What is a Favicon And Why Are They Necessary in 2019
- 18th June 2019
- by jess
What is a Favicon?
‘What is a favicon’ is perhaps not a question you would of previously asked yourself if you aren’t in a career associated with websites, this is unless you are particularly tech savvy.
The favicon is the icon you choose to associate with your brand. It is placed in the tab at the top of your browser – this makes looking for your site when you have 10 tabs open even easier. It can also be found when you bookmark your site and most recently can be found sitting next to your URL when you enter a Google results page on a mobile device.
The history of the Favicon Image
Favicons originate from a developer named Bharat Shyam who worked for Microsoft. His job was to find a way to help make the favourites section on the Microsoft browser easier to navigate for users on Internet Explorer 5.
Bharat added a small branded icon next to each website in the favourites list; this image was 16 x 16px in size and could help users differentiate one website from another. The terming is ridiculously easy to understand once you realise the word favicon is actually a mixture of the words “favourite” and “icon”.
After this simple yet effective discovery, the developer needed to find a way to enable icons for a site. To do this Bharat made it so developers would simply need to create a file called favicon.ico and drop it in the root directory of their web server. When users added sites to their favourite list, Internet Explorer would know to check the root directory and pull the icon.
The Google update
SEO Specialists regularly track Google algorithm updates to keep up to date with new practises to ensure they can improve and maintain sites rankings. One algorithm update was reported In May 2019 when Google rolled out an update which changed the look of search results on mobile devices.
What has changed?
The text ads have changed as a result and the black “Ad” label that Google has been testing for several months is now officially live with this update. It replaces the green outlined label that Google introduced back in 2017. Google are using mobile users to test if this new layout will eventually work on desktops too.
The new organic listings are getting a fresh favicon treatment, the site name and bread crumbs appear in black text next to the favicon and both display above the title link in a similar structure to the new text ad treatment. Prior to this update, the site name and breadcrumbs appeared in green text below the title.
Google has also removed the gray line below the organic titles and ad headlines so each card looks more like a single unit. You can compare to desktop results for a good comparison.
According to Barry Schwartz, he has seen suggestions so far that a lack of favicons can actually have an impact on your mobile rankings, leading several sites to decrease after the May 2019 update. so as the process of including favicons on your organic listings is fairly simple it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?
How to get Google to show your favicon
If your site has a favicon, which needs to be a visual representation of your brand, you’ll need to add a <link> tag to the header section with specific syntax, which you can find on the help page here. When Google crawls your homepage, it will look for an icon and update your favicon.
Your favicon should be a multiple of 48px square and any valid favicon format is supported, of course Google like to point out that even if it is set-up correctly they can’t guarantee that it will be shown.
The new layout is causing confusion
Google don’t profit from search engine optimizers; this is because they learn the algorithm and optimise the site to relevant keywords without paying Google a penny!
However, Google do make money from businesses purchasing Pay Per Click ads targeting keywords of their choosing. It is really important to note that this new mobile layout makes it harder to see the differences between paid and organic rankings which could possibly be Google’s way of increasing their profits. This is by driving businesses to buy clicks by paying them money for advertisement.
The new mobile layout makes it even harder to tell the difference between paid ads and organic ads because of the favicon feature. The ‘AD’ favicon is only really noticeable if you are actually looking for it, which is a scary reality for organic ads as this confusion could result in more people clicking paid ads by accident whereas on the old layout, 70 – 80% of searchers would regularly skip the paids ads to click on organic listings.
Make your ads stand out
So now you know the answer to what is a favicon, you know that In 2019 and the years to come, making your favicons stand out will be very important for maintaining your sites’ mobile rankings and increasing brand awareness. The favicons on mobile SERPs now give SEOs a great opportunity to increase a sites click through rate by having a bright, attractive favicon, a snappy meta title and an informative meta description.
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