I’ve read various articles about Google rolling out and rolling back emoticons in search results pages. I just typed in “hotels sacramento” into Google and can see the hotel icon appearing to the LHS of the Title Tag (first blue line of resutls) for Expedia and Orbitz. You can see in the HTML of the page the icon sitting inside the Title Tag. Simple enough. The better piece of the equation is to consider how icons/ emoticons make users feel as much as it helps the listing stand out against competitors.
So as I often do, I asked my daughter why emoticons are so important and she sent me this picture. In a world where search is all about keywords, sometimes an image speaks what words cannot.