SEOs predictably unhappy about shrinking distinction between paid and organic mobile search results — and, they’re not wrong.
Last week, Google began rolling out some mobile search redesigns — namely, a new black label for ads and favicons for organic search results. The company said that during testing, the favicons made it easier for the majority of users to identify websites and more than two-thirds of users reported that it was easier to scan results more quickly.
Whether that’s an accurate reflection of user sentiment or not, content creators and digital marketers feel as though Google has designed aspects of its business model to ride on the coattails of what’s best for the user while leaving them to do the heavy lifting.
Ads? Favicons? Fadvicons?
Can the guidelines save us?
Introducing new features can inadvertently introduce new ways to exploit the system as well. To Google’s credit, it generally publishes guidelines so webmasters know what’s fair game. The SERP favicon guidelines are as follows:
- Both the favicon file and the home page must be crawlable by Google.
- Your favicon should be a visual representation of your website’s brand, to help users quickly identify your site when they scan through search results.
- Your favicon should be a multiple of 48px square, for example: 48x48px, 96x96px, 144x144px and so on. SVG files, of course, do not have a specific size. Any valid favicon format is supported. Google will rescale your image to 16x16px for use in search results, so make sure that it looks good at that resolution.
- The favicon URL should be stable (don’t change the URL frequently).
- Google will not show any favicon that it deems inappropriate, including pornography or hate symbols (for example, swastikas). If this type of imagery is discovered within a favicon, Google will replace it with a default icon.
The second item is the most ambiguous as publishers are the ones that define what their brands are about. Bill Hartzer decided to put this to the test.
As this behavior becomes more prevalent, so too do the discussions about how we can affect the features and policies that Google puts in place, and if not, how we can free ourselves from them.