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Is Google Answer Box stealing my web traffic? - Find out, we explore the topic in this informative article on how Google Answer box impacts your website traffic.

Does Google Answer Box Steal Web Traffic?

In a recent article first posted on Medium, Joe Trusty – CEO of Pool Marketing asked an important question – Is Google Answer Box Stealing Web Traffic? The answer is – unintentionally, yes. A few years ago, Google Answer Box, and showing up for a featured snippet as a Google Answer was considered a high value target for many SEO’s. Heck, it still is – but right now analytically minded SEO’s everywhere are being forced to re-examine initial findings on the benefits of showing up in this position as it potentially can cause disasterous results on your web traffic.

Is Google Intentionally Stealing My Web Traffic?

Absolutely not. It’s an unintentional side effect due to human nature. Let’s examine Why Google Answer Box impacts web traffic. Don’t know what google box is? Say I was to do a search for something simple that I’ve always wanted to know – “Who is faster Flash or Superman?”. If I type a search query like that into Google they will provide me with an Instant Answer to my question.

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The highlighted portion demonstrates that this is a Featured Snippet. Google is answering the question immediately so that the user will not have to click in order to find the context of the answer being provided by the favorite result it determined best suits the search query.

Are Google Instant Answers Stealing Clicks?

Due to the condition of human nature, once we have the information we want – we may not feel compelled to completely explore the issue any further. For instance – if you want to know how to cook an omelet and you ask Google for an Omelet Recipe and Google immediately provides you with a featured snippet with the information, you may not feel compelled to visit the #1 Search Result for “What is the best way to cook an omelet?“.

Featured snippets providing all the directions for the recipe.
The search query for “what is the best way to cook an omelet” comes with a featured snippet that unwittedly costs the publisher clicks.

This costs publishers potential web traffic and millions of clicks because Google is in effect leveraging the content from the website in order to provide the fastest information possible to the visitor performing the search query.

Instant Answer = Zero Clicks

The consumer in effect has been provided an instant answer which results in an anomaly called “zero clicks” where the user doesn’t need to click any further. This isn’t necessarily “click stealing” but this inadvertently costs publishers millions of dollars in ad revenue & potential sales because consumers are not clicking through to the website. Hence they are not consuming ads, only content. If Google is leveraging that to hedge the clicks the #1 information provider gets, it is working. The number #2 provider may not always provide the best information though. Hence the scenario presented below.

I typed in “inground pool prices“.

The first result that comes up is HomeGuide.com which displays as a featured snippet informing me of the approximate cost of an inground pool. The website provides a ton of information and is basically a lead trap for consumers to submit their information where it is sold to advertisers, pretty standard stuff going on here.

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Homeguide.com grabs the top spot with a featured result that doesn’t generate as many clicks as the #1 search result below it. An ironic twist in the condition of human nature and how it impacts web traffic.

HomeGuide.com is unable to leverage the clicks for this result however, as it is statistically shown that the 1st position featured snippet does not receive the lions share of search traffic. In fact, it’s the very next listing that does, which is ironic – but not when you understand human nature, and here’s why.

Average CTR of Featured Snippets - Ahrefs - 26% of clicks go to the positon #1 spot when no featured snippet is present. Only 8.6% go to the snippet. 19.6% go to the first search result.
Ahrefs – 26% of clicks go to the positon #1 spot when no featured snippet is present. Only 8.6% go to the snippet. 19.6% go to the first search result.
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Search volume on “inground pool prices” is around 1.3k with a 46% CTR

Grabbing The Real #1 Spot Caused A Crazy High Bounce Rate

The second place result Thursday Pools a fiberglass pool manufacturer, receives the lions share of the clicks in this instance. This is because consumers may not be happy with the answer provided in the Google Featured Snippet for Home Guide. Since Google Answer Box isn’t presenting Thursday’s answer as well, consumers that still aren’t satisfied with the instant answer they were provided feel compelled to click on Thursday Pool’s website.

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Thursday Pools killed it on SEO, but not on retention. A 96% bounce rate indicates that consumers were looking for something else. Not being able to correctly monetize on high value keywords is a problem associated with marketing strategy, not necessarily SEO. Sometimes even the best SEO strategies come with major caveats.

Thursday did an amazing job at writing a great SEO piece to capture this rank. The bounce rate however indicates that consumers just don’t like the page. Sure the content itself was good enough to rank, but upon further examination we can see there is something wrong. High bounce rate could be for a few of the following reasons:

  1. Consumers may want pool prices for Gunite Pools or Vinyl Liner pools. Maybe they’re looking for Gunite Pool Builders or Commercial Pool Installation? There really are so many variables. Thursday only manufacturers Fiberglass pools. The majority of searches are probably looking for a pool builder.
  2. A long wordy article not broken up by effective eye catching headlines, graphics, visuals, videos, or other media causes significant eye drain on the user.
  3. A lack of effective calls to action that prompt the visitor to take another action other than reading an article.
  4. Inaccurate information – the article is informative but may not offer the precise information the visitor is seeking for their particular geographic location.

Why going after high value targets isn’t always best in SEO…

This is not to take a shot at Thursdays overall SEO strategy, which in my book is above average especially in context to other pool builders, manufacturers and lead generation websites vying for the same keyword. Seriously, hats off to whoever wrote that article. It is ranking high in search – but the bounce rate has to be a cause for a few red flags and is a serious indicator that something is off. My estimation is it revolves around the 4 factors I mentioned above.

Google however, is the culprit here in this instance, because inadvertently they’ve presented a fiberglass pool manufacturer for the lions share of the clicks for a generalized topic rather than a Lead Generation portal that sells leads on a marketplace to advertisers nationally. It’s an amusing and ironic twist in how this particular search saga is being played out over this particular keyword.

Why you should listen to this SEO advice…

We are the 900 pound gorillas at SEO and marketing and know best practices, how to win at SEO and the benefits of putting together a solid SEO strategy. Just to show that we eat our own dog food around here, we’ve SEO’d this article. The information here ranks higher than the 2 articles that were used for source information below it.

Does Google Answer Box Steal Web Traffic and Clicks? The answer is... yes, but unintentionally.
Only 62.24% keyword difficulty here, that’s a cake walk. We for one don’t care either way whether this article ranks for a featured snippet or not. So long as you know the advice is sound and provided by an expert that knows SEO, mission accomplished.

Is Google Stealing Traffic?

So what is your call, is Google stealing traffic or not? We are interested to see what you think, reply in the comments below.

It’s hard to tell how Google’s Featured Snippet will impact anyone’s overall web strategy. SEO is more about trial and error than fixed and defined rules, heck it has “Optimization” in the acronym and I think alot of people miss that fact.

There are best practices guidelines to follow sure, but it’s more about evaluating how your content performs over time. Featured snippets definitely have their benefit. We are not going to sell them short just yet. As a branding tool for positioning they are enormously useful and have their place in SEO.

Is Google stealing web traffic? Well my article ranks #1 for a featured snippet so you make the call.
The original Medium article ranks #1 with a featured snippet 🙂
Author: Pool Marketing
Pool Marketing Expert - Joe Trusty provides expert marketing advice to Pool Builders and Pool Service companies. Joe Trusty is a veteran marketing expert with over 20 years experience in Website Design & Development and SEO. He successfully managed Marketing & IT for one of the world's largest Pool Builders and increased their revenue annually by hundreds of millions of dollars. Joe Trusty is the foremost marketing expert in the Swimming Pool Industry and CEO of PoolMarketing.com

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