The Rise of Emoji and Google’s Mobile-First Movement

emoji mobile marketing

We’re constantly tuned in to the Internet as well as the new technologies and amenities that spawn from it.

Emoji — those little smiley faces and symbols used in your mobile device’s messaging keyboard — used to be used exclusively for text messaging. Their meanings are simple. Unlike shorthand acronyms like LOL, emoji have the ability to convey universal messages, like laughter and joy.

Emoji are now integral in the digital vocabularies of people of all ages and backgrounds and are used not only between individuals, but by companies, too.

A Brief History

Before emoji were introduced in the U.S., they originated in Japan. Created by Shigetaka Kurita, who worked for the mobile communication company DoCoMo, Emoji were intended to be a means of communication through pictures that didn’t use much data. Meanwhile in the U.S., emoticons, pictorial representations created using punctuation marks, were more widely used, as few devices could recognize emoji.

The success of the emoji did not go unnoticed, and Apple launched an emoji keyboard in 2010. Soon after, emoji were standardized by Unicode, which allowed the images to be recognized on all devices.

Unlike emoticons, emoji faces are far more detailed and represent a wider range of emotions. Additionally, emoji keyboards include objects, like food, plants, flags, buildings, etc.. They are able to modify sentences and answer questions without text. In fact, in 2015, “emoji” was named the fastest growing language as well as named the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year.

It wasn’t long before corporations began hopping on the emoji bandwagon. With social media and email marketing, companies could use emoji to convey messages to their customers. Coca-Cola, one of the world’s most valuable and recognized brands, was one of the first companies to use emoji as an effective marketing tool when they launched the #ShareaCoke campaign on Twitter. To set a world record for “World’s Largest Cheers,” Coca-Cola used a branded emoji, exclusive to Twitter. When users would use #ShareaCoke, two clinking coke bottles would appear in the tweet automatically. This campaign actively engaged audiences worldwide, garnering the media’s attention. It is considered one of the best uses of emoji marketing to date.

Other forms of emoji marketing tactics include branded emoji, like Kim Kardashian’s “Kimoji” keyboard, Ikea’s keyboard, which includes a plate of Swedish meatballs speared with a Swedish flag, and even Domino’s emoji-order text service, which allows hungry customers to simply text the pizza emoji to open an order.

Emoji Domain Registration

Domain registration continues to be a hot market. It’s clear that some domain names are more effective than others, causing a lot of competition over certain domains.

Since the introduction of the emoji in the U.S., emoji are able to be registered in domain names, but the process is difficult. Through a method called punycoding, emoji are translated to text, allowing search engines to recognize the images as standard text and route a user to a web page.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, Coca-Cola was one of the first corporate giants to launch an emoji domain name.  

“One has to have a reasonably sophisticated knowledge of punycode and whatnot to even look to see whether domains are available,” according to GoDaddy, a domain registrar and web hosting company. “From there, the setup is a bit of a pain.”

That’s why GoDaddy has launched an emoji domain registration page on its own. https://❤❤❤.ws/ is the company’s official, chosen domain, which is translated to ASCII in the browser, because computers are only able to recognize numerical text.

“Driven by the rise of mobile Internet usage, which now accounts for over 60% of traffic, consumers are integrating emojis into their conversations on social media, messaging and beyond,” said Theresa McGinness Geraghty, the GoDaddy senior director of product marketing.

The Future of Digital Marketing

Years ago, the marketing departments in many companies made the shift to digital-first. We’ve seen the disintegration of a number of newspapers in lieu of online news sites, as well as the shift from mail coupons and deals to email-first. Now, as digital media consumption patterns among Internet users continues to evolve, more companies have put emphasis on mobile marketing tactics.

According to Nielson, 92% of consumers are more influenced by peer recommendations and word of mouth marketing — otherwise known as earned media — than all other forms of advertising. Consumers like conversational patterns, the study finds. Many potential buyers look for consumer reviews instead of checking out the most recent ad, or are more apt to search in-store to find out if a product is worth it. Emoji, which is primarily used in messaging format between friends, family, and colleagues, is highly conversational, which leads many to believe why it is so effective for marketers.

Google has even taken action to keep up with the shift. On Nov. 4, 2016, Google announced its plan to move forward with mobile-first indexing. Previously, the search engine giant would index desktop content. As users continue to search using a smartphone or tablet, they continuously run into sites ranked highly in the SERPs, but do not have nearly as much content as their desktop counterparts.

For some companies, this isn’t worrisome. Responsive websites allow the same robust content to be published across all media and will not count against the site’s Google rankings. Responsive sites are extremely important for SEO. For mobile sites that are more empty, this is a wake-up call to make the shift to mobile-first marketing, or else the rankings will plummet.

As mobile Internet usage continues to rise and an optimized mobile site is of much higher stakes than before, it’s a curious question to ask, how will emoji come into play?

Emoji are recognizable on desktop computers, but much harder to access. With the exception of Apple’s newest MacBook Pro, which has a touch pad in place of a function bar, keyboard shortcuts or click-in keyboards are needed to access emoji on a desktop or laptop computer.

Among a number of other uses, the new MacBook Pro touchpad is able to access an emoji keyboard which can be swiped and searched, much like it is on an iPhone. This method is highly user-friendly, especially for those familiar with emoji via mobile devices.

Though GoDaddy’s emoji domain registration is expected to be successful — many have already registered a number of emoji combinations, if only for the resale value — we still haven’t seen a huge amount of these domain names in the mainstream. Since most desktop keyboards do not support emoji typing, it’s far more difficult to search an emoji domain organically.

Emoji domains are fully Google-compatible, and have been for some time now. In May 2015, Google’s John Mueller said that they would be removed and hopefully filtered out of the titles of search results, as they started to look spammy.

“I thought that looked really cool when I saw the first pages that were using [emoji],” said Mueller, “But I think it’s really easy to over do that, so I think it’s something we’ll take action on it at some point.”

Eventually, Google did filter out the emoji titles. These sites were not penalized in their rankings, but it is interesting now, considering the probable hike in emoji domains, how the SERPs will look going forward. With a mobile-first index, it is likely that emoji URLs will appear higher in the SERPs than they would on desktop, but it’s too soon to tell whether Google will adjust the appearance of these results based on how they look.

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