In August 2019, Rand Fishkin of SparkToro posted a provocative piece, “Less than Half of Google Searches Now Result in a Click.”

Using data from clickstream data company Jumpshot, Fishkin laid out how the giant search engine has become a “walled garden.”

He uses this term because 94% of all searches tracked by Jumpshot occur on a Google property, including YouTube, Maps, Images, etc. as well as Google’s main search engine. However, Jumpshot’s data does not include searches from mobile apps, such as Google Maps, Google Search and YouTube, which are installed on most phones in the U.S.

Fishkin estimates that Google’s true search market share is closer to 97%.

“In June of 2019,” he writes, “for the first time, a majority of all browser-based searches on Google resulted in zero clicks.”

“Zero clicks” is exactly what it means: the searcher doesn’t click on any listing on the search result page. The reasons for zero clicks are varied and include the searcher finding answers through Google’s “People Also Ask” feature where Google shows various questions and their answers. The answers are usually pulled from Wikipedia or other content-rich websites.

The Jumpshot data, writes Fishkin, shows that on mobile, “where more than half of all searches take place . . . organic has fallen by almost 20%, while paid has nearly tripled and zero-click searches are up significantly. Even way back in January 2016, more than half of mobile searches ended without a click. Today, it’s almost 2/3rds.”

Breaking down the data for manufacturers

If you read only the headline, “Less than Half of Google Searches Now Result in a Click,” and first paragraph of Fishkin’s piece, the news sounds alarming.

If less than half of searches result in a click, does that mean small manufacturers will see fewer visits to their websites?

The news, however, isn’t as alarming as Fishkin makes it out to be; to use his phrase, “the devil is in the details.”

The data Fishkin finds alarming refers to mobile search. According to Jumpshot’s data, Organic and Paid desktop search haven’t changed much in the last three years (Figure 1).

Google search clicks
Figure 1: Google search data via Jumpshot

For industrial manufacturers, Google Organic and Paid desktop search continue to be the main driver of traffic and conversions. Let’s demonstrate this with an example.

Figure 2 is typical of what we see with our smaller manufacturers’ Google Analytics data: 77% of users coming from desktop and 20% from mobile. (Note: The Desktop figure accounts for all traffic to the website: Organic, Paid, Referral, etc.)

Users by device
Figure 2: Users by device type, January – August 2019

Breaking this data down by medium, Figure 3 shows there are more than three times the number of visitors coming from Google Organic on a desktop than via mobile (33% versus 10%).

Google organic data
Figure 3: Google Organic data by device type, January – August 2019

Close to 40% of Desktop Goal Completions (meaning, searchers who took a measurable action, such as filling out an RFQ form or emailing the company) came from Google Organic search, with the majority of all Goal Completions taking place on desktop (Figure 4).

Conversions by device
Figure 4: Goal completions (Conversions) by device, January – August 2019

Combining these figures, 2% of desktop and 0.1% of mobile Google Organic users converted.

What this means for you

To reiterate, Google Organic and Paid desktop search continue to be the main driver of traffic and conversions for many industrial manufacturers.

To determine if this trend holds true for you, first check the percentage of Google organic traffic coming from mobile. For the manufacturer in our example, it is 22%.

Then, look at the percentages converting for both desktop and mobile. If the figure for mobile is considerably lower, work on improving mobile conversion rates. For example, check if every goal completion is easy to complete on mobile.

If your website includes e-commerce, analyze how people purchase products. Top level data is fine, but to get more granularity, look at individual product lines by device usage, conversions, and sales.

While your data may show that desktop continues to drive search traffic for you, with Google moving to mobile-first indexing (see page 5), your website must be designed with these users in mind – especially as mobile device-dependent younger workers and buyers move into the workforce.

In the final analysis, while alarmist-sounding articles such as this one by Fishkin are good to read and understand, it’s more important to analyze your own data and make decisions based on it, your audience, and your business.

Track conversions by device type, test goals on mobile, and check your sales funnels to see where visitors are being lost.

Contributor: Rachel Cunliffe