Google has now officially launched search results which actually show a total of zero search results. But it does make sense.
For particular types of queries, Google has begun showing no search results, and is instead, showing zero search results.
When someone searches for a specific time, a date, a conversion or a math-related query, Google is experimenting with showing just the answer alongside a button which allows you to see the rest of the search results.
This is instead of showing the answer to the query in the knowledge box at the top of the SERPs, along with related search results below.
Why is Google doing this now?
Google had actually tried this once before, back in March 2018, however Google dropped this after a bit of a backlash.
Searchengineland reported that Google has officially stated:
For queries where we have extremely high confidence that a user is seeking a calculation, unit conversion or local time, we will show a single result to improve load time on mobile. Since our initial experiment in February, we worked to remove ads and improve the triggering quality for this experience to be sure that we’re serving users what they’re looking for, and we will still provide the option to tap to see more results.
At the end of the day, Google is still striving to help people find information or data they need as quickly as possible. Why wouldn’t people searching for specific times or calculations want the exact answer without having to hunt for it? It’s a good user experience, and any websites suffering because of this will probably have seen this coming at some point. If you own a site that does conversions or math, this will be a huge deal. Otherwise, it’s unlikely to affect you – but the possibility for what is impacted in the future is worth considering.
Perhaps your brand is related to a particular math problem, a conversion, or something similar that Google may deem to have a definitive answer? If had a brand named “1+1” or something similar, this would have a very big impact on your searchability. Think about what something like this could do to 4×4 (four-by-four) cars. I’m pretty sure Google is smart enough not to get rid of search results for 4×4 but, it’s still a thinking point.
At the moment, this is available on the mobile web and on Android and iOS versions of the Google Search app. Interestingly, in my own tests, it didn’t work when I was logged into my Google account. However, it worked when I was logged on. And it still took a number of goes for it to trigger on simple calculations. Times in different regions seemed to be more reliably triggered, along with the temperature conversion.
This seems to lie in the fact that some searches, while may have a definitive answer, could be related to something else. For instance, 21 + 21 gave me the search results, as there are numerous other meanings, brands or websites that are related to that phrase (apparently).
The future for zero results
The implication is, what does this mean for the future of SEO?
What happens in 10 years when Google can answer more complex answers? Will Google suggest the most logical search result as the answer to a query? Will it serve a particular relevant chunk of information from a website as a specific answer? Or will Google be smart enough to make up its own answers from all that research into AI?
We don’t know for now. But this does go to show that Google is actively trying to give people the most relevant answers to queries they search – rather than just presenting relevant websites. Google has been much more than a search engine for some time now. But this is one of the first instances where the roots of being a search engine have been detached altogether.