In the first half of 2015, Google started displaying emoji in their desktop search results. They had already been doing this with mobile search for iPhone starting in 2012 when iPhone first started promoting emoji characters. In June 2015, emoji were removed from appearing in search results because webmasters had been abusing them.

Emoji in search results came back earlier this year, but in a different way from when it made its debut on desktop in 2015. In a Search Engine Land post, Barry Schwartz writes that a Google spokesperson had told them emoji were added back when relevant. Apparently, Google added a feature to their snippets to bring up emoji when they are useful, fun, and relevant.

Google started allowing searching by emoji in May 2016, while Bing had done so back in October 2014. As of May 2016, the way Google and Bing handled Emoji searches was different. A Google search for the tomato emoji 🍅 would have showed results for the emoji 🍅, while Bing would have showed results for tomatoes,, and so on. Now, a Google search for tomatoes will not only generate results for the emoji, but also for tomatoes, its health benefits, and so on.

Jones believes that this, as well as last year’s news from Matt Southern that the search engine giant, Google, recognizes emoji in tweets they receive and generates search results for users, means that Google is quickly indexing and placing more value on emoji.

Search Engine Journal’s Kelsey Jones believes the rate at which millennials and generation Zers are using emoji means emoji SEO will become more popular within the next decade, even if it might seem like a joke now.

With these developments, it is expected that SEOs would begin to seriously ponder how to take advantage and get their clients ranking for emoji searches. Trying to rank for emoji might not make much of a difference now, especially when the emoji are not particularly relevant, however, smart SEO experts like CityWideSEO can be trusted to determine when to use emoji in an SEO strategy.

Why has Google embraced the emoji trend?

Emoji use has grown and continues to grow since 2015 when it was revealed by AdWeek that 92% of online consumers use emoji. With the rate at which marketers use emoji growing exponentially and campaigns like the Deadpool emoji billboard, emoji use is becoming more mainstream.

Clark Boyd from Search Engine Watch notes that Google wants to ring-fence the emoji capability to select queries that are deemed relevant by its machine learning algorithm, Rankbrain, and in the process, soften their position. While it is possible that Google might remove emoji again if they are abused as they once were, they are likely not to do so because the trend has become significant enough to be not only noticed, but adopted and even promoted.

With developments such as Apple filing a patent for a new keyboard which would have an emoji button in place of caps lock, we can expect to start seeing way more search queries containing emoji. Combined with the existence of numerous emoji-based domains, the rise of emoji searches within the next 10 years as predicted by Kelsey Jones may come way much sooner than expected.

Whether Apple’s keyboard becomes a thing or not, their efforts are indicative of a trend that is here to stay. Google might even end up monetizing emoji better than anyone else if they decide to use emoji in a similar way that Twitter has tried to with its emoji targeting options.





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