Google is now showing zero search results for some types of specific use cases. Zero results search results pages are search results where there is simply an answer in the answer box / featured snippet style, with zero organic search results on the page.
For example, if you do a search for “time” or time with a time zone, Google may show a results page that has no organic results, but instead an answer box that simply shows the current time.
It does seem more prolific on mobile versus desktop, which reflects what Danny Sullivan from Google said where it was about providing the fastest results where they don’t believe searchers really want additional results, such as when they just need to confirm the current time, or they are wanting to use a calculator.
For calculator, unit converter & local time, we’re experimenting with a condensed view to further speed up load time. People who search for these tools rarely use full search results, but the results will remain available for those who want them via the “Show all results” button.
It does show up on desktop as a single result where the query is more specific. For example, it doesn’t show for “time” but it does show a single result for “time in est”.
Here is what it looks like for the query “time” with a full compliment of rich results.
Narrow it down to “time in est” and you get one of these zero results page.
It is worth noting that the search results are available by clicking the “show all results” button, so for those that would prefer to see search results, they are readily available.
Here is how it looks when “sh0w all results” button is clicked, which appears as an ordinary Google search results page:
It also shows up for calculator queries too. And one could definitely make a case for the fact those who are doing a calculator query just want the answer, they aren’t looking for a webpage to go to for the answer.
Google is doing it for unit conversions as well, such as those converting between metric and imperial measurements.
We do know that Google monitors their tests, so it is very likely that if they do see many people clicking the results link that Google would end up returning the search results to those pages. There are also feedback links at the bottom of the pages for those who would like to submit feedback.
Danny Sullivan stressed that this was tested before rolling out, but it is still considered an experiment.
It is still considered an experiment. It was tested & confident enough for a full rollout. Google will be watching closely how that goes and I’m sure make any changes that seem an improvement.
Dr. Pete Meyers from Moz also confirmed that they are not seeing a huge increase in these types of single result pages, when Moz looked ast their Mozcast 10k this morning.
Just FYI — looking at MozCast 10K, there is no evidence last night of some kind of explosion of 0-result SERPs. These are very specific, isolated cases right now.
— Dr. Pete Meyers (@dr_pete) March 14, 2018
These single result pages can have ads, but this seems to be triggered specifically due to the different context of the keyword. Dan Barker spotted this example that triggered dating ads due to context of the query.
But these seems more specific to the keywords being bid on since it seems ads don’t use context clues as much as the organic search results.
It is a type of query I have done recently in a couple different use cases. On Sunday I searched to ensure that my phone did in fact automatically change for daylight savings, since I had a flight to catch and needed to be certain. I really just needed to confirm the time, and Google gave me the answer I was looking for.
But recently I was trying to determine what time something was in a different time zone that I wasn’t sure of the time difference. And in this case, Google did not even show a featured snippet type listing, and I did click through and got my answer from the first search result.
Some SEOs are concerned about the “slippery slope” aspect of these zero results pages. What if Google begins to show these zero result queries for flights or other query types where Google has its own product? It could have a serious impact for other businesses in the space.
But in its current form, these zero results search result pages make sense. The user experience benefits seem to outweigh showing an additional 10 blue links when Google’s testing shows searchers don’t go beyond the answer box.
Added: It is worth noting that this is Google first result for “current time” on mobile.
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You should ask Google if this experiment is to do with Speed or Clutter? The difference in Speed removing a few lines of text is going to be very small. I think Google is not telling the full truth and it’s more to do with having a cleaner interface.