However, SEO Still Trumps Google Ads 12 to 1
A recent study from marketing analytics firm Jumpshot spells trouble for organisations heavily reliant on organic traffic from search engines.
The latest data, compiled in conjunction with Sparktoro, shows a substantial drop in organic search clicks across a range of verticals.
‘Zero-click’ searches, as they are oft referred to, have steadily risen over the past three years.
In the first quarter of 2019, 48.96% of all U.S. Google searches captured by Jumpshot ended without a click, an increase of 12% from the first quarter of 2016.
The click-through rate on organic searches is 47.4%, while the click-through rate on search ads is 3.69% over the same period. However, the former has dropped 13%, while the latter has grown 75%.
Google Cannibalisation Of Search Traffic
The significance in the study lies not in suggesting a drop in usage of Google search.
On the contrary, Google is in rude health on that front, still the world’s leading web property.
Instead, the study suggests a growing cannibalisation of search queries as Google pivots towards being more of a ‘destination’, or ‘portal’ if you like.
A place where web users go and stay, to complete tasks or to be entertained.
Rather than a place they go to find information and then leave. Or, if they do leave, increasing heading towards a Google-owned destination.
Rand Fishkin, Sparktoro CEO and Co-Founder of Moz:
“If you’re in a field Google has decided to enter, like travel, hotels, flights, lyrics, etc., the search giant is almost certainly cannibalizing your market and removing a ton of opportunity.”
Reducing Friction In Search Results?
Ostensibly, Google has gradually been introducing these changes to improve usability.
Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, February 2019:
‘We have thousands of engineers working on continually launching search improvements… making sure search on mobile works really, really well removing friction where we can constantly working to get the answers, a bit quicker and faster and making them more relevant.’
A point reinforced by report author Rand Fishkin, citing Google’s “aggressive SERP features and instant answers.”
Google’s featured snippets dominate search engine results nowadays, addressing user needs, negating the need to click through to websites.
Take, for example, snippets like People Also Ask (PAAs), which appear regularly on a range of queries.
Featured Snippets & Mobile Search Ad Explosion
However, if we take Pichai at face value, about improving user experience, why have paid clicks exploded?
Mobile accounts for the majority of zero-click and paid search growth.
On mobile devices now, search ads often take up at least one to two full screens.
Really, the study demonstrates Google ‘doing a Facebook’ and starting to pull up the traffic drawbridge gradually.
For organisations, large and small, enjoy the free Google traffic while you can.
Moving forward, marketers will have to start engaging users at the search engine level, optimising web content to be visible in featured snippets.
Or, if you want traffic, you will increasingly have to start paying for it.