When Google reintroduced emojis earlier this year, a spokesperson said the search engine would feature emojis “…where relevant, useful and fun”. To use emojis, you can add them to meta data, such as a rich snippet or title tag, or include them in Google AdWords ad titles.
However, not all sites with emojis in their title tags will have them display in the SERPs. It’s not clear what factors influence this.
So how are emojis used in the context of SEO?
1) Relevant content
If your page is about emojis, for instance if you’re talking about their meaning, it makes sense to include them in your meta data. This gives users more context and might entice them to click.
There is a correlation between emoji use and ranking position. Taking the 10 most popular emojis from 2016, we looked at Google desktop results for text-based search terms like “A-Okay emoji”. We then noted down how many results included emojis in the page title and / or meta description, and what page of the SERPs they were on.
On average, half the results on page 1 included emojis, while subsequent pages only had one or two results (it’s worth noting the emojis being used didn’t always match the one being searched for).
Google will also return results based on an emoji’s meaning. For example, search using the French Fries emoji and results include nutritional information, images and video content. In this instance, you would be better off with your usual SEO strategy and optimise for the term “French Fries”, rather than add emojis to your meta data.
2) Increase click-through rate
Emojis help your web pages stand out in the SERPs, meaning they have the potential to increase your click-through rate. This is increasingly becoming an important ranking factor as Google strives to understand the relevancy of results via user behaviour.
There’s not much data available on how much emojis influence the click rate so the team at Jellyfish decided to test what impact emojis had by adding appropriate characters to ad titles.
Unfortunately, the test was unsuccessful as we were unable to get the emojis to display. When we pasted an emoji into the ad copy, we received this warning message:
We then tried the UTF code. However, the code itself appeared in the ad copy, rather than the emoji (in this case, the flame emoji in an ad about fire doors):
3) Local listings
When you search using certain emojis, particularly food emojis like the Pizza or Burrito, Google interprets the intent as “that person is looking for an eatery” so will show relevant local listings. However, in our tests, Google needed a bit more context – the words “near me” added to the query – in order to return local results.
Like the French Fries example, if you’re an eatery looking to optimise your website, you’re better off optimising for keywords and phrases related to the relevant emoji, instead of adding it to your meta data.
Is it worth including emojis?
The main benefit of including emojis in your SEO strategy is to improve the click-through rate. However, without being able to test the impact, it’s difficult to say whether it’s worth doing. In most cases, your best chance of success is optimising for words associated with the meaning of relevant emojis, rather than adding the emoji itself to the page.
The fact that we were unable to get emojis to display in ads makes us question whether Google is invested in this feature, or whether it’s a loophole causing some to display. Time will tell, although these little icons are going nowhere just yet.
Have you had success using emojis in your meta data or ad titles? Share the results in the comments below.
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