Does SEO Still Matter?
Google may or may not be trying to give internet users the answers they seek without them having to click through to a website. Either way, it's no secret that Google is trying to give its users more information than ever on the search engine results page (SERP). This results in what are known as No-Click Searches or Zero-Click Searches. These searches impact what is important on the SERP, which in turn impacts SEO strategy.
SEO is still important but because no-click searches keep users on the Google SERP, organizations need to consider how and where they appear in search results.
No-click searches account for half of search traffic
Websites receive fewer visits as a result of no-click searches
How an organization works with Google Products other than Google Search matters as much as a good SEO strategy
Rand Fishkin released a clickstream study in August 2019 that shows just how common no-click searches are. In fact, as of 2019 they make up slightly more than half of all search queries.
We’ve passed a milestone in Google’s evolution from search engine to walled-garden. In June of 2019, for the first time, a majority of all browser-based searches on Google.com resulted in zero-clicks.
Google has an incentive to keep searchers on its site. Google is one of the world's largest publicly traded companies and it got there by getting people to use its products.
Search is is the best known of Google's products. SEO strategy is a means by which organizations, individuals, and businesses can rank higher on the Google Search product.
For no-click searches, which Google products (other than Google Search) do you need to use or be aware of?
For no-click searches, we need to consider three Google products: Google Ads, Featured Snippets, and Google My Business. All three appear on the SERP, along with organic links. Why is Google cluttering up the results page with these other products?!
Google is trying to keep more users on the SERP for basically three reasons.
To give searchers the information they need, without them having to leave the Google search page (see the "weather in kansas city" example below)
To get more paid Ad clicks (see the "best nonprofit kansas city" example below)
To get businesses and other organizations to use the Google My Business listing service (see the "nonprofit connect" example below)
Example #1 of a no-click search - a Featured Snippet. Let's say you want to know what the weather will be like today and you can't text Gary Lezak. You would search for "weather kc" or other similar terms that you expect would give you the weather in or near Kansas City. Maybe you search for, "weather 64109," or "weather near my house," but the result is the same. This is what you see.
What Does a No-Click Search Look Like?
This featured snippet shows everything you need to know about the weather in Kansas City, without the need for clicking through to a website. This is great for you if you need to know how to dress for the day.
This is not so good for you if you're 41 Action News and have the best weather guy in the midwest.
As you can see from the snippet, Google checked a lot of sites to give you this snippet (about 164 MILLION sites) and now you're not clicking through to any of them!
I can already hear what you're saying. "We don't predict the weather, we're a nonprofit!" Let's look at a commercial business and a nonprofit for the effect that the featured snippet has on two types of organization.
Building on example #1, let's look at a commercial business that has a featured snippet -- Kelly's Westport. You can see from the screenshot below that this business has been continually operated for longer than many US universities have been around.
The Oldest Bar in Kansas City
Maybe it's not dire if the searcher was served up information from a Wikipedia page about Kelly's...but wait where is Kelly's website on this search page?
Ack! Nowhere. Kelly's went through all the trouble of building a website and optimizing it for search and it doesn't appear anywhere NEAR the top of the search results page. That's a serious problem. (It's not a problem for The Peanut, however. They show up just below that TripAdvisor link...).
The Featured Snippet dominates the page!
It also doesn't drive any search traffic to Kelly's website.
"But wait! We're a nonprofit. Most nonprofits don't get a featured snippet so why should we care about some old bar in Kansas City?" Glad you asked.
Example #2 of a no-click search -- Google Ads. Google is for-profit business. You can (and should) optimize for search but Google is in the business of maximizing profits while delivering relevant information.
If you do a search today for "best nonprofit kansas city," you should see something like this
"Best Nonprofit Kansas City"
Let's break this page down piece by piece. The first and second links you are served as a searcher are Ads. After the paid results, you get a Google map showing three named organizations, plus a bunch of red dots for other organizations that are unnamed.
Search Results Page Breakdown
Even if you're a nonprofit that has really dialed in your marketing plan AND you've spent the time to optimize your page for search, your website isn't showing up on this search results page. The majority of the page real-estate (half) is taken by paid ads.
In fact, the only unpaid (organic) link to a website on this SERP is to Nonprofit Connect.
The Only Organic Link
You'll notice that this link does not look like the search result you would expect for Nonprofit Connect. Instead, it's just a little globe, embedded in a Google My Business listing below a Google Map. Which brings us to Example #3.
Example #3 of a no-click search -- Google My Business listing.
Here's what you would see if you searched for "nonprofit connect," instead of "best nonprofit kansas city." Take a minute to drink in the screen real estate that Google has allotted here.
Google My Business is Increasingly Important for Search
Almost HALF of the SERP shows the Google My Business listing!
Google My Business allows people to take actions they used to only be able to take on your website. Now people searching can call you, message you, ask questions, read your reviews, etc. ALL from the Google My Business listing on Google Search.
If you're a nonprofit, you need to be engaging with your Google My Business listing frequently.
Google My Business is the platform to give search users what they are already looking for -- information and services related to their location. It is gobbling up the real estate of the results page. Most nonprofits, like most commercial businesses, serve a geographic area. Having consistent Google My Business engagement can compound a good SEO strategy and help you reach more donors and supporters.
The Era of No Click Search Results is Here
Google Products, other than Google Search, are growing in importance and making click-through to your website increasingly unnecessary. Featured snippets, Ads, and Google My Business listings stitch together a lot of information at once, in an easily digestible way, giving people everything they need without having to click through to your website.
SEO still matters. Nonprofit organizations now more than ever need to focus on content that will register with Google Search. However, SEO is a strategy for maximizing engagement with one specific Google product - Google Search.
Sophisticated organizations need to consider the other Google products that are being shown to users of Google Search.