Are you tracking conversions from the SERP? Here’s why you should

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Small businesses are having a harder time attracting new customers through Google search as consumers are now able to find the information or products they’re looking for directly from the search engine results page (SERP). This means they’re less likely to visit a company’s website and this makes growth more difficult for small businesses.

To better understand how marketers can use SERP to their advantage, TechRadar Pro spoke with the co-founder and CPO of CallRail, Kevin Mann.

You mention a study from June 2019 that claims that less than 1/2 of SERP actually generated a click (to a website I presume). Can you tell us more about the background of that research and, in your opinion, whether there were any caveats/pitfalls about it.

The study, run by clickstream data company Jumpshot, found that June 2019 marked the first time less than half of Google searches generated a click to a website. Based on data from 40 million browser-based searches on desktop and mobile devices in the U.S., 50.33% were classified as zero-click, while 45.25% and 4.42% resulted in organic clicks and ad clicks, respectively.

While the study did not give exact data on how many of these searches were performed via a mobile device, all marketers are cognizant of the steady rise in mobile-based searches. As we can expect to see more mobile searches resulting in zero clicks based on the immediate answers consumers are looking for when searching on their phones, marketers need to keep this in mind when tracking Google activity overall.

Jumpshot has a panel of over 100 million devices worldwide. While the company keeps the exact number of devices in the U.S. private, it’s estimated to be 2-6% of the world’s total mobile and desktop internet browsing devices.

One caveat to consider is the numbers are based on data collected only from Android-powered devices. Differences in search behavior between Android and iOS users could create biases in these results, but likely not in a significant way.

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In the grander scheme of things, do you consider it to be a good or a bad thing for businesses that rely heavily on Google?

This will ultimately be a challenge for companies relying heavily on Google, especially small businesses that generate a majority of new business leads from search traffic. Now that customers can find basic information about a business on the SERP, such as a phone number or business hours, they’re less inclined to visit a website. Many customers will decide to call a business directly from the SERP instead, and since click-to-call qualifies as a zero-click search, it’s impossible to attribute these click-to-call leads without the proper solutions in place. 

What tools or solutions are available that allows you to accurately track a user from a SERP to a website and then to a completed transaction?’

Mobile search advertising and Google call extensions drive large amounts of leads from the SERP, making click-to-call integration key for marketers to accurately track this user activity. To better track calls made directly from the SERP, marketers can implement tools that identify the specific PPC keywords that drove each call, and match the conversion to additional information — including phone call duration, call recordings and full caller ID. 

Google Assistant

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What is the role of smart assistants in shaping that trend?

Smart assistants certainly play a role in driving the trend of increasing zero-click searches. In fact, 91 million U.S. consumers are using voice assistants on some type of device, and by 2020, one third of Americans will use a voice assistant for daily tasks. As more consumers use technologies like Siri and Alexa to conduct searches, companies need to prioritize optimizing SEO for voice. Hiring a designated SEO for voice manager will ensure sustainable expertise and innovation in this area.

How do you see the trend evolving? Will one category of website (e.g. transactional) be more affected than others (e.g. news websites).

Given the steady rise in zero-click searches over the past few years, I don’t see this trend going away any time soon. The rise of voice search and searches on mobile devices point to even higher numbers of zero-click searches in the future. But there’s a caveat here. The types of queries performed via voice search tend to be very direct and loaded with intention. They are more like commands than they are explorations. We use voice search to act on a decision we’ve already made. We ask for directions, contact information or facts about something we’ve already identified. Therefore, transactional sites ought to remain positioned to accommodate these direct actions via voice search and marketers need to ensure they are optimizing SEO for voice.

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Does that mean that marketers need to pay more attention to increasing their marketing mix (focusing more on direct, offline and other audience sources?)

What marketers need to pay attention to is how to reduce friction for consumers that are trying to find out more information about their businesses and, ultimately, set up an appointment, make a purchase or sign up for a free trial. Google has gotten more sophisticated and is able to answer questions users have directly on the SERP. Beyond that, consumers are less patient than they once were, and they expect the expediency Google is now offering. Therefore, a well-rounded marketing mix is important to consider, but it’s also imperative to pay attention to consumer preferences and ensure marketers have the proper tools in place to track how well their campaigns are doing across all conversion points.

With zero-click searches on the rise, marketers need to get creative with their campaigns and ensure solutions for full lead attribution are in place for each — allowing them to effectively allocate their budget towards campaigns generating the most leads. While search traffic will remain crucial for generating new business, don’t underestimate other forms of digital marketing, such as content and social, for driving customers to your website.