Intent-based Media

Everything You Need to Know About Zero-Click Search & Featured Snippets

Dustin McManus
October 19, 2023

The way we classify online search continues to evolve as new technologies and corresponding shifts in user behavior redefine our once standard understanding of this experience.

Let's take a look at another recent phenomenon in the search advertising world: the rise of zero-click search and the growing prominence of featured snippets.

What is zero-click search?

Zero-click search refers to instances where users obtain the information they’re seeking without having to click on any of the actual search results that populate after executing the search. 

This is achieved by directly presenting concise and relevant information, usually within a search engine results page (SERP). Currently, generative AI is being trialed as a more scalable way of answering search queries that facilitate a zero-click search experience. Much of the resulting information is conveyed through featured snippets.

What is a featured snippet?

A featured snippet is an excerpt of content (text, photo, video) that sits at the very top of a SERP in what’s dubbed “Position 0.” Featured snippets seek to directly highlight the most relevant information to a search query from the source page it lives on without users having to click through. They play a prominent role in making zero-click searches possible.

However, generative AI is disrupting how search results and ads are generated and displayed in a scaleup ecosystem. For instance, question & answer snippets are now emerging due to AI in direct competition against featured snippets showcasing information from third-party sources. 

All of this is having a transformative effect on consumer search experiences, with great ramifications for advertisers looking to get their brands and products in front of users seamlessly. In order to navigate this sea-change, it’s important to understand how we got here first.

The rise of zero-click search and featured snippets

Zero-click search and featured snippet results offer a more seamless, less time consuming approach to consumer search. This type of search is most conducive to informational and transactional queries, where users are seeking an instantaneous answer to a question they have. Zero-click search offers several key benefits over more traditional search methods, including:

  • A more visually appealing search journey
  • Easier, quicker access to relevant information
  • Less effort and action on behalf of users

Because of these benefits, more searchers are hopping aboard the zero-click bandwagon. In fact, zero-click search represents over a quarter of Google searches on desktop. A study conducted by SEMrush found more than half of desktop and mobile users don’t click on an organic or paid result as part of their search. 

Figures like that are undeniable signals to search advertisers and marketers that consumers are hungry for better, more seamless search experiences.

Illustration of paid search ads and featured snippets on the SERP.

Does zero-click search spell doom for your marketing initiatives?

The short answer is no. But let’s set the scene first. 

As we’ve seen, zero-click search is increasing in popularity among users, fundamentally changing the way they interact with search results. Because they’re not clicking on as many results, many marketers fret over steep declines in web traffic and their click-through rates (CTR). 

The good news here according to the most recent SEO statistics is that 93% of web experiences still begin on a search engine, and organic traffic is responsible for 53% of a website’s traffic on average. Specifically for brands participating in e-commerce, 83% of all traffic comes from consumers directly navigating to retailer sites

So while it’s true that users aren’t clicking on external links as frequently when searching, or are bypassing the SERP altogether, this doesn’t equate to the sudden death of your search advertising and marketing efforts. 

What zero-click search does underscore is the need to adapt your marketing and advertising strategies to align to this changing landscape of consumer search behavior and methods.

If users aren’t clicking as much, then how can you get your brand and products in front of consumers when they’re searching?

How brands can leverage featured snippets to their advantage

As featured snippets increasingly snag “Position 0” placement on SERPs and push organic results further down the page, savvy brands can optimize their content for a better chance of being included in this valuable real estate. Doing so presents greater opportunities for ad visibility and will enhance your brand’s recognition and authority within your industry.

For advertisers looking to get their brand or products in front of consumers in a growing zero-click search landscape, prioritize your technical SEO. 

By optimizing the structured data and alt text on your product pages and images, you can increase the visibility of your products and the likelihood they’ll show up in featured snippet form for transactional zero-click search queries.

Targeting and CPC considerations for zero-click search

Advertisers in particular need to consider the impact of the rise of zero-click search on ad targeting and their cost per click (CPC).

With more consumers seeking out quick answers that don’t require further exploration or action on their part, traditional search advertising methods will no longer cut it. Brands must take into account this changing behavior in order to remain efficient and effective in a zero-click search landscape.

Adopting a user-first and user-centric approach to search advertising is the best way brands can navigate evolving search patterns. Advertisers should look to target zero-click searchers in the following two ways to enhance their targeting, optimize CPC spending, and achieve better results:

  1. Create highly relevant and personalized content or ads that immediately get your brand and/or products directly in front of consumers who aren’t looking to search or interact beyond their initial query or;
  2. Produce valuable, unique, and immersive content that incentivizes further exploration and a continued consumer search journey beyond or completely outside of the SERP

Why brands should think beyond the traditional SERP

Adapting to change is never easy. Search advertising in particular seems to constantly be in flux, making it difficult for brands and advertisers to keep up.

As consumer search behavior continues to evolve and more ads are bypassing the SERP, it’s important for brands to embrace this change and innovate to meet these users where and when they search. 

It’s not enough for brands to participate in search marketing anymore; brands need to become their own search engines. This is the best way to help users find what they want faster, easier, and ultimately cheaper.

At adMarketplace, we’ve reimagined search advertising beyond the confines and limitations of the traditional SERP. Our focus relies on user intent in order to more efficiently and strategically place ads and brands directly in front of consumers throughout their entire search journey, no matter where that takes place.

Whether searchers are clicking or not, our solutions are designed to ensure your brand remains at the forefront of user intent and stays top of mind as consumers ultimately get closer to making a purchase decision.

Learn how adMarketplace can help you navigate the evolving consumer search journey by visiting our solutions page today.