Is your SEO strategy ready for Zero-Result SERPs?

Ask any SEO professional out there about the biggest difficulty when it comes to putting an SEO strategy in stone and they will tell you about Google’s updates and tests. There always seems to be a new trial that Google is working on to change the way SERPs, or Search Engine Result Pages, look and feel.

This is great for those of us who are searching, as it will help to improve the quality of results that we get back. However, for someone working in SEO, it can be quite a big headache. This is especially true when you have a 12-month strategy already planned, as it will likely need to be modified on a constant basis. On a side note, this also means that an SEO “professional” who claims that their strategy doesn’t need changing probably isn’t the most trustworthy SEO.

One recent trial that initially started in March this year, over in the States, is the Zero-Result SERP, also known as Single-Result SERP. Now, those two names may be a little confusing, since one implies one, single result being shown whereas the other implies nothing being shown at all. But don’t worry, it will all make sense in a minute.

What is a Zero-Result SERP?

The original Google search result page had a very specific formula; you would see PPC adverts at the very top (and down the side), then 10 Organic SEO results underneath those. That was it. Since then, we’ve had the additions of the Local 3-Pack, Google Shopping, image & video results being pulled onto the front page, Quick Answers and so much more.

The search result pages have become very busy and cluttered. In fact, it can often be somewhat overwhelming, especially as Mobile devices continue to grow in terms of internet usage behaviour.

With this in mind, plus the rising popularity of Voice Search (more on that here), Google has decided to try and make some SERPs far simpler. These new search result pages are incredibly minimalistic, cutting out pretty much everything. In fact, the only result you will get is either one of Google’s built-in apps (like their calculator) or a Knowledge Base feature.

This is what is called a Zero-Result (or Single-Result) Search Page. The term Zero-Result refers to the fact that there are no PPC or Organic SEO results, whilst Single-Result refers to the fact that, whilst there aren’t any PPC or SEO results, there is still one result on the page – the app or Knowledge Base feature.

So, both of these names refer to the exact same thing, but from two different viewpoints. But in short, these types of search result pages have no PPC, Shopping, SEO or other results aside from the one app or Knowledge Base feature.

Note: Below this result is a button you can click to see “all results”, which will take you to the standard search result page.

When are Zero-Result SERPs coming to the UK?

Whenever Google tests or trials a new SERP layout or feature, they do it in the States, to begin with. Typically, this test will go on for months, ranging from 2 months to 2 years.

The Zero-Result SERP trial started in America in March, before being paused on the 20th March. This shows that Google wasn’t quite happy with the current implementation. Because of this, we are still waiting for them to run a full trial of Zero-Result SERPs over in the States.

Therefore, no one knows when Zero-Result SERPs will complete their initial trial phase and move to other countries. However, the fact that Google has tested them partially means that we can expect these new layouts to appear in the relatively near future.

Based upon that, and considering SEO is a slow-burner when it comes to the effect your work creates, there is no reason not to be prepared ahead of time, is there?

How should an SEO strategy change?

In order to prepare for Zero-Result SERPs, the best thing to do is to change your strategy to follow suit with technological advances. In particular, you should be looking at Voice Search and Visual Search.

Zero-Result SERPs seem as though they are a logical step and answer to the increase in both of these types of searches. This is because, for example, people using an Amazon Echo to search through Alexa don’t have the ability to scroll through search results. Therefore, Google will attempt to retrieve just one Knowledge Base feature that answers the search query as best as possible.

Voice Search

Voice Search optimisation can be done through a number of different means, all of which revolve around the various types of Knowledge Base features. By working on your content strategy, as well as existing content, to take advantage of the Knowledge Base, you can help your website to appear with Position Zero now, in advance of the Zero-Result SERPs.

This means that you’ll be able to appear above everything else, gaining even higher exposure in Google and increase the trust potential visitors have in your website.

Visual Search

Forget the Google Glasses idea from previous years – Google Lens is here now, as part of the Google Assistant app (you can read more about that here). At the moment, it is only available of a select few Android phones (most the Google Pixel devices) but is planned to roll out across Android devices in the near-future.

Google Lens allows you to aim the camera of your phone or tablet at something and use that image to create a search in Google. For example, you could point your camera at a drink can’s barcode and Google would recognise it and search for products with that barcode. You could also aim the camera at a landmark and Google will search for that as well.

The results that are found through this are chosen based on their content and use of Schema markup tagging. So if you haven’t already, it is definitely time to start putting a Schema strategy together.

Note: Schema can be very complicated and it is highly recommended that you utilise an SEO professional and a skilled web developer to implement it correctly.

Fluidity is key for any SEO Strategy

When it comes down to it, this is just the current look of the future for SEO. In reality, Google is going to change the landscape again and again. That means that we will need to constantly modify our SEO strategies.

Fluidity really is one of the most important parts of strategic SEO. You need to have a base plan of attack and a target, but be able to react to the changes that Google release.

If you need help putting together an SEO strategy and carrying it out in a way that works now and in the future, feel free to get in touch with us today!

Written by Gareth Torrance

Hello there. I'm Gareth, the Digital Marketing Manager at Brave. With almost a decade of experience in PPC and SEO, I've seen everything from Pandas and Penguins to the horrible time that was Mobilegeddon. As an Adwords Certified Google Specialist, I have lived through almost every major shift in the industry! And that makes me feel old.

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