Favicons are small pieces of graphics that represent your brand in search history, search ads and search results as well as browser tabs and bookmark lists. They consist of small 16 by 16-pixel icons that typically feature a logo along with the initial letter of the brand name or a generic image that identifies a type of business. These files are placed within a file named favicon.ico that is located in a website’s root directory.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 5, released in March of 1999, first supported this favicon file. Then in December of 1999, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standardised the favicon with support from Hypertext Markup Language (HTML).

Favicons were originally intended to show only for bookmarked URLs. Yet today there are multiple purposes for displaying favicons. Google incorporates these images into search results, displaying a web page favicon beside the page breadcrumb in its search snippet content. Google displays the favicons only in mobile search results today.

Common Favicon Uses

Favicons are like miniature IDs for websites. They assist web users in remembering your website, brand and products. Whenever web users come across your favicon online, this small yet powerful visual aid triggers their memories, helping them recall your site. Since graphics are much longer remembered and more quickly perceived than text, favicons serve a vital purpose in gaining and retaining good visibility for your website and brand.

Favicons also build website credibility and viewer trust. Web users who remember your favicon from visiting your site and then see it later in search results, bookmark lists or other online venues tend to trust your website and see it as having high levels of credibility.

They consider websites that display favicons to be more professional in design and offer more valuable content than sites without these miniature images. If your website displays a favicon, it will most likely receive return visits from most of your first-time viewers, helping to grow your target audience and customer base.

Importance of Favicons for Your Website’s SEO

Although favicons do not provide a direct ranking or SEO effects, they do offer valuable indirect SEO benefits, including the following:

  • Increased Site Usability. Sites with higher usage gain higher search engine rankings. Since the favicon that is displayed beside your website title on browser tabs, on history archives or bookmarks can enable a web user to identify and visit your site quickly and with ease, your favicon can have a small yet significant impact in improving your website SEO.
  • Visibility in Bookmark Lists. In terms of saving and maintaining the presence of a website bookmark on your browser, it seems that you have a greater advantage in succeeding if your website displays a favicon. Google and other search engines detect specific search ranking signals for websites that are bookmarked on the web. Sites with favicons have a higher likelihood of appearing on a bookmark list of a Chrome browser and being detected by a search ranking signal.

Even if favicons are determined to have little if any direct effects on SEO, they are valuable for better branding and usability, which indirectly impact your website’s SEO.