According to a recent study by marketing analytics firm Jumpshot, 49.96% of all US Google searches in the first quarter of 2019 ended without a click. This is an increase of 12% from the first quarter of 2016.

“I think marketers are probably in a mixed position today vs. three years ago, depending on their sector,” Rand Fishkin, SparkToro founder and author of a recent analysis on Google clickstream data, told Search Engine Land on Tuesday.

The data also revealed that 5.9% of searches ended with the user heading to another Google-owned web site, and when looking at just the searches that resulted in a click, 12% went to Google-owned sites.

“If you’re in a field Google has decided to enter, like travel, hotels, flights, lyrics, etc., the search giant is almost certainly cannibalising your market and removing a ton of opportunity,” added Fishkin.

One piece of good news for SEO practitioners everywhere was that organic search clicks outnumber paid nearly 12 to 1.

Key takeaways from Jumpshot’s study

  • Click-through rates down on organic, up on ads – The click-through rate on organic search results have fallen by 13% to 47.4%. However, the click-through rate on search ads has risen by three quarters to 3.69% over the same period.
  • Getting organic clicks on mobile is much harder than desktop – Mobile is responsible for the majority of zero-click searches. Traffic opportunities have also declined dramatically on mobile, even though this is where search volume is highest.
  • The rise of Google-owned results – One of the reasons for a rise in zero-click searches is because users can gather the information they’re looking for from the results page itself. For example through Google’s Featured Snippets and Knowledge Panel.

How to overcome zero-click searches

Seeing as nearly half of all searches go no further than the results page, and 12% of those that do lead to clicks are for Google-owned sites, several marketers will find this study rather worrying.

However, techniques such as optimising for featured snippets and adding schema mark-up should help brands influence searcher behaviour, as Fishkin explains:

“In sectors they [Google] don’t directly compete in, there may be fewer total clicks available, but probably more searches total. There’s an opportunity in this moment, while the press is paying attention and the government is looking at Google, for marketers and publishers to contribute their stories and potentially influence Google’s behaviour.

“My hope is those contributions can help hold the search giant to account, and keep the playing field fair, open, and filled with competition.”

What’s more, a search ending in zero-clicks is not entirely useless to marketers. Although its more difficult to track metrics and covert visitors, you can still influence searchers through the results page itself. This could mean adopting more On-SERP SEO – the practice of optimising the results page in Google to deliver your brand’s message directly.

Methodology caveats – Jumpshot’s study was based on over one billion web browser searches on ten million domestic desktop and Android devices in the US. It does not include searches conducted on iOS devices, the Google Search app, voice-only devices or searches that ended in a click to a mobile app.