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Does Using Unicode Help Click-Through-Rate?

Earlier this year, one of our team members noticed that Google would display Unicode in the title tag for a website which caused it to stand out in the search results.  We wanted to see how adding Unicode would impact click-through-rate (CTR) and decided to test it on our own site.

Testing the Impact of Unicode in Title Tags

I picked 2 different pages that get a lot of traffic on our site and changed the title tag to include unicode so that it appeared bold in the search results.

The Results

  • For the first page, which we ran for 2 months, we did see a 13% increase in the click-through-rate (went from 2.3 to 2.6) but we also saw a decline in the overall number of clicks.  This was likely due to the ranking being lower. It’s possible this was unrelated to the test as this particular page gets displayed in a lot of featured snippets.
  • The second page we only tested for 2 weeks as our new website launch interrupted it.  In this case, we saw a 20% lift in CTR (from 0.5% to 0.6%), an increase in clicks, and an increase in impressions.

Why We do Not Suggest Using Unicode on Websites

We started this test with the hypothesis that Unicode would increase click-through-rate (CTR) and several months later we are unsure if the results were significant enough to really justify the effort it takes to change them.  However, we learned a few other things about Unicode that made me pretty confident that using Unicode on a website is a bad idea.

  1.  Unicode is not readable on every device.  This is how this page looked when I searched on Google on my Chromebook:
    It surprised me that even new technology couldn’t properly read Unicode.  I’m not sure I’d want to explain that to a client if they happened to see it in the search results.
  2. Unicode is not easily readable on many screen readers.  I’m not sure I’d want to risk any possible ADA compliance issues just to possibly have a minor increase in CTR.
  3. Unicode did not easily transfer when we had our site rebuilt.  After our new site launched, the Unicode got stripped off and this is how it showed up in the Yoast plugin:
    I’m not certain why this happened but having one more thing to check after a website redesign is not ideal.

Overall, our recommendation would be to avoid adding Unicode as the pros don’t seem to outweigh the cons.

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Joy Hawkins

Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006, writes for publications such as Search Engine Land, and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Very Interesting! After originally seeing Dave’s tweet about this I assumed Google would have patched the ability quickly, so I didn’t think it was worth the time to implement.

  2. In CTR tests is it ever possible to control for ranking change? If a page naturally fluctuates in position then that will change the CTR. Tricky one.

  3. I think to properly know whether it works or not you would have to break down CTR by position. It would take away the variable of ranking. That would be a longer case study and a more manual one at that. I think the results you show at least tell us it is not a big enough reason to worry about doing it. As SEO’s we have ways to increase visitors and this one now gets pushed down a little.


    1. Yeah I 100% agree. I wasn’t really sure if the CTR went up or not but after realizing all the downsides to Unicode I decided not to keep the test going longer.

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