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Why Google Added Favicons to Search Results

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown SEO.

You may have noticed recently that Google added favicons to search results.

Favicons are those little square images that sometimes appear in the address bar of a web page or bookmarked URLs.

But there is a reason why Google added favicons to the search engine results pages (SERPs).

This was not a feature that was added to make the search results “better” for the users.

So what purpose does this change to search results actually serve?

Favicons Were Added to Make AdWords Blend In More

In most search engine results pages, at the very top, there are paid ads (AdWords), then the three-pack map, the organic results (usually eight to ten results), then more paid ads at the bottom of the page.

In the current version of the search results pages, AdWords have a black “Ad”, and the organic results have the favicons. So both paid and organic results have an icon on the left, so they look similar to each other. This is a new design pattern.

Search Engine Results pages June 2019

Google must indicate if a result is an ad. So they are making it blend in as much as possible, by giving the organic (unpaid) results icons in the place as the “Ad” symbol.

In 2013, Google displayed ads with a yellow bubble with white writing that said “Ad”. In June of 2016, Google changed it to a green bubble with the white “Ad” text. In late 2018, this ad indicator became green text with a green outline.

In the past, for certain rich snippet results, like Recipes, there would have been a small square image in about the same spot in organic results. But there had never been a time where all the organic search results and paid ad results had a similar-sized icon in the same place.

What’s the Real Reason Google Made This Change?

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, missed their revenue expectations in Q1 of 2019.

Wall Street had predicted Alphabet would have revenue of $30 billion for Q1 2019, and revenue was $29.48 billion.

Though Earnings per Share were higher than anticipated, Alphabet/Google does not want to miss their revenue target two quarters in a row. Even if it means using a “dark pattern” to get people to click on more ads.

A dark pattern is a trick that a website or app uses to make the user do something they didn’t intend to do.

Google Wants People To Keep Using Their Search Engine

Maintaining a majority share of the search engine market is critical for Google’s ad revenue. They serve up quality organic results, so people will continue to use Google as a search engine, and they can continue to serve up ads.

Businesses that want to get to page one of Google, but are unable to, will continue to use AdWords as a way to generate qualified leads.

Google will always walk a fine line between being aggressive with ads and delivering quality organic results. They want people to keep using the search engine, but they don’t want to push people to Bing or DuckDuckGo by going overboard with ads.

Many people would (rightfully) say this new SERP layout is a bit of a dark pattern. But as long as they retain a 70-90% market share (depending on where you get numbers from), any changes they make are unlikely to make radical long-term changes.

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown SEO.

13 comments on “Why Google Added Favicons to Search Results

  1. Hello, John:

    Favicons used by Google will also bring in a mandatory system for every blogger to include one. That might eventually trigger an additional usage of Gravatar. This can reduce the spam-level/score.

    There is a thin line between giving organic results and ad results. Google wants to earn revenue, and at the same time remain a favorite search provider for its audience. Percentage of display, does fluctuate with respect to the MSV (Monthly Search Volume) | Competition | CPC (Cost Per Click), long tail, and randomly posted query in the search bar, which may or may not have any keyword presently ranking within it.

    I used to see this quite often when using advanced search operators for medium competitive keywords like Advanced SEO Training for this educational institute.

    Let’s see what’s going to come up in SEO by 2020.

    Anyways, it is a very nicely written blog post and I am going to share it on my Facebook.

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Ankur:

      I hear what you are saying regarding balancing paid ads and organic results. It’s Google’s platform, so they can decide what to do with it.


  2. Problem is now , that there is so much graphics in the search results. It give me little feeling of the search engines in the late 90’s like AltaVista. I just prefer clean….Rembember when less is more?

    1. Hi Jim:

      They make it confusing and overwhelming on purpose. In some ways, that can be helpful, because many people are looking for video or images. But I don’t like how the ads blend seamlessly in with the normal search results.

      Thanks for stopping by. I liked the web in the early days too.

  3. The favicons and URLs are distracting as hell. They make it difficult to scan the results. For that reason, I am switching search engines.

    1. Hi Linda:

      I know more people using DuckDuckGo, and Ecosia looks like it could be a relevant search engine in time. It’s good to have options, as competition keeps Google from becoming a virtual monopoly and leveraging that for more profit at the expense of consumers and business owners via ads.


  4. To me somehow the addition of the icons makes every site look less trustworthy.
    After reading this article I suspect that maybe my mind now assumes they’re all ads.
    Luckily it seems that the icons only appear on my work account and not at home, nor do they appear when I am not logged in at all.

    1. Hi Henk:

      From what I understand, the favicons are supposed to be rolling out to desktop results over the next few weeks. Once it hits the data center nearest you, they will appear there too.


  5. The favicons have appeared for the first time in my Google search results today. I find them incredibly distracting. They make it impossible to scan search results quickly. Maddening. So I did a search to see what’s going on, and ended up here. Apparently there’s no way around it.

    I’ve always been distrustful of Google, but their search results and search page layout were so superior to that of other search engines, that I grudgingly kept using Google. No more, I’m now actively seeking out other search engines, and will avoid Google for as long as it has these favicons.

    1. Hi Paul:

      Apparently, the favicons are rolling out to desktop search results this week. The idea is to confuse people about what is an ad, and what is an organic result. There’s really no other reason.

      “Don’t be evil”.


      1. Thanks for your reply, John. I got to fed up with the favicons making it impossible to quickly scan Google’s search results, I’ve switched my default search engine to That search engine seems to work OK, plus the company plants a lot of trees.

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