A friend of mine in the world of SEO complained this morning about his growing disenchantment with Google's hijacking of people's traffic. He's referring to Google displaying their content at the top of search results, which stops people from clicking through to their sites.
These are called featured snippets. Things like recipes, answers to questions, bulleted lists, etc.
The issue is, people get the answers they want. They don't need to click through to your site. The benefit is that people get their results faster. The drawback is that it lowers the chances of people visiting your site.
These are called “zero-click search results.”
Google simply wants to improve user experience by reducing friction. Some claim Google is anticompetitive. Others say that poor websites force users to hunt for the information they are looking for, making their search experience frustrating.
Their frustration is often at Google, not the websites in question.
Now, one thing to keep in mind is that featured snippets appear at the top above all the other results. This is often referred to as “position zero.” This presents an important opportunity.
- Optimize for “position zero” with a featured snippet, which increases visibility and supersedes other results, including competitors in top positions.
- Focus on getting multiple rankings for the same query, which helps to dominate first-page real estate and increases the likelihood of more clicks.
- Add other forms of SEO, such as sitelinks (other links to your site listed under the main result), Google My Business, and Google Maps (local pack) as they all appear around the featured snippet, which helps to attract more eye gravity and clicks.
- Improve your copy so that the snippet, in itself, invites users to click — either to learn more, dive deeper, find supporting or related information, etc.
- Personalize your content so that the snippet includes your brand names (e.g., your name, your business, your product or service, or the name on your unique process, for example, which I recommend my professional clients do).
The last one is the most important one.
Optimizing for featured snippets helps to promote brand awareness, which provide three key benefits. First, when people see a brand name mentioned in the top featured snippet, it increases visibility and top-mind awareness.
Second, it invites more brand mentions. If people share the snippet, discuss the result on other sites, or link back your site as the place that has “the answer,” your brand name is mentioned, which is an implied link and a great SEO signal.
Best of all, it heightens your authority. Being shown at the very top of search results is synonymous with being an authority. You increase people's favorable perception of you, which in turn increases clicks. The more you're known as an authority, the more likely users specifically search you out.
By increasing your authority, chances are greater that they will click on your result when they see your site show up for another query.
Ultimately, don't ignore or knock featured snippets. Optimizing for zero-click-searches is not about creating traffic. Not in a direct sense. They're about creating awareness and momentum.