So remember last week when Google added full color emoji characters to their search results?
Yeah, well travel portal Expedia has taken the new functionality a step further by adding emoji characters to their title tags in an apparent attempt to gain attention in the search results. Pretty clever, no?
For some reason, the emoji aren’t displaying in the Google.com results showing from NZ, so it may be that only some data-centers have the feature supported right now, but you can see an example in the image above and others via the previous link.
It would be fascinating to know if the move has increased click-through and by what percentage. I would imagine it would be having some positive effect, similar to the impact author photos had in search results for articles and blog posts using the now defunct Google Authorship tag (yeah, thanks for pulling that one Google).
The question now is: how long before I get asked by a client to add emoji to their title tags and how much can I justify charging for adding smilies to HTML code? And more importantly, how long before Google pull the pin on support for emoji in title tags after millions of SEOs start copying Expedia?
Only time will tell.
POSTSCRIPT: In a Google Webmaster Hangout today, John Mueller confirmed that it is likely Google will pull support for emoji in search results in the next few months. Thanks to Jennifer Slegg for the heads up.
Authorship in action
My geek friend Chris recently wrote a post about Google Authorship that suggested that the use of Google Authorship tags (e.g. rel=author) gave inconsistent results in the SERPs and was possibly not the SEO secret sauce that it’s all cracked up to be.
This surprised me, because I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews for Authorship, including claims that use of the rel=author tag can speed up the indexing and rankings of a brand new site.
In his experiments, Chris tried searching for a specific phrase using google.com and google.co.nz from an NZ IP and then both from a US IP. He was scanning the SERPs for instances of his own blog post containing the phrase, specifically noting when his rel=author tag would kick in to show his Google Profile next to his post. All searches produced different results, with his authorship profile pic only showing up sporadically, even when his blog post appeared in the top 3 results. This was in contrast to blog posts on his employer’s site, where Authorship hasn’t been implemented, rel=author tags are not used, but posts almost always show up in the SERPs featuring author profile pics.
Chris found that subtle changes to his search query (even the addition of a STOP word like *on*) had a profound impact on whether Authorship would kick in. Clearly, semantic indexing is at play when it comes to whether rel=author has an influence on SERPs. Which means that specific keyword order and word-stemming considerations should be high on the priority list for any on-page SEO undertaken.
In my experience, it seems that the authorship tag is given more prominence in some data centers than others and almost always when searching google.com. My guess is slightly different versions of the algo have rolled out on each data center, some with the *new* (July) Panda and some with the old. Authorship relevance has been tweaked in this last update, I’m sure of it, but I haven’t seen this acknowledged anywhere.
Of course, author trust / author rank is also at play – where the profile of a particular author is given more relevancy weight than others due to how prolific and widely syndicated they are. Posts from authors with more trust rank built up are pushed higher up the SERPs and are more likely to have their profile pics featured.
So have you noticed a change in SERPS relating to use of the rel=author tag since the latest Panda update? Have you observed more or less authorship profiles showing up in generic SERPs on Google.com than before Panda? Please let us know in the comments.