Why emojis aren't showing in your search results

Google recently introduced emojis to the search results, much to the delight of search engine optimization (SEO) practitioners everywhere. However earlier this month, Google also announced that emojis may soon be leaving desktop search results, Search Engine Land reports.

In a Google+ Hangout, Webmaster Tools spokesperson John Mueller mentions that emojis are already being abused. As such, emojis will likely join other UTF characters that are filtered out of search results. (Example: the spade or heart playing card UTF character.) However, many brands and websites have already tested emojis to improve click through rates and user experience. While emojis may disappear soon from desktop, there is no word on mobile. Emojis have quietly been displaying in mobile search results since 2012

But what if your client is determined to test emojis now? Many enterprising marketers may wish to enjoy this limited testing window, but be forewarned, emojis won’t show up everywhere.

Sports retailer Lids currently uses emojis for its MLB department web page. Below, the emoji successfully displays in Firefox: 

Yet, this same emoji does not render in Google Chrome. However, an emoji from Expedia displays in Chrome. Neither emoji shows in Safari. 

Why don’t the emojis display every time? For emojis to appear, two things must happen in concert:

  1. The website code must support emojis.
  2. The user’s browser must support  emojis. 

To further illustrate, Expedia and Lids use two different types of code. Expedia uses HTML 5, while Lids currently uses HTML 4. Emojis use character encoding to display in search results. Character encoding varies between types of HTML (HTML 5 uses UTF-8 encoding, while HTML 4 uses ISO-8859-1). Some web browsers appear to accept only HTML 5 emojis, while other browsers accept all.

Additionally, browsers use different methods to render code. For example, Chrome and Safari variations use a rendering engine known as Webkit, while Firefox uses Gecko. From initial tests, it appears that Firefox renders most emojis, Chrome renders some emojis, and Safari does not display emojis at all.

Here’s a browser and code emoji compatibility chart so you can quickly know how and when emojis will work for your site. That is, during the remaining time emojis appear in Google search results:


Due to their limited shelf life, Mueller discourages putting “a lot of time” toward emojis. However, the enterprising marketer in us says, “test while you can.” 

Obviously, a unique character (emoji) in a few Meta title tags is not going to be a significant ranking factor. However, emojis are still appearing in desktop organic results as of this writing. We do recommend focused, thoughtful tests on a few relevant pages of your site. Thanks to the newly released Search Analytics, you can observe whether click-through rate and traffic increases to those pages occur. If increases are observed, you can extend your learnings to more emoji-friendly mobile organic search.

 Note: Internet Explorer uses Trident, Opera uses a Webkit variant. Internet Explorer rendered the Lids emoji, but did not render the Expedia emoji. To promote responsible web-browsing behavior, Internet Explorer was excluded from detailed study.