What Are Zero-Click Searches & How Do They Impact SEO?

A zero-click search is when a user’s search shows a result that directly answers the query on the search engine results page (SERP). So the user doesn’t have any need to click on a link. 

You’ll often see these results on Google for questions about basic facts, weather updates, time conversions, and mathematical formulas. 

For example, here’s what it could look like if you search for “how old is tom cruise.”

top of the serp shows tom cruise's age as 61 years old in big bold lettering

There’s an instant answer at the top, a People Also Ask (PAA) block right below the answer, and a knowledge panel (an information box summarizing key details about the entity being searched) on the right. 

As you can see, there’s really no need for you to click on any of the search results for an answer to your query. Because this is a zero-click search. 

How Do Zero-Click Searches Impact SEO?

Zero-click searches aren’t as prevalent as you might think and can boost your brand’s visibility. But they can result in less web traffic.

According to our Zero-Clicks Study, only 25.6% of desktop searches and 17.3% of mobile searches result in zero clicks. And that isn’t very significant. 

Plus, appearing for these results can also make your brand appear more prominently on the SERP than it otherwise might. Which introduces you to new audiences. And may lead to more branded searches later on.

But zero-click searches can still negatively affect your SEO in some cases. Because ranking near the top of the SERP isn’t always enough to get immediate traffic to your site from those searches. 

And it means you should evaluate whether a keyword triggers SERP features (special results that stand out from traditional search listings) to understand if targeting it can really benefit you. 

Say you’re conducting keyword research with the Keyword Magic Tool

You may notice a keyword that triggers lots of SERP features. Including a knowledge panel. 

keyword "elephant" has 8 serp features including the knowledge panel

In that case, it’s probably not the best keyword to target. Because the knowledge panel provides a thorough overview that gives searchers all the information they need on the topic.

Even if you rank highly for this type of keyword, it’s unlikely to generate many clicks through to your website.

Instead, target keywords with a higher potential for clicks (more on this later). And you’ll likely see a better return on your investment. 

Types of Zero-Click Search Results

Zero-click search results include several types of SERP features that provide immediate answers. 

Let’s explore them: 

A featured snippet is a block of text at the top of Google’s search results designed to quickly answer a user’s question. 

The information is extracted directly from the webpage. And includes the page’s title and URL.

Like this:

search for "what is adaptogenic coffee" has featured snippet with two images

This type of result can be a zero-click search because it provides the answer right on the search page. Meaning the searcher may not need to click the link for additional information.

For example, featured snippets can include step-by-step instructions or even a video directly in the search results. Which allows users to immediately get all the information they want.

Like this:

search for "how to change humidifier pad" has featured snippet with steps 1 through 5

That said, a featured snippet excerpt about a complex topic could actually entice readers to click the result. So they can get all the details they’re seeking.

Direct Answer Box

A direct answer box is a box at the top of Google’s search results that provides a quick answer to a simple question. And it doesn’t include a link. 

Here’s what it can look like:

search for "when is the nba draft" shows the date Thursday, June 27, 2024 in bold, large lettering

Keywords that trigger this SERP feature are often zero-click searches. Because the question is so direct and the answer is so simple that a user rarely needs to click on a traditional search result.

Knowledge Panel

A knowledge panel is an information box that appears on the right side of search results when users search for an entity (person, place, organization, or thing). 

It provides a summary of information about the entity based on Google’s understanding of the topic. And can include facts, images, links, and other relevant details.

Like this:

search for apple shows company information and social profiles on the right-hand side

SERPs with knowledge panels may result in zero-click searches because Google provides lots of reliable information right away. So users might get everything they need without visiting another website.

But having a knowledge panel for your business can increase your visibility and authority on Google. And could drive more traffic to your site. 

Local Pack

A local pack (or map pack) is a Google SERP feature that shows a map and a list of local businesses that match the user’s query. And it appears when someone makes a location-based search. 

They typically include important information like each business’s opening hours, address, and ratings. 

Here’s what it can look like:

google results for chicago bookstore shows "Places" with map in the serp

These types of search results don’t typically lead to clicks because they provide immediate and clear information about a business. 

People Also Ask

The People Also Ask box is a Google SERP feature that displays a list of questions related to the user’s query. And if you click on any question, it’ll expand to show a brief answer and a link to the source.

Like this:

People also ask serp feature for can dogs eat cat food has drop down menu with answers to related common questions

Queries that trigger PAA boxes are often zero-click searches because of the depth and breadth of information provided. 

Google generates more related questions every time you click one. Which means users can likely get all the answers they need with this feature. 

But appearing in People Also Ask answers can be beneficial for generating brand awareness. Especially if you appear in more than one.

How to Optimize for the Zero-Click Landscape

Zero-click searches don’t necessarily mean negative SEO outcomes. And they might not even be zero-click searches if you know optimize for them.

Here’s how:

1. Target the Right Keywords

It’s generally best to focus on keywords that trigger the local pack, featured snippets, and PAA boxes (not direct answer boxes or knowledge panels). Because these SERP features are more likely to lead to clicks and increase your brand awareness.

So, pay close attention to the SERP features that keywords trigger when you’re doing keyword research. To determine if targeting a certain keyword is worth the effort.

You can easily find this in the “SERP Features” column in the Keyword Magic Tool

serp features column shows a number that correlates to the serp features shown for that keyword

You can also use the “Advanced filters” drop-down to choose the SERP features you’d like to include or exclude from the list. 

Like so:

people also ask and local pack options selected from serp features filter

You can also analyze the SERP for a specific keyword using Keyword Overview

You’ll see a summary of the SERP features triggered. And you can click “View SERP” to see a snapshot of the page as it appeared on the day of database collection.

keyword overview's serp analysis section shows 3 serp features and view serp button is highlighted

Ranking for a featured snippet makes your search result more prominent, pushes down the competition, and may increase the likelihood of clicks. And it indicates that Google sees your content as credible and trustworthy.

To target a featured snippet, use a heading for the question you’re answering. And provide a clear and concise answer that uses similar syntax to what the current snippet is showing. 

You can also target other types of featured snippets by providing what Google is currently surfacing.

For example, you should include a table in your content if Google is showing a table snippet like this:

featured snippet for dog feeding chart shows table of adult dog size and feeding amounts

And if Google is displaying a list snippet, include a properly structured list in your article. 

search for how to build a birdhouse shows list of steps in featured snippet

Then, a good SEO best practice is to track your rankings. In this case, your featured snippets. 

You can easily do that with the Position Tracking tool. 

Once you’ve set up your tracking project, head to the “Featured Snippets” tab.

You’ll see how many of your pages are ranking for featured snippets:

featured snippets tab in position tracking tool highlighted

And which keywords trigger featured snippets that you don’t yet rank for:

three keywords with search volume shown that the brand doesn't rank for yet.

3. Create Content That Answers Users’ Questions

Creating content that addresses users’ search intent (the reason behind a user’s search) with clear answers can improve your chances of appearing in featured snippets and PAA boxes. To increase your visibility and gain more traffic in the long term. 

To do this, start by finding related questions people have around your target keyword. 

You can easily do this with Keyword Overview

Enter your target keyword and explore the “Questions” column under the “Keyword ideas” widget.

question keywords are things like what is a garden gnome, how to make a garden gnome, etc.

These are all question-based keywords that contain your seed keyword. 

Then, click “View SERP” in the “SERP Analysis” section to see a snapshot of the search results. 

view serp button highlighted

Check to see if there’s a PAA box. And jot down the questions. 

You can now create an FAQ section on your page that contains the questions you jotted down. 

Like this:

semrush blog post's faqs section

Make sure to use clear headings and provide short, direct answers for each question. To increase your chances of appearing in search results.

4. Improve Content Readability

Making it easy for both users and search engines to understand your content improves your chances of appearing in any search results. Including SERP features commonly associated with zero-click searches. 

How can you do this?

Break up your content into short sentences and paragraphs. Use subheadings, bullet points, and visual assets. And write using the active voice. 

You can measure any content’s readability using the SEO Writing Assistant

The tool will tell you how easy it is to read and understand your text. 

readability grade shown on the right side of the text draft with suggestions on how to improve

And it’ll highlight words or sentences you could rewrite to improve readability. 

Like this:

sentence highlighted in draft with label "hard to read sentence. consider rewriting"

5. Implement Schema Markup

Schema markup (also called structured data) is code you can add to your webpages to help search engines better understand them. To help you rank for more relevant search queries and improve how your page appears in search results. 

For example, here’s what a product page with schema can look like in search results: 

serp listing for green ballet flats shows store rating, pricing, delivery, and images

Versus how they can look like without schema:

serp listing for lilac pruning guide doesn't show schema markup

Pages with product structured data clearly stand out. 

While there are tons of different schema markup types you can use, only include the ones relevant to your content. 

Then, make sure to test your schema markup.

You can use Google’s Rich Results Test tool to evaluate a single page. 

rich results test for product page shows valid items and detected structured data

Or the “Markup” section within Site Audit to test your entire site for schema markup issues.

site audit's markup report shows pages with markup and without, markup types, and invalid structured data items

6. Use Local SEO

Local SEO is all about improving your online presence to drive visibility and traffic. And it can help you secure a knowledge panel, local pack placement, and even a featured snippet for local searches.

Start by optimizing your Google Business Profile (GBP) with information like location, opening hours, contact details, photos, and more.

And make sure your name, address, and phone number (NAP) details are accurate in other online listings and directories as well. Because Google uses listing information consistency to evaluate your credibility.

You can easily check your local listings and distribute your accurate information to the most authoritative directories with the Listing Management Tool

To start, enter your business name and select it from the list that appears. 

search for parlor pizza in listing management tool

You’ll see a report of your listings, listings to fix, and average star rating. 

parlor pizza west loop shows poor online presence with average star rating and total reviews

Plus, you’ll see all your listings with specific errors like the wrong address, wrong phone number, etc. 

Like this:

parlor pizza business listings with errors to fix

If you have a paid subscription, you can automatically distribute your information to dozens of listings. 

Then, let the tool automatically distribute and keep your NAP citations consistent everywhere. 

Monitor Performance and Adapt Your Strategy

In the world of zero-click searches, SEO is about gaining visibility in all the right places.

A tool like Position Tracking can help you track your keyword rankings and see whether those terms are triggering SERP features. And which ones. 

position tracking's serp features column and icons for captured serp features per keyword

You can then apply the above tips to adapt your SEO strategy and improve performance. 

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