• Google increasingly keeps traffic for itself, per data showing most search users don't click onto another site.
  • The findings will be fodder to Google's antitrust critics who worry it hogs online ad revenue.
  • Google said the study was flawed and doesn't reflect how people search for information online.
  • For more stories visit Business Insider.

Almost two-thirds of Google search queries end without users clicking on a single result, according to new analysis.

Per data compiled by Rand Fishkin, the CEO of audience intelligence platform SparkToro, 65% of Google searches on mobiles and laptops ended without users clicking through to another domain.

The takeaway is that in a large number of cases, Google is directing its billions of search engine users their valuable eyeballs at its own properties. Google, alongside Facebook, dominates the digital ad market and in the fourth quarter of 2020 pulled in $32 billion in revenue primarily from search.

Fishkin previously published research in 2019 that suggested just over 50% of Google queries ended without a click. He warned that it was tough to compare the 2019 and 2020 research because he used different data sources as the basis for analysis but, he wrote, the trend was one of "increasing click cannibalization by Google."

Fishkin also noted that the overall number of searches is growing - likely because many of us have been stuck behind screens all day during the pandemic.

Of major concern to Google critics will be the idea that the search giant is finding ways to keep people on its own properties, potentially at the expense of third-party sites and publishers.

For example, a Google search for "COVID-19 deaths" offers the below, with information pulled from the likes of the New York Times, Wikipedia, and the World Health Organization placed at the top of the page, ahead of clickable links to their sources.

Google has started displaying charts, maps, and graphs with data from external sources


Likewise, a search for the day's weather would probably display the information needed without a user having to click into a weather website.

"In the last three years, Google's been the overwhelming beneficiary of increasing worldwide search volume," Rand added. "And as the pandemic takes more people off their laptops and desktops and puts them back on their mobile devices, the zero-click search problem is likely to rise even more."

Google, however, rebuffed Rand's findings in a statement to Fortune magazine.

A spokesperson said the study "relies on deeply flawed methodology that misunderstands how people search for information online."

The spokesperson said the study "doesn't take into account the many times people refine their search queries because they don't find what they're looking for right away. Nor does it take into account when someone is looking for a quick answer," such as weather forecasts or sports results.

Google is under pressure over the way it presents results in the US and EU, specifically its "OneBoxes", the prominent squares of text or images that pop up when you search, for example, holiday destinations or the weather in a particular city.

A host of job and travel companies have accused the tech titan of using its dominance in search to expand into specialist search services, like Google Flights or Google Travel, at the expense of competitors.

In a letter signed by the likes of TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Trivago, more than 130 accommodation, travel, and job vacancy firms from around the world said claim Google has "[leveraged] its unassailable dominance in general Internet search ... to gain a competitive head start."

Insider approached Google for further comment.

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