4 ways to survive in a zero-click world

Friends of Search is the event for SEO and SEA specialists in the Benelux. For the first time the event took place in Brussels and of course we didn’t want to miss it! With several major speakers, it was a successful edition from which we would love to share the SEO key insights with you.
The biggest challenge in organic search these days is gaining traffic in a zero-click world. This means that users already get an answer to their question without having to click on a search result. That’s because organic search results are not only competing with paid ads, but also with maps, knowledge panels, answer boxes, table snippets, … . Position zero is dominating Google’s first organic position and pushes organic search results down the page.



1. Be aware of multi language search

Cindy Krum, Found & CEO of MobileMoxie, stated that with the increase of mobile phones and with the arrival of voice search, language processing has become more and more important. One language can have many variations. For example: we see different search results when we look for “red stoplight” (traffic light) and “stoplight red” (red lipstick). To understand the need of search, Google looks at historical data to get insights on your online behaviour in order to give the user the most relevant search results. There are 3 main things that have an impact on how the search results appear and how Google processes queries:

Country version (,…)
Query language: the language the query is written in
Search language setting or default (mobile) language setting

Cindy did a series of tests to show the impact of the language settings of your smartphone. Depending on these settings, the search results for the exact same query are never the same. In some cases your website will appear at position 1 for a certain query, in other cases you won’t appear in the top 5 of the search results for the same query. That’s because in the first example there is less competition from featured snippets (i.e. answer boxes), which pushes all search results down.

As you don’t get a number of the “stolen” zero-click searches that push your content down the page, it’s important to use different tools that show you the impact of position zero. You can use these tools to spot opportunities as well. In Semrush for example, you can add your top keywords to check the evolution of the rankings. By adding your keywords in multiple languages, you can get more insights. With the tool MobileMoxie you can even see how search results for a certain query will look like in different regions and with different language settings.


2. Relevant content for the win

Viola Eve, Founder & SEO Consultant of Flow SEO, also stated that strategies and mindsets need to be changed. You have to give the people what they want. The key to gaining more organic clicks nowadays is to understand which content is most relevant for a user’s search query. Depending on what your answer is on a certain question, you should have multiple formats (video, visual, blog post, …) to serve the right content to users. 

And with the last update of Google’s algorithm, a web page that gets a featured snippet in position zero, will not show up anymore for a second time further down in the organic search results. SEO specialists now ask themselves if they should get rid of the featured snippet and how to do so. 

Izzi Smith, Technical SEO Analyst at Ryte, stated that when you appear in position 1, 84% of the queries result in a featured snippet. If the position is between 1 and 2, it’s 60 %. So if the CTR of the featured snippet is higher than the CTR on your organic position, you better leave it that way. In order to analyze the relevance of the featured snippet, you should add '&num=9' at the end of the URL. This way you can find out what the organic position is after removing a featured snippet: you will get a results page with only 9 results and without featured snippet. Now you should check if your organic position is still acceptable, combine that with CTR data from Search Console and if the organic CTR is higher than that of the featured snippet you should lose it.


3. SEO at large scale

This year Dieuwerke Antoons-O’Donnell, head of SEO at, talked about optimizations at scale. There's no escaping this as they have millions of URL's that should contain SEO-proof content and a technical SEO team of five experts that should take care of this. In addition, partners upload their own product details themselves, which is not the average way of doing SEO. Besides that, they have one website for two countries, where soon a new language version will be added for Wallonia. This means a lot of things have to be taken into account.

One of the biggest optimizations they’ve done is the optimization of the headers and meta titles. As meta titles are formed by the headers, they had to create 71 variables that can build a “natural” title tag. With the rise of voice search, this was an important step because the pages got a more commercial intent. This optimization resulted in no less than 58% more organic traffic where 24% of the organic traffic appears in the top 3 search results.  

As expanded its online assortiment to the Flemish market, she admits that they are not quite there yet. Even though the same language is used, there are clear language differences. A lot of manual work is needed to optimise all meta tags. With the introduction of “attributes”, they overwrite the script with manual attributes which they fill in themselves in the CMS. 

And what will they do with Wallonia? As the current set-up doesn't work in French, they still have a lot of work. Soon they will go live with an MVP (minimum viable product).

One last interesting insight we got is that had to build her own ranktracker because of its size. Partners will probably be able to use it soon. 


4. Customize your meta data

After you’ve worked on the optimizations at scale to appear at the top of the organic search results, you can add new meta data to tell Google how to display your search result. That’s what Martin Splitt, a developer advocate on the Webmaster Trends Analyst team at Google Switzerland, told us. 

With the tag “max-snippet:[number]” you have the ability to specify a maximum text-length of a snippet for your page. “Max-video-preview:[number]” tells Google what should be the maximum duration (in seconds) of a video preview. A third option is the tag “max-image-preview:[number]”, which you can use if you want to specify a maximum size of an image preview for that page, using “none”, “standard” or “large”. This offers a little bit more flexibility and control of what appears in search results.

Need a hand in finetuning your SEO tactics?

Don't miss out

It's more than digital, it's your business
The Reference is nothing without its customers. Melexis is the stock market-listed global player in the semi-conductor and sensors industry for whom we facilitated future company growth by updating the brand, building the completely new corporate website and giving shape to the use of online channels. Read more about this client.