It’s time to accept that Google is no longer a search engine. It is an answer engine.

In today’s article, we’ll explain why we have to start thinking of Google as an “answer engine”. And why Google might be your biggest competitor this year.

An interesting article on the Sistrix blog the other day made a bold claim. For companies looking to grow via:

You biggest competitor might now be Google itself.

The Role Of Google

It’s somewhat slipped under the radar, but Google doesn’t really see itself as a search engine any more. It sees itself as an “answer engine”.

In the old model, Google provided you with a set of search results, which allowed you to navigate to the answer. Google now wants to provide you with the answer itself.

To see how this works, we need to look at the concept of zero click searches.

The Zero Click Search

A zero click search is one where you are provided with the answer to your search directly from the search results page. You don’t need to click onto another site to get the information (hence zero click).

For example, if you use a fixed, unambiguous, quantitative query like:

  • What’s the weather forecast for tomorrow
  • How many days in the month of April
  • What is 10 degrees Centigrade in Fahrenheit
  • How many dollars to the pound

Google will almost certainly be able to give you the answer directly on the search results page.

Google Expands Its Own Results

This isn’t just happening with quick quantitative searches. Google is also expanding the range of queries that it can provide the answers to. Google will now prioritise its own results for:

  • Events
  • Maps
  • Flights
  • Jobs
  • Recipes
  • Restaurants

And why not! Google exists for two reasons: to serve its customers (the people searching) and to further its own business interests. Third-party companies (like yours) have only ever been a means to an end for them.

Searches v Clicks

These trends will affect anyone involved in digital marketing, from professional SEOs to small business owners doing it themselves.

The first thing is to make a clear distinction between “clicks” and “searches” when doing your keyword research. The old method of looking at search volume (and just assuming more is better) is going to have to change.

These days, there are lots of keywords and keyphrases that generate a lot of search interest, but very few clicks.

Similarweb gives an example of the search term: “How old is the Queen?”. Plenty of individual searches, but very few clicks (because Google will just present the answer at the very top of the subsequent page).

What You Can Do About It

Start by checking your keywords and keyphrases. Make sure you’re not optimising for searches that Google can “zero click”.  A good way to do this is to work backwards from the answer. If it’s something that Google could easily display at the top of the page, consider a different approach.

For example, if you sell foreign holidays, don’t optimise for questions about climate, currency or flight duration. Pick some more qualitative themes like activities or food.

And above all, make sure you have a website full of great content that Google wants to send people to. There’s only so much information Google can provide with a zero click response.

If you are a valuable resource, Google will still want to work with you rather than against you.

If you’d like to discuss how these changes to Google might affect your digital marketing, please get in touch.

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