‘No-Click’ Search Queries Make GMB & Proximity Even More Important

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The identification of the “no-click” search queries and the frequency with which it is happening is sending waves throughout the SEO community. New data from Rand Fishkin of SparkToro (formerly of Moz) has found that roughly 62% of mobile queries resulted in no click in Q3 2018 and about 33% on desktop. SEO experts were aware of this taking place, but the rate is higher than many anticipated.


As the chart below shows, mobile no-click queries are up about 11% in September 2018 compared to January 2016, and desktop is up 9.5%.


On the other hand, additional data from the study showed ads are seeing an increase in clicks, with mobile ad clicks up 126% in Q3 2018 vs. Q1 2016, and desktop up 44% in that same time frame. As a result of rising no-click and more ad clicks, organic clicks are on the decline.


At the surface, the knowledge panel, “position 0” and the local 3-pack all make it possible for searchers to find what they need without having to make another click. This helps users make quicker decisions without having to click around, a sometimes-tedious task, particularly on mobile devices. But underneath this consumer-centricity, some say this is really Google self-interest.


The rise of these various SERP assets have encouraged less link clicking and more Google clicking. By not having to go to other sites, Google effectively owns the traffic, even if the content (business info, blog content, FAQ, etc.) is created and owned by a brand/business.


At the same time Google needs to deliver clicks to ads in order to keep advertisers happy. The reformatting of the SERP appears to be driving an increase in clicks on ads as well. In Rand’s blog post, he astutely points out the shift from the yellow “Ad” label in paid search results to the more inconspicuous green one.


While many digital marketers are feeling disheartened by these changes, it isn’t a hopeless situation. The changes put more value and importance on GMB, Google Ads and arguably the biggest ranking factor of all, proximity.


Ultimately, the competition for rank is now moving to the local pack. This means marketers are really trying to optimize their GMB listing in order to rank in the top three for a particular search. Without getting into detail, managing online reviews, uploading photos and videos and using GMB’s new features (Posts, Q&A, Messaging, etc.) is a solid start.


The more interesting variable at play is proximity. If ranking becomes harder and harder to do online, then real world location becomes increasingly important. I wouldn’t be surprised to see businesses select new locations based on search activity in a very specific, hyperlocal context. Mobile location data is already being used in this way by brands, but Google is sitting on tons of search data that could help SMBs identify ideal brick and mortar locations. Perhaps this is a future Google product/service/feature.


The rise of no-click SERPs is transforming how marketers should approach SEO, particularly on Google. While some are frustrated with these shifts on Google, others are undoubtedly already shifting strategies to adjust to this new normal. Digital marketers, as usual, must adapt by forgetting the old best practices and finding the news ones.

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