While the industry really likes to think of Google as a Search Engine, I think Google really prefers to think of themselves as an Answer Engine. Trying to wade through all the answers to questions out on the internet to provide its user, the searcher, with an answer. With the advent of voice driven assistants answering questions and the growth of long-tail, fully written out search questions, we are starting to see Google make more of an attempt to actually answer the question on the results page as opposed to having the searcher navigate to the page to find the result.
That’s great for the searcher (assuming the answer is correct). But does it help the business that offered up the answer if Google just share’s the answer right of the page? I mean the answer is attributed. But if nobody goes back to the website, is there a benefit to the business?
Search has evolved. As I see it, all searches now falls into a couple of different buckets based on intent
- Informative – basic “I’m looking for information about X”, could be anything from the weather to events, or even how to do SEO.
- Navigational – I am searching to go to something – could be a physical location, could be you just want to go to their website
- Transactional – where can I buy a thing
- Commercial Investigation – no immediate intent to buy, just looking for information. This kind of bridges the gaps between the other 3.
Google looks for clues in the search as to what the real intent is. Informative searches often ask “How do I…” and transactional intent searches often are looking for a discount or a specific product name
To know whether or not a Zero Click search results is actually helpful to the businesses is all about having an understanding of the intent of the searcher. If it is strictly informative, the business is probably missing out on any ability to gain brand association with the information in their answer. Google is probably gaining all of that even if they do attribute the answer. But for transactional and navigational intent based searches, the searcher always intended to go beyond Google either online or offline. So assuming your result is picked, a business will still see the benefit of being in the results.
For the informative searches. If Google is using your information as the answer to a search question, that probably means your SEO is on point and your content is showing up in the places you, as a business, want to be appearing. So that’s a plus. But by taking away the need to go to your website to get the result, Google is taking away the opportunity of you to pass along other information, and find other ways to amaze and dazzle the searcher.
Ultimately, I think this is good for Google as it becomes the trusted resource, but bad for the business. In fact, It may prove detrimental to Google in their search advertising if the ad spaces continue to become less relevant. But I’m sure they will find somewhere else to make that up.