Google Testing Thumbnail Images in Search Results

Google is testing the use of thumbnails images in different search contexts. The first version is in the search engine results page (SERP). The second version is using thumbnail images in the Google Suggest drop down.

The implementation of the thumbnail images is similar to how Google News displays thumbnail images.

Google Tests Thumbnail Images in Search Results

The images are square cropped versions of the featured images that are on the articles.

This is a screenshot of what the full search results page looks like:

Screenshot of Google's search results with thumbnail imagesThis screenshot shows Google’s search results with thumbnail images, resembling what Google News looks like.

Not All Sites Get a Thumbnail

As you can see from this close up screenshot, not all sites get a thumbnail.

Screenshot of an experimental Google Search result that features thumbnail imagesWhy didn’t one site not have a thumbnail image? Could it be because the image is not declared in structured data or in the Open Graph Protocol meta tag?

It’s hard to say why that one page didn’t get a screenshot. One could say it’s because the image is not wide enough and has an unconventional aspect ratio of approximately 3:2.

The featured image for the top ranked site is close to a 16: aspect ratio (although not exactly that ratio).

But another of the sites that has a thumbnail image (HubSpot) also has the same aspect ratio as the page that did not receive a thumbnail.

The only difference with the site that didn’t receive a thumbnail is that the image is not declared in structured data nor is the image included in an Open Graph Protocol meta tag.

A few of the other sites with images displayed as thumbnails had the images declared in either Open Graph Protocol meta tag or Structured Data format.

Thumbnails in Google Suggest

Google is also experimenting with showing images in the Google Suggest dropdown.

An interesting thing about the thumbnails in the Google Suggest dropdown is that the images show for a entities but not for the concept of “Disney princesses” written in the Spanish language (princesas de Disney).

Screenshot of Google Suggest DropdownScreenshot of a test of new Google Suggest dropdown that includes thumbnail images.

We can only speculate on why no thumbnail image was shown for that keyword phrase.

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  • Are Disney Princesses not an entity with a specific image that accurately represents them?
  • Or did the fact that it was a Spanish language keyword disqualify it from the test?

Closeup screenshot of thumbnail images in the Google Suggest dropdown

Closeup of Google Suggest with thumbnail images

It will be interesting to see if Google eventually rolls out this kind of search result.

Takeaways

This format apparently works well on Google News. So it’s possible that this kind of search result may go mainstream at some time.

But that depends if the images are as useful to users in the SERPs as they apparently are in the Google News and Google Discover.

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Moving forward, to prepare, it may be a good idea to check if your site has implemented the Open Graph Protocol and/or JSON-LD Schema.org Structured Data.

While we don’t know if those are required for inclusion, it seems like a good idea to have them.



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