Google Already Penalizing Favicons In Search

May 28, 2019 - 7:52 am 48 by

Google Penalty

Google has launched their new mobile search design that shows favicons in the search snippets. Some folks started to take advantage of that intentionally while others just had favicons against Google's favicon webmaster guidelines. Yesterday Google began penalizing sites with favicons that were against Google's guidelines.

Here are the Google favicons guidelines, in case you have missed them:

  • Both the favicon file and the home page must be crawlable by Google (that is, they cannot be blocked to Google).
  • Your favicon should be a visual representation of your website's brand, in order to help users quickly identify your site when they scan through search results.
  • Your favicon should be a multiple of 48px square, for example: 48x48px, 96x96px, 144x144px and so on. SVG files, of course, do not have a specific size. Any valid favicon format is supported. Google will rescale your image to 16x16px for use in search results, so make sure that it looks good at that resolution. Note: do not provide a 16x16px favicon.
  • The favicon URL should be stable (don’t change the URL frequently).
  • Google will not show any favicon that it deems inappropriate, including pornography or hate symbols (for example, swastikas). If this type of imagery is discovered within a favicon, Google will replace it with a default icon.

What is the penalty? In short, the site's favicon in the mobile search results gets reset to a default icon instead of the icon they tried to use. Here are two widely different examples - one is from Bill Hartzer, a respected person in the SEO community showing how he used the Google Ad favicon to mess with Google, and thus Google reset it. The other is from an extremest group that used the Nazi logo and had that removed. Totally different examples here.


Google Favicon Serp Billhartzer Before


Google Favicon Serp Billhartzer After


Google Favicon Nazi Beofre


Google Favicon Nazi After

It doesn't appear that site gets dinged in terms of their rankings or placement in search. It just seems they lose the ability to show a custom favicon.

How long does this penalty last? How is the penalty issued? How are site owners notified? All of that is unclear. I did ask but I do not think that these site owners got notifications of a manual action in Google Search Console over the favicon issue. With the Nazi favicon, I doubt they even knew they received such a penalty by Google.

This is all very new and I assume Google will send out manual actions via Search Console in the future with these issues.

You also can't necessarily report these violations to Google with a specific form. You can use a generic form but maybe Google will add a new form for this:

So now, if they change their favicon to something within Google's guidelines, how long until Google shows the new favicon? That is unclear and there is no real way to notify Google that you made the change - yet.

In any event, here are the first Google favicon penalties or actions issued to date.

Forum discussion at Twitter.


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