Zero click searches are a relatively new feature on major search engines. These morsels of information provide a refined user experience for people in search of simple answers. Without having to click on any actual results, featured snippets and knowledge panels show users (hopefully) exactly what they’re looking for. That was Google’s goal back in 2019 when they first introduced this tool, and continues to be the main incentive moving forward.
Why are we interested in them? These tiny but rich snippets offer tremendous rewards for websites and webpages that can win the position — often called position 0, or rank 0. They’re called that because the first result on the search engine results page (SERP) is considered position 1, and a zero click result sits nicely above even the first major result.
But, what exactly are featured snippets? Knowledge panels? How are they different? And most importantly, how can you claim that coveted piece of Google SERP real estate? We have your answers.
A zero click search is, well, a search result that doesn’t require the user to click on anything to get their answer.
How exactly does that work, you ask? When a user searches for something, most commonly an informational query that has an unambiguous answer, major search engines will often show them what’s called a featured snippet. Within that highly desired nugget displayed at the top of the results page — in “position 0” — will be the answer to the question.
In the wondrous world of digital marketing, having a featured snippet is the coveted crown. Why? Because humanity’s collective attention span is ever-shrinking. When your website or webpage displays right in front of a user’s eyes without them having to make any additional effort, there’s the potential that millions upon millions more people will see your content.
Here’s an example of what an eligible zero click search would return in a featured snippet:
In this instance, when searching for “When was Boston founded,” we get a zero click search result that displays an instant answer (September 7, 1630) along with some additional information and relevant photos. The above image is an example of a “paragraph” feature, which makes up about 82% of all featured snippets. The other two major formats are lists (11%) and tables (7%).
Here’s an example of a list snippet of actors who have played The Doctor:
And this one, an example of a table snippet that showcases NASA missions:
As it turns out, there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding the studies and statistics about zero click searches. It appears that no one can agree on or make sense of the numbers.
With that in mind, we’ll keep the facts here general so as to not provide any misinformation. See here for the data, but do keep in mind that opinions surrounding the numbers are up for debate.
In short, what the unclear data is trying to get at is that, yes, people love zero click searches; yes, zero click searches are useful; and yes again, featured snippets and knowledge panels are extremely valuable for both users and businesses.
Knowedgle panels, or knowledge graphs, are another popular type of zero click search. They’re similar to featured snippets in that they display readily on a results page. Where they differ is in their overall layout and location, and the type of information that they present. In general, though, a knowledge panel provides more in-depth detail about a search topic — usually an entity, like a person, city/country or business — whereas featured snippets answer a direct question.
But where does the information in a knowledge panel come from? Google has an answer for that:
“Knowledge panels are automatically generated, and information that appears in a knowledge panel comes from various sources across the web. In some cases, we may work with data partners who provide authoritative data on specific topics like movies or music, and combine that data with information from other open web sources.”
For context, here’s an example of the knowledge panel you get when you search a major city. As a random, completely nonspecific, totally unbiased example, let’s try Boston.
Similarly to the featured snippet, knowledge panels are highly coveted in the world of SEO. If you can get your business to show in a knowledge panel, you’re winning. They offer the same benefits that featured snippets do, with maybe a bit more emphasis on credibility — especially for businesses.
But how exactly do you achieve platinum internet status by showing in a featured snippet or knowledge panel? Read on, eager one.
Ranking in position 0 on major search engines is no easy task. It takes lots and lots of specialized SEO knowledge to optimize a website for featured snippets. Even then, with so much competition, being — and staying — featured is a constant uphill battle.
Nevertheless, there are some integral things that you can do to get on the right track — aboard the train that will deliver you to the land of SEO greatness.
Keyword research is the bread and butter of SEO. Without targeting relevant keywords in your website content, it’s very difficult to rank highly.
There are lots of great SEO tools out there that can help you conduct keyword research, but there is a more comprehensive and straightforward way… Outsourcing!
While ranking in position 0 is never a guarantee given the sheer amount of competition, you may greatly increase your odds by hiring a creative agency (cough, cough Brafton) that has seasoned SEO professionals at your disposal.
Once you know what words you need to use in your content, it’s time to produce it. Keep in mind, there are right and wrong ways to implement choice keywords into a piece of copy, and Google’s algorithm is not afraid to punish those who use dishonest strategies like keyword stuffing.
It’s important to make sure you’re including keywords as organically as possible, which is why we say “building your content around” them, and not just “including them in your content.” There’s a fine line — according to the algorithms anyway — between meaningful usage and abhorrent stuffage.
Since featured snippets usually provide an answer to unambiguous and popular questions, that’s exactly what your content has to do — answer them.
To take from the “when was Boston founded” example from earlier, we now know that the answer is September 7, 1630. When we actually click on the featured snippet, we can see that the answer to the query is provided in the opening paragraph on the website that ultimately won the rank 0 position for that question. So, that’s that! Answer questions often, and answer them quickly!
In connection with answering questions, and answering them ASAP in a piece of content — that’s just one aspect of formatting that should be taken into account.
Headlines, subheads and the order in which information is presented all play an important part in your overall SEO strategy. More often than not, you’ll want those headings to include keywords, too.
Things we know right now about SEO could change along with the next algorithm update. If there’s one constant in the SEO world, it’s that there’s no constant. Plus, the whole concept of zero click searches is still so fresh to most users, creating even more potential for change as featured snippets and knowledge panels evolve.
We can advise, though, that as long as you’re implementing the above tactics, your SEO strategy will be better for it — even if you can’t win that position 0 rank. Truth be told, not every web page needs to rank 0, either! Rest assured, a better SEO strategy is a better SEO strategy, and that’s a great place to start.