A growing number of emojis are being spotted in search ad titles across Google, leading to speculation that emojis could eventually be rolled out across all Google AdWords adverts.

Yet this isn’t the first time emojis have popped up in search ads. Past gains have had a relatively short shelf-life due to the fact Google closed loopholes that allowed certain character combinations to show up as emojis, but there’s now enough evidence to suggest they may soon be here to stay.

But what even are emojis? Where did they come from? And how will they be beneficial to paid search ad campaigns? Let’s take a look…

What is an emoji?

The emoji originated in Japan following the debut of Windows 95 and the imminent move from paper to email, but the short-form nature of email writing meant that the intent behind some Japanese phrases was getting misunderstood.

Shigetaka Kurita, the man behind the creation of emojis, explained: “If someone says Wakarimashita you don’t know whether it’s a kind of warm, soft ‘I understand’ or a ‘yeah, I get it’ kind of cool, negative feeling. You don’t know what’s in the writer’s head.”

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Shigetaka Kurita, the creator of emojis

Something was needed to bridge that gap and so Kurita decided to create a set of symbols that could communicate emotions, and  looked to manga and kanji comics and cartoons from his childhood for inspiration. “In Japanese comics, there are a lot of different symbols. People draw expressions like the person with the bead of sweat, you know, or like, when someone gets an idea and they have the lightbulb. So there were a lot of cases where I used those as a kind of hint and rearranged things.”

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It wasn’t until the release of the Apple iOS5 in late 2011 that a standardised set of emojis started to become internationally used and recognised. Now even your mum is likely to know about the aubergine emoji.


A recent poll from Appboy conducted with more than 500 participants found that the majority of people (64%) like or love emojis and only 6% dislike or hate them. Which is just as well because 68% said they receive a message containing emojis from friends and family at least once a day and in turn 87% use them in their own texts. Our love of emojis is showing no signs of stopping either, with more than 800 million emoji messages since in June 2016 compared to the 145 million sent at the same time the previous year.

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Word on the ground is- emojis in marketing is working. Conversion rates for emoji messaging campaigns have increased by 135% since June 2015 and 39% of respondents said they found it fun when brands used emojis in their outreach.

One sector that has thoroughly tried and tested this innovative way of marketing is the fast food sector- specifically pizza’s.

In 2016 Pizza Hut started a campaign in which it changed its menu text to emojis in celebration of World Emoji Day.

Can you read this?

The same year Pizza Hut joined up with Pepsi for its ‘Say It with Pepsi’ campaign where customers could get a free pizza if they brought a Pepsi bottle featuring the slice of pizza or full pizza emoji to a Pizza Hut store.

Dave Timm, chief marketing officer, Pizza Hut, said in a release,“Emojis are much more than icons. They’re a universal language that have the ability to connect people around the world, in much the same way that Pizza Hut can bring people together around the dinner table.”

Domino’s has also gone on to release an emoji promotion which lets customers have their usual pizza order sent to them simply by tweeting Domino’s with the pizza emoji 🍕

“It’s the epitome of convenience,” said Patrick Doyle, CEO at Domino’s, adding: “We’ve got this down to a five-second exchange.”

And it’s that element of convenience, combined with social media, that makes the idea so interesting.


Twitter’s biggest portion of users (36%) are aged 18-29 and -not to generalise- but it’s considerably easier to blearily order a 2am pizza during your taxi ride home when all you need to do is select a single emoji. The use of Twitter itself is a smart move on Domino’s part, as it keeps the conversation on a popular open platform where their target campaign audience already converse and where other potential customers can see the campaign gaining in popularity and easily join in.

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Of course, not everyone loves emojis. Thirty per cent of the 45 and over category polled by Appboy  said they found emojis inappropriate and childish, and 84% of Telegraph readers dismissed Pizza Hut’s emoji campaign as a ‘silly and childish idea’.

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Yet this opinion seems to be shared only by a minority. Over the past 12 months, the number of active customer messaging campaigns that include emojis has increased by 609%, and conversion rates associated with emoji messaging campaigns have also increased 135% during that time. Including emojis in your tweets has been proven, via split testing, to increase engagement by 24.5%. Emojis are also proven to increase your Facebook likes by 57% and comments and shares by 33%.

Emoji for Twitter engagementImage via Marketing Land

What does this mean for search marketing?

Some will argue that the addition of emojis in SERPs will add creativity, others will see them as an annoying distraction. It’s certainly an interesting way of competing for attention but the real test will be the impact on campaign performance, and until Google confirms that emojis in search marketing are no longer a violation of its terms we have no real way of knowing what the answer will be. Until then it’s definitely worth considering how you could use emojis in your title tag, but we suspect that even if Google does  allow them there will likely be restrictions for the appearance of organic search queries as well as which searches will return emojis in the results.

Image via Search Engine Watch

Clearly emojis are having the desired impact on consumers- and Google may not be fAR OFF embracing this new marketing tactic. so Don’t get left behind- talk to us about your social marketing needs and see what we can do for you.