Google Tests Favicons in the Top Stories Carousel

Google Tests Favicons in the Top Stories Carousel

As usual, Google is testing something new! This time, the big G has opted to try out the use of favicons in the ‘top stories’ carousel displayed in some search results.

These favicons are appearing for some searchers, and only on desktop, next to the website name in the carousel. They appear quite similarly to how favicons usually do in your browser tabs.

Here’s a quick example that a keen-eyed searcher spotted earlier:

These new favicons aren’t appearing for everybody, and we were unable to replicate the example above. This confirms that the test is currently selective and even those that see the favicons in the results for one search haven’t been able to replicate it consistently.

What Is A Favicon?

For all those who are unaware of what a favicon is: Favicons are 16×16 pixels small icons that usually contain the logo, the first letter of the brand or a generic image that represents the business type. These files are placed in a file called favicon.ico and placed in the root directory of a website.

Typically they are useful on websites for:

  • Brand recognition
  • Credibility and Trust
  • Follow up Visits
  • Time saving for users

Have Google Tested Favicons Before?

As we all know, Google loves to test new features and functions and its unknown at this point whether we’ll see this feature rolled out to the wider world. It’s difficult to know why exactly Google is testing favicons in the search results and whether they will be just constrained to the Top Stories.

In the past, Google has tested favicons appearing next to regular snippets on multiple occasions for mobile devices. We’ve seen Google test this in 2017, 2013, 2009 and other times.

Google may have even have a dedicated bot that specifically crawls for Favicons. Valentin Pletzer posted on Twitter that he spotted a new GoogleBot useragent that specifically is named for Favicons. It is named:

Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/49.0.2623.75 Safari/537.36 Google Favicon

What will this test affect?

How this test will unfold will entirely depend on the test of the results. It’s likely that Google wants to assess the click response based on results that have favicons and those that don’t.  If the favicons are seen to be producing higher engagement rates, then Google may show them more often or again look to rest them in general search snippets.

It’s a subtle edition to the page, but one that could still have an impact on how users engage with the information they’re presented with in the SERPs. The difference between a browser tab that does and doesn’t have a favicon, for example, is quite noticeable. However, considering users have been entirely used to seeing search results without favicons, it’s unlikely they’ll view snippets that lack the icons in a negative manner, but perhaps may be drawn to those that do contain favicons simply for their extra visual flair.