Zero Click: Google’s controversial strategy

Although every day millions of people use it and benefit from its practicality, few know of the existence of this service and the controversy it generates.

Zero Click represents an important time saving for users and Internet traffic, but it is also a parasitic model that ends up harming information and content providers.

What is Zero Click and why does it generate controversy?

By: Gabriel E. Levy B. – – @galevy 

If you need to know the time, the state of the climate, the capital of a country, the exchange rate of your currency or the fastest route to a destination, you will most likely “google” it, and most likely, Google will provide you with the summary information of what you are precisely looking for in a box at the top, without having to click additionally.

Also, this information will most likely have been obtained by Google from an external information source that it prevented you from accessing directly.

In a nutshell, this is the phenomenon known as Zero Click, which allows you to automatically get answers in an Internet search, without being redirected to the source of the information.

Part of the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategy, Zero Click is the name of a technique implemented by Google that seeks to provide quick answers to the user, so that he or she feels satisfied with the information available in the search without having to enter the source, unless he or she wants to search further [1].

Zero Click Benefits

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of Zero Click is the Internet traffic saving, since the user accesses the information without leaving the Google servers, avoiding the redirection and the subsequent data load that can be generated. Taking into account that approximately 50% of Google searches end up being satisfactory for the user with the information provided by Zero Click [2], the relief in terms of traffic and load for the network is relevant.

A report by Rand Fishkin (known as the SEO guru) that was published on the SparkToro blog stated that:

“By June 2019, more than 50% of desktop Google searches end without a click to other content. This means that the websites that have created the content that Google offers, have seen their traffic from Google reduced by half and, therefore, do not benefit from the visit of users”. [3]

According to this report, the most impacted contents by the Zero Click phenomenon are statistically the most used searches by all users at a global level; they are related to time zones, currency conversion, meteorology, calculations of all kinds, definitions, dates of events, facts, nearby places, access to addresses, recipes and answers to “how to” questions. This, in turn, is a great benefit to users, since they receive the answers to many of their concerns simply and quickly.

The origin of the controversy

The problem arises when the economic models of web services are reviewed. The main funding model of most Internet sites is based on the number of people visiting the site, as companies or aggregators insert advertising on the pages expecting the person to click, thus generating revenue to sustain the platform.

Although this model is not highly profitable, it does provide sustainability as long as the number of visitors is significant [5].

On the other hand, the popularity of a site is closely linked to the number of visits it gets and, as its traffic grows, it acquires more recognition, just as it does in the face-to-face world.

With the Zero Click model implemented through Google’s SEO system, many visits do not reach the sites that originate the content, which substantially reduces the income of these sites, while traffic reports decrease.

Both are highly detrimental factors for the content creator.

“For online media, data is bad, no matter how you look at it, because traffic is crucial to their business model. They need Internet users to enter their websites. The data is not favorable either for brands and companies, since it is also more valuable for them that Internet users visit their sites, but they can alleviate the effects of the situation by changing the strategy and positioning themselves in a different way. They have to try to enter the default answers offered by Google”. [6] Puro Marketing Portal Analysis

Google doesn’t force you, but…

Although Zero Click is not an obligation that Google imposes, since the websites themselves voluntarily share information by willingly incorporating Google’s SEO strategies, formulas and codes, it is eventually not an option among many for a web content creator, since this search engine has cornered more than 92% of the market [7].

Therefore, if a web portal does not accept the conditions of Google, it renounces to the visibility of the only search engine that is used all over the planet, except for a few countries [8][9].

Additionally, Google is the main provider of website advertising, through Google Ads Words and Google Ads Sense, so the option of breaking relations with Google is not viable for any company [10].

The model is beginning to force web content creators and broadcasters to think of strategies so that the information Google takes is not the end of the search but an invitation to enter the web, but in a world of quick searches, a good part of those searches are about very specific things that do not encourage deepening.

Others who seek to reproduce the model

Although the concept of Zero Click is closely linked to Google and its search engine, this is not the only platform where it occurs, since many of the personal virtual assistants operate with the same logic, whether through Alexa [11], Siri [12], or Google itself [13].

When a user searches, these algorithms acquire the information on the web and respond to the concern of the user, but they do not always inform the origin or source of the data, which makes them a much more complex form of Zero Click.

Twitter is another digital player that resorts to a similar formula: when users activate the search option, the social media offers them a summary of the most relevant topics and, although it presents a complete timeline with the information, many people are left with only the top lead promoted by Twitter and do not consult the remaining information available [14].

In conclusion, the Zero Click scheme represents an important relief for Internet traffic and simplifies searches for users. However, and although it is not mandatory for websites to use this model, it operates to the detriment of individuals and organizations that create content, which must decide between losing traffic because they are not on Google or losing the traffic that Google retains with the Zero Click scheme, which, in either case, means decreased revenue and popularity.

Google is practically the only global player in the search engine market with a concentration of more than 92%, which allows the company to impose the game rules in the web ecosystem, as recently diagnosed in a report by the UK Competition and Markets Authority [15].

Similarly, other Zero Click forms have emerged in recent years that could end up aggravating this crisis for content creators.

It will probably be necessary to encourage a broad and open debate involving civil society, Internet companies and governments, for a fairer balance in the implementation of these types of strategies which, although useful and their benefits are quantifiable, cannot continue to operate to the detriment of those who contribute most value to the Internet: the content creators.

Photo by: Emiliano Cicero – at

Information Sources:

[1] Article from the specialized portal Puro Marketing

[2] SparkToro’s Report on Zero Click Traffic

[3] SparkToro’s Report on Zero Click Traffic

[4] SparkToro’s Report on Zero Click Traffic

[5] Specialized article by SEJ Search Engine about the Zero Click effect

[6] Article published by the specialized media “Puro Maketing”

[7] El Economista article on the Level of Market Concentration by Google

[8] Article by Hipertextual and the BBC – Five Countries where Google does not Dominate the Market

[9] BBC article on How Google Defeated its Competitors

[10] Report submitted by the UK Competition and Markets Authority

[11] Xataca Portal article about Alexa from Amazon

[12] Presentation and description of Siri’s functions on the Apple Portal

[13] Google’s official description of its assistant’s services

[14] Official Twitter information on its News Summary Mechanism

[15] Report submitted by the UK Competition and Markets Authority

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