1. SparkToro claims are misleading
  2. Major Issues with SparkToro "Research"
  3. Statistics without context are problematic
  4. Questions about the SEO community validity of SparkToro Zero Click Research
  5. Google calls SparkToro report misleading and lacking in context
  6. Google provides four examples of context
  7. Search community shared but generally in line with Google
  8. Ryan Jones tweeted:
  9. More signal, less noise

Google published an article debunking SparkToro's claims that only 35% of searches resulted in a click. Google countered these claims with facts about the context of search queries and traffic, noting that the zero-click search results were misleading.

One nasty truth that SparkToro may not have known about is that Google has been increasing the number of visitors it sends to websites annually rather than "stealing" visits to websites.

SparkToro claims that there are fewer website clicks. Google announced that the number of visitors to its website has increased every year.

"We send billions of visits to websites every day, and the traffic we've sent to the open web has increased every year since Google Search was first created.

… We have seen that as more of these features have been introduced over the past two decades, so has the amount of traffic we direct to the Internet. This shows that this is helpful for both consumers and businesses. "


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SparkToro's claims that Google is sending fewer visitors to websites every year is inconsistent with the fact that Google is sending more visitors to websites every year.

A member of the search community stated that it is possible that there are no more clicks and that Google is sending more visitors every year. However, it is not valid to say that Google "steals" traffic.

Ok, no clicks. We may or may not be able to discuss the data and its content as we will never see the data. It can be true that 0 clicks are active AND clicks are active on websites. It is not a valid conclusion that Google "steals" traffic – just that search behavior is changing

– Ryan Jones (@RyanJones) March 24, 2021

SparkToro claims are misleading

Google called the SparkToro Zero Click misleading:

"In order to improve the record, we wanted to provide important context for this misleading claim."

Major Issues with SparkToro "Research"

SparkToro made waves in 2019 with a research study claiming that less than 50% of searches resulted in a click and the idea was promoted by the search industry all the way to the convention halls, where it was held up as evidence against Google.


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However, there were many issues with this 2019 report.

One of the many shortcomings was that the data contained Google app searches that were not tracked and therefore had no way of knowing whether the search result was clicked or not.

There are other flaws, but I'll put these aside for now because I want to highlight what a professional statistician said about these earlier claims, as the flaws she pointed out in the 2019 report may carry over to the latest SparkToro research become.

According to a professional statistician, Jennifer Hood, the SparkToro 2019 study came up with an erroneous result (Do we have the math to really decode Google's algorithms?).

She pointed out that the 2019 SparkToro study suffered from an availability bias.

Availability bias is a cognitive bias that leads to the assumption that something is representative of most things when the scope is actually limited.

A website about different biases offers this definition of availability bias:

"A bias resulting from using information that is most readily available rather than what is necessarily most representative."

This is what the professional statistician said about the SparkToro results of 2019 on the so-called zero-click search results:

"Rand says he estimates that Jumpshot's data contains anywhere between 2-6% of the total number of mobile and desktop Internet browsing devices in the US, aka a statistically significant sample size …" 39; Rand would be right about statistical significance if the jumpshot data was a truly random and representative sample of all Google searches.

From what I could find, (Jumpshot) has collected all of the data from users who have used Avast Antivirus. This group of users and their data are likely to be different from all Google users.

This means that the sample provided by Jumpshot is not random and is likely not representative enough – a classic sampling error usually referred to as an availability bias. "

The same tendency may affect current 2021 research as it is not a true random sample as it presents data from SimilarWeb's "proprietary panel of tens of millions of users who have installed their apps" (per SimilarWeb FAQ on Origins ) of your data).


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Statistics without context are problematic

Another problem that the statistician addressed with the 2019 research, which also plagues the 2021 research, is a lack of context.

One problem she cited in SparkToro's 2010 zero-click research is a lack of context.

“Statistics without context should always be recorded with a grain of salt.

Because of this, there are analytics experts who ask questions and provide context. What kinds of questions are people asking and how have they possibly changed? "

It refers to the types of searches that result in zero clicks and asks if there is a legitimate reason for not having a click.

Examples are searching for a phone number or the lyrics of a song. These are search contexts. If these contexts change as more people rely on mobile devices, the conclusion that Google is stealing clicks cannot be true.

And that's one of many problems with both the 2019 and 2021 research, which Google has labeled "misleading."


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Questions about the SEO community validity of SparkToro Zero Click Research

It's not just Google that pulled the curtain aside on research. Members of the search community stood up to question this as well.

Glenn Gabe specifically questioned the research because it lacked context, which the statistician found problematic about the previous research.

I also hope that you believe this topic is nuanced and needs context. I think it's impossible to look at such a top level number with something as complex as searching and definitely saying that X% of searches are done with zero clicks. Again tons of searches for quick information with no intention of clicking.

– Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) March 22, 2021

Rand Fishkin disagreed.

This subject is far too nuanced not to provide a breakdown. Hard to believe you disagree … The context is * essential *. The intent is huge. I think we should agree not to agree. 🙂

– Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) March 22, 2021

Google calls SparkToro report misleading and lacking in context

One of the criticisms Google made with the SparkToro report was a lack of context. The author (Google Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan) also addressed the issue that users are using search differently than in the past and that this can lead to searches that require an immediate response but do not require a click.


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Google has published the following:

“… This claim is based on a flawed methodology that misunderstands how people use search.

In reality, Google search sends billions of clicks to websites every day. We have been sending more hits to the open web every year since Google was founded.

In addition to pure data traffic, we use searches to connect people to companies in a variety of ways, e. B. by enabling a company to be called. "

This last part is an important point. People use search to connect with businesses in ways that go beyond clicking a website, e.g. B. via a phone call.

Telephone-related searches should have been filtered out. However, when Rand Fishkin was asked by Glenn Gabe if he wanted to filter out legitimate information searches, he doubled in for not filtering by context.

Disagree at all:

"It is impossible to look at such a top-level number with something as complex as" search "and to say definitively that X% of searches are done with zero clicks."

In fact, I'd say the * only * way to definitely say the zero-click percentage of searches is with no filtering.

– Rand Fishkin (@randfish) March 22, 2021


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Google provides four examples of context

As an example, Danny Sullivan from Google offered four contexts why a search would not result in a click.

  • People rephrase their questions
  • People are looking for quick facts
  • People connect directly to a company
  • People navigate directly to apps

Danny went on to explain how Google connects users with websites, products and companies:

“Over the years we've worked to continually improve Google Search by developing and introducing helpful features that help users quickly find what they're looking for, including maps, videos, links to products and services that You can purchase direct, flight and hotel options, and local business information such as opening times and delivery services.

In this way, we've dramatically expanded the ability for websites to reach people. Our search results page, which used to show 10 blue links, now shows an average of 26 links to websites on a single search results page on mobile. "


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Search community shared but generally in line with Google

The reaction to Google's counter-argument was pretty much in line with Google.

Ryan Jones tweeted:

What Danny blogged makes a lot of sense. People have evolved to use search in many ways without accessing a web page. And that's not a bad thing.

– Ryan Jones (@RyanJones) March 24, 2021

Others question the SparkToro methodology:

Imagine if a pollster did not disclose his method of collecting answers, the number of answers collected, or the questions asked.

Could it be right? For sure!
Do all surveys have the potential to be wrong? Absolutely!

But there's a reason we value certain surveys.

– Ben Cook (@BenjaminCook) March 24, 2021

More signal, less noise

Clickbait and information storage have plagued the internet. The SEO industry has also fallen victim to these trends. Correlation studies of search results with dubious results have been a feature of the SEO community for many years.


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The search community is beginning to oppose this type of misleading information.


Google search sends more traffic to the open web every year

Do we have the math to really decode Google's algorithms?


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