The whole web economy has been based for over two decades on the ability of people to click from one page to the next. The hyperlink, or what we today call simply links, are the things that connect pages around the web.
When Google took over the web, it managed to make any page on the visible internet clickable through its search results pages. There were two critical ingredients for Google’s search results success:
- Google introduced a quality score on paid listings, thus requiring text-based ads to be relevant
- Google also allowed publishers that offered relevant organic content to be featured on its search results pages, without spending a dime. Good content was enough
As we’re moving toward more advanced search features, and Google is evolving more and more into a media platform. There is the third component that is prevailing, and that is throwing off publishers: no-click searches.
Inside no-click searches
At a fundamental level, a no-click search is a search that starts on Google and ends on Google. Some of those searches make sense, as the intent of the user might be very simple. For instance, if I look for “weather in Rome” this is what I get:
Why would I want anything else? This makes sense, and I don’t think there is any publisher can be against it. Of course, weather websites that once received millions of hits are gone.
Yet, there is another worrying side of Google no-click searches:
Google has rolled out advanced functionalities, such as featured snippets that in some instances can eat the whole user intent.
Thus, they allow someone to be satisfied enough with the information found on Google search results pages, without ever visiting one of the websites featured on them.
After reading the article from Rand Fishkin “Google’s European Monopoly (& Shrinking Click-Through Opportunities” there are a few considerations to make.
For how much we all love to think we have an alternative to Google, and for how much in Europe we talk about Google dominance, in reality, the data collected by Jumpshot and offered to SparkToro gives us a clear view:
Europe is as much, if not more, reliant on Google than the US.
Another interesting aspect is how click-through rates (the percentage of people clicking through links provided by Google on its search results pages) is shrinking massively on mobile devices:
Source: Google’s European Monopoly (& Shrinking Click-Through Opportunities)
As the graphic above shows, both in Europe and US, organic opportunities, or the ability to be featured on Google’s search results pages without paying shrank from 45% to 36.7% in Europe and UK and from 40.1% to 29.7% in the US!
At the same time, paid click-through rates have more than doubled in both Europe and UK (from 4% to 8.8%) and the US (from 3.9% to 8.9%).
Inside the psychology of your users: user intent and why it matters
For that matter, you have to have clear in mind who’s that you’re talking to. What do they want? What are their preferences? Why are they searching for specific keywords? What drives them?
Once you understand that, you can have a deep understanding of how each Google’s query can help or break your business. Each time spent on optimizing for queries that won’t bring you a clear ROI will be wasted.
How do you gain access to users intents? Analyze your traffic. Where is it coming from? Talk to your people.
Who are they? Why are they reading your blog, media outlet and not going anywhere else? If you have a store, or offer a product/service, access to your clients’ logs and interactions and look at what they’re telling you.
You have plenty of information about them, but you’ll need to listen carefully if you want to avoid to be eaten up by Google. What’s next?
What can you do to survive and thrive in a no-click search economy?
As a publisher, you’ll need to be way more careful about your organic strategy. You’ll need to understand more and more the intents behind each query. For instance, if I ask questions like ”
- Brand, brand, brand! If people in your industry have your brand on top of their mind, they won’t need a search engine; they’ll type your name and seek your information. In that respect, people searching for your brand via Google are signaling Google that your site is relevant. That is a powerful signal for Google to bring you more organic traffic over time
- Content quality: good content isn’t enough anymore. Either you become a trusted source of content for your audience, or chances are you will be gone soon
- Authoritativeness of the platform and the authors: as Google has rolled out in 2018 some algorithms change some of those might have to do with the authoritativeness of the platform and authors writing on it
- Build a network: a network is a crucial element that can help you push your content out when Google won’t be helping you anymore
- Nurture your audience: your audience can tell you fundamental truths about your business that you might have missed all along. Talk to them. Invite them to write to you and listen to why they do like reading your content
- Diversify your traffic sources: other areas, such as social media and email marketing can be critical to diversify your content. You don’t have to have other dozens of traffic sources or go blindly in all directions. You can pick another area where you feel confident. For instance, I like email marketing, because it allows to build a more personal relationship with a large number of people and I’m going all in with it!
- Do it differently! Don’t follow what others are doing in your industry. Get inspiration from other successful people and businesses in other sectors and apply back to yours! At the same time develop your uniqueness. What is that makes you unique in the marketplace? What is your value proposition? What’s your business model?
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