visiting a physical place of business within several hours of the search. That means any business that wants to not only adapt to but succeed in a zero-click search environment must leverage Google My Business to their advantage and break into the top local listings for relevant search queries, especially the local ‘snack pack’.

So, while you can’t track all of the traffic that delivers your business revenue, you can still optimise your digital presence to capitalise on the trends that have pushed Google My Business to its current position as the best means of:

  1. Being found for relevant searches with local intent
  2. Connecting to customers looking specifically for the products and services offered by your business
  3. Succeeding in an increasingly competitive online business environment (especially true if you’re a local business).

Optimising for zero-click searches 

As most Google searches are now zero-click, should businesses and marketers shift from a click-orientated marketing mindset and accept that the majority of revenue-driving, digital traffic will come from difficult-to-track searches? And as zero-click searches aren’t evenly distributed across sectors, is there a need for businesses in certain sectors to take specific actions to deal with this more than others?

Naturally, opinions differ, but it’s important to understand that zero-click doesn’t mean zero opportunity and that there are ways to benefit from search engine results page exposure — even if it means your website is receiving less traffic. According to Rand Fishkin, “Rich information appearing in Google’s results may be, like billboard ads or press mentions, harder to track than website traffic, but it’s still exposing your brand name to an audience, building familiarity, and sharing information.” That means optimising content for rich results to increase visibility in search engine results pages, familiarise users with your brand and positively influence brand perception, all with the aim of building and developing a brand that users actively seek out.

Optimising for opportunity 

Navigating an increasingly zero-click dominated search engine results page landscape doesn’t mean solely focusing on rich result optimisation by adding structured data to your web pages to create visibility that in turn creates demand for your brand. All businesses, regardless of the sector in which they operate, will find it advantageous to take a two-pronged approach to search engine optimisation— firstly, by continuing to optimise for click-based traffic that leads users to your website, and secondly, by optimising for rich results and creating brand demand. 

The trick here is knowing which queries are beneficial to compete for in rich results — even without traffic — and which to compete for in traffic-focused search results to get clicks and traffic. When reviewing the keywords you’re currently optimising for, don’t overlook the fact that winning a rich snippet is (usually) dependent on the page ranking on the first page of search results. That means you’ll still need to improve the position of all your keywords to get first-page search engine results exposure before conducting a review and deciding which to optimise for rich results and which will continue to compete in click-based traffic results. 

Need help with search engine optimisation from an agency in Brisbane to navigate the forever-evolving search engine results page landscape and drive more traffic to your website or boost demand for your brand? NOUS is here to help — email us at [email protected] or give us a call (07) 3003 0722.

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