“5 Focus Points Related to Zero Click SEO For Quick Browsing:”
In the crazy search marketing world of the last 10 years, artificial intelligence (AI) and structured data have changed Google search algorithms and result pages. Marketing darlings like Danny Sullivan and Rand Fishkin are of opposite opinions on the impact that these evolutions have on websites. Brands, startups, and competitors alike are missing the gaps in content execution. That means that the good old branding attribution debates are echoing into 2021, since brand equity and assist touchpoints are the only insights that we can attribute to zero positioning on Google.
5 Focus Points Related to Zero Click SEO For Quick Browsing:
- Zero click searches need to have attribution assigned to the assistive function they play in buyer cycles and brand positioning to justify how extensive your effort will be.
- Branded queries that trigger zero click results can be hijacked by content creators and clever competitors in content execution if your brand is not serving content to satisfy a user’s search intent.
- When it comes to determining values in a cost/benefit analysis for zero click SEO, it comes down to this: What is the dollar cost and benefit of owning branded vs. non-branded zero click search results?
- When forecasting zero click SEO opportunities, it is about the cost of targeting the competitor zero click footprint correlated to brand and business impacts of competitor zero click footprint.
- Design zero click search strategy based on monetary values that are related to PPC cost. Primary focus should be on total cost the brand spent in campaign that preserves top-of-page positions for brand and non-brand keywords.
Zero Click SEO Overview
Google introduced “position zero” in 2019. Search results are altered by adding a snippet of information at the top of the results page. The intention is to quickly solve the intent of a keyword query. Sometimes that is an address, and other times that is a snippet of content. This enhancement helps serve web content to a Google user immediately, thus reducing the need for people to click through to any given website. Now in 2021, with the updates like “Passage Indexing/Ranking,” Google is finding better ways to use the zero position, knowledge graph cards and local rich snippets. When people conduct a Google search, get their information from the SERP and do not click through to a website, this is what is known as a “zero click” search.
For sake of brevity on a rather dynamic topic and a need for familiarity with featured snippets, or the fundamental differences with rich snippets, check out this highly informative article on SEJ.
There is a lot to cover when it comes to the evolution of zero positioning and various zero click opportunities. The difficulty in this search conundrum is lack of attribution, meaning an inability for the SEO to justify time and resourcing to zero click opportunities beyond targeting rich snippet CTR friendly recommendations that are attributable clicks.
For a mom-and-pop brand, or an enterprise brand, there must be a cost/benefit analysis as part of prioritizing SEO implementations. If a zero-position result cannot be counted as a click, then how do you begin a cost/benefit analysis? Hence, zero click search optimization should be considered with attribution of brand positioning, time decay models, or competitive share of voice measurement.
Naturally, seasoned SEOs consider every capturable opportunity as potential revenue downstream. Zero click search is important from the economic perspective of a positioned brand impression and/or a customer journey touchpoint. Nurturing brand recognition and extending brand visibility through search is the operative goal with zero click search opportunities.
Let’s use the brand Starbucks as an example. There are audience-defined niche gaps in brand-related search interest that Starbucks’ public-facing communications strategy misses when it comes to featured snippet outcomes that appear with specific branded terms.
Starting at the high level of a search trending portion of a keyword analysis:
Historical search interest spikes are being driven in the U.S. and worldwide about recent shortage in tapioca pearls (aka boba) that are used in popular (bubble) milk tea recipes. As if the pandemic year wasn’t difficult enough, it’s definitely not cool to be messing with Generation Z’s most internationally accepted drink. What’s next, canceling soccer, or did that already happen?
An ahrefs tool check gives a clear localization signal, which also implies mobile correlation. There are 134,000 “near me” searches per month (“boba” + “bubble”) which correlate with higher purchase intent when conducted on a mobile device.
In a cross check to determine types of content engagements that might be going on cross platforms, we find that there has already been massive amount of virality from the TikTok audience. This is the exact audience (Gen Z & millennials) that powers the global “Bubble (Boba) Tea Revolution.” In total, more than 2 million views have occurred when combining both #BobaTea and #BubbleTea hashtags.
The Starbucks brand isn’t suggested in searches for “bubble tea,” but the brand does appear for “boba tea.”
This branded search intent pattern is consistent enough that Google is using featured snippets to resolve the user’s inquiry on results for keyword “boba tea starbucks.” Starbucks has a content gap, though, in part because the company does not carry an official bubble tea drink that its marketing team would naturally build content around. Instead of Starbucks voice/brand content appearing for a brand query, what appears is an image carousel of fake boba drinks in Starbucks cups, and a featured snippet result from Quora, answering the question “Does Starbucks have bubble tea?”
Mobile SERP gives a slightly different featured snippet. It displays a dual featured snippet (from a fandom website and from Quora) because Google does not have enough confidence to serve content that will help the user intentions. Instead, Google lets the user pick the best possible answer.
Consider the impact from content that could live on starbucks.com, whether voice or personality content. The content could create a dominant signal in an E-A-T content paradigm. Google appears to be starving for Starbucks content that will mention anything on bubble tea. Thus, the opportunity to regain control of brand voice and message.
Clever content creators have exploited this niche search demand, hence the search suggestion made by Google, “milk tea Starbucks hack.”
This YouTube creator secured 40,000+ views in a year by using a ‘Starbucks/Boba Tea Hack’ video. The hack was not sophisticated, nor was it really a hack. The video instructed viewers to take their own bag of boba to Starbucks, and to use her custom Starbucks breve drink recipe for the right milk tea taste. She admits at the end that it doesn’t exactly taste like boba milk tea, but it’s the closest flavor possible.
Meanwhile, a defunct YouTube page with 51 subscribers decided to relaunch because of the tension building in this branded Starbucks boba revolution. The channel broadcasts a fake “Boba Starbucks Drinks” video, titled “Starbucks Launching Boba Nationwide?”
That proved to be ingenious since the spoof video exceeded the channel’s one-year historical view total in just 2 weeks. If a consistent pace continues for this emerging video, it could eventually replace featured video snippets that are linked to the older “hack” video for Starbucks and “boba tea” related keywords.
SEOs and brand marketers must align on brand attribution to incorporate tactics related to “SEOing the SERP.” If the marketing team cannot attribute a value that will drive strategic impact and priority, then there are other attributable consequences, as a Starbucks barista points out in the YouTube comments.
Despite the final decisions that are made for an organization to carry the value of zero click in a broader integrated search landscape, those decisions should involve more intuitive decisions about reporting and forecasting questions. Some of those questions include:
- What is the value of your brand in controlling the message with simple brand-related inquiries that drive zero click search results?
- What is the value for your brand to appear in non-branded searches which trigger zero click search results?
- What is the value of any zero click search that your competitor owns, and/or any website owns, instead of your brand?
In paid search, social or media, there is a true monetary click, impression, or performance value that goes with protecting brand ad positions. There is a cost that brands pay to avoid competitor intrusions. Now in 2021, in organic search, SEOs need to begin zero click position attribution with similar valuation to holding top page positions (if in zero position) and protecting branded search by avoiding off-brand intrusions. Here is a recent example of this occurring to Sparktoro with a blog post we published on Zero Clicks. While Investis Digital is not a direct competitor of Sparktoro, there is value lost with their brand visibility by Google featuring our article as the featured snippet instead of theirs:
In the Starbucks analysis, there have been multiple zero click opportunities which apply to broader audience targeting since bubble “boba” tea products are powered by generational demographics (Gen Z/millennials). Also, experiential brand opportunities with Google users can lead to branded content interactions. With this keyword, our zero click opportunities are primarily:
- Featured Content snippet
- People Also Ask module
- Video snippet (mostly powered by YouTube)
- Image snippets (mostly related YouTube video content & Pinterest)
Part of this content collaboration will involve video content creation for the Starbucks YouTube and other social channels. The content ideas can range from offering an organic tapioca pearl recipe to a product promotion announcement for seasonal bubble tea pearl add-ins with certain popular drinks for a limited time.
Whatever way the overall marketing and content strategy is going to be scheduled and built, the on-page content optimization should be structurally designed to help cater to the existing zero click search experience on Google.
When considering text-based content, Starbucks must design content with the paragraph snippet in mind, since it is the primary zero click search utility, aside from local search signals triggering Google maps. Paragraph snippets typically appear in order to fulfill “answer seeking” queries such as how-tos or other queries that are intent on finding information that is related to the “who,” “why,” and “what” of different entities.
In this case, the entities are “Starbucks” and “bubble (boba/tapioca pearls) tea,” and Google is merely trying to give any information to infer topical answers that can satisfy specific questions related to both entities. The more applicable the content is to a multitude of topically relevant questions, the more utility a paragraph snippet might receive in SERPs. In this case, designing content that answers the following example questions is ideal for targeting “People Also Ask” modules:
- “Why doesn’t Starbucks have bubble (boba) drinks?”
- “What are bubble tea pearls made of?”
Any of this content could be assistive in ranking branded content for featured snippets on Google.
Even though we have not seen any list or table snippets appearing in the current zero click results for “Starbucks” + “bubble (boba) tea” keywords, it’s likely because list and table data is not being targeted within content that relates to these keywords. In this case, it could be beneficial to incorporate these data structures within the content of a targeted page. There are two approaches we could take to target zero click search opportunity with list and data table or recipe instructions.
If targeting list and data table, then Starbucks could consider a variety of content ideas that might prove engaging, as well as data driven.
Perhaps Starbucks could build a simulator tool which for fun calculates when bubble tea will arrive to your area. Next to the position of simulator tool, could be some simple facts about the shortage. This all can live under a heading tag “How Long Until the Bubble Tea Shortage is Over?”
<h3>How Long Until the Bubble Tea Shortage is Over?</h3>
<li>30 days for tapioca pearls to cross ocean<li>
<li>14 days for tapioca pearls to clear international customs<li>
<li>90 days for tapioca pearls shipment to leave the shipping dock<li>
<li>10 days for tapioca pearls to arrive at retail stores<li>
<li><strong>Minimum of 4 months and 24 days</strong><li>
Also, the same data could be listed in an HTML table. In doing so, the following markup is essential for featured snippet data display:
<h3>How Long until the Bubble Tea Shortage is Over?</h3>
<caption style=”text-align:right”>Bubble Tea Shortage Countdown</caption>
<th>Number of Days</th>
<th>Bubble Tea Milestone</th>
<td>Ship tapioca pearls across the ocean</td>
For SEO reference, when using tables consider the following inputs because table snippets generally display the data in table format:
- <table> — is where the data is contained
- <caption> — Tag for HTML table data theme, can be referenced by search engine’s target page keyword theme. This caption is readable by screen readers, so be useful in your captions.
- <th> — Table Headings. A tag for generating bold headings – describes data integer in row.
- <tr> — Table row. The <tr> tag defines a row in an HTML table. This element contains one or more <th> or <td> elements inside of it.
- <td> — Table data. This can contain data related to text, values, product lists, etc.
- <table summary>- Even though it will be deprecated with HTML 5, it is worth mentioning the summary attribute of the table element makes this information available to people who use screen readers too; the information is not displayed visually.
Starbucks can keep the messaging neutral as possible and offer a fun “organic tapioca pearl” recipe or create a UGC driven campaign that tries to solve the “Boba Tea Shortage” with a homemade Bubble Tea Recipe contest, all of which can be supported by schema strategies which might enable featured snippets. Each content plan has an approach that could define a different structured data markup strategy. Recipe implementation might be a good way to address the “bubble tea Starbucks” inquiries without confirming or denying anything.
There are plenty of ways to deploy a recipe content campaign or recipe contest. Regardless of structured data markup, the strategy should always include three considerations for recipe schema to have a chance to be leveraged in zero click search features:
- Qualitative images
- An authoritative entity listed as author in structured data
- HowToStep @type in schema implementation for each step in the recipe process
The video snippet is strongly influenced by YouTube. There are multiple ways to deploy this snippet strategy, too. For example, it could be a video clip with structured markup strategy or clickable timestamps that pinpoint the exact point in the video when a question is answered.
At a minimum for exclusive SEO purposes, Starbucks should consider repurposing the website content into video format for its branded YouTube channel. The more exciting opportunity for this topic and audience affinity for both “bubble tea” and “Starbucks” could make for more resource-heavy yet virally targeted brand content for social strategy.
If Starbucks targeted a more cross-channelized approach to branding, then SEO should be using featured snippets as leverage for extending reach of the video content campaign that is being powered in part by paid social. Content planning will variate based on how Starbucks might deploy video-related markup for a snippet strategy. In order to better understand various markup scenarios, read this Google developers page, which has a terrific guide in making these nuanced, and structured markup decisions.
There are no zero click search analytics related to tracking directly into conversion value, nor any click-to-conversion reporting tools for zero-positioned placements. However, there is some reporting of snippet visibility in Google Search Console, and on different popular analysis tools and plugins. Discussions about zero click search are important to have constantly in order to ensure value is placed on this SEO effort. In doing so, attribution around zero click search priority will be better observed during SEO and content execution.
There are some common ways to assign attribution to zero click search:
- Use PPC data to determine the cost to top-of-page positioning for brand keywords. Based on the total cost and brand priority, this PPC value can then be used for organic brand positioning in zero click landscape.
- Determine the value of share of voice in search. In PR, a share of voice metric is assigned to placements on the web. This same type of attribution can be scaled to model for branded, owned content vs. branded earned placements on non-owned properties appearing for other zero click search opportunities. This could help integrate outreach priorities into the attribution model.
- Monitor stakeholder assigned attribution. Sometimes, business urgency and internal priorities define higher attribution. Stakeholders or C-level executives can assign attribution values that are in line with Big Hairy Audacious Goals or have internal corporate value that might not align with direct revenue reporting.
At Investis Digital, we help many clients create content that is compelling and findable. Our content teams possess a full complement of skills creating content and designing pages for performance and SEO. For more insight on how we can help, contact Investis Digital.
Hamza Fazal is a reporter for The Hear UP. After graduating from the University of Abbottabad, Hamza got an internship at the NPR and worked as a reporter and producer. Hamza has also worked as a reporter for the Medium. Hamza covers health and science for The Hear UP.
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