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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.
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.
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?“.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.