Favicons Matter Now More Than Ever

Posted on May 24, 2019 • Written by Brad Anderson
Favicons now show in serps

Google announced that it has changed the display of mobile search results by adding the name of the website and it’s favicon at the top of the search result. This change in the visibility and placement of a site’s favicon next to the title increases the importance of favicons. By highlighting favicons Google will likely decrease click through from search resulting in a negative impact to organic search traffic.

Here is how the new changes look compared with the older version:
favicon change in mobile search

Why did Google increase the importance of favicons

According to Google, the change is intended to better guide users through websites. To achieve this goal, they have changed the listings and results cards on Google search pages to show the name of a website and an icon unique to it in the uppermost part. This is intended to make it easier for users to find the websites capable of providing the information they’re searching for, and allow them to spend less time searching through multiple pages for the one they want.

How to select which favicon to display

With this change, Google is allowing web developers to choose the icons that will accompany their listing in the search results. While the icons must follow certain guidelines — for instance, they must not include any inappropriate symbols or images like hate symbols or pornography — developers are otherwise free to choose any icon they feel represents their site. This is not the first time Google has tested having such icons, sometimes called “favicons”, appear in search results snippets; similar such tests occurred in 2017, in 2013, and even as far back as 2009. However, this is the first time it will actually be rolled out to the public.

Can be any of the following strings:
"shortcut icon"

You can use relative (/smile.ico) or absolute paths (https://fruition.net/app/uploads/2018/10/favicon-32×32.png). Cross domain links are not allowed. This makes testing favicons slightly more difficult because the frequency of changing many favicons across many sites is easier with a simple script vs deploying images to change out the favicons.

Negative feedback on Google’s favicon change

This redesign also moves the label for advertisements towards the top portion of their search listings. This is the aspect of the update which is receiving the most criticism: people are complaining that positioning the ad label where organic results have icons makes advertisements blend in more with the other results and makes searchers more likely to click on them by mistake.

When do the favicon changes go live

These changes are live as of May 2019 for many mobile search results. Google also announced their intention to apply this redesign to desktop search, but did not give a date for when that might be implemented.


“You Probably Didn’t Notice These Visual Changes Google Made To Search” by Mark Real. Android Headlines. May 22, 2019. https://www.androidheadlines.com/2019/05/google-search-visual-changes-may-2019.html

“Google Mobile Search Redesign Live: Favicons & Ad Label Blending” by Barry Schwartz. Search Engine Roundtable. May 23, 2019. https://www.seroundtable.com/google-mobile-search-redesign-live-27611.html

“Google Again Tests Favicons In Search Results Snippets” by Barry Schwartz. Search Engine Roundtable. October 15, 2018. https://www.seroundtable.com/google-favicons-in-search-results-snippets-26517.html

“Define a favicon to show in search” by Google https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/9290858?hl=en

Ben Smith contributed to this article.

Brad Anderson

Written by Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson is the Executive Director and Founder of Fruition. Brad’s focus is supporting Fruition’s team to enable sustainable growth and excellent client satisfaction (EBITDA growth). With a strong statistical background, Brad built Fruition’s in-house software that is used to manage client success.

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