Thumbnails on search results

Anyone who’s used Google will have noticed the little thumbnail images in the search results. Not all results have them, and even those that do sometimes have images that aren’t really relevant (apologies to the library!).

A not terribly useful thumbnail in a search result.

If you manage a site, however, you can change this by specifying a thumbnail to associate with your result.

The simplest method is just to use a meta tag in the head of your page:
<meta name="thumbnail" content="http://example/foo.jpg" />
That’s it! Just upload an image somewhere, and link to it. Google will resize the image to fit in a 60 pixel square, so if you want it to look it’s best, you should probably optimise the image to that size already.

The possibilities are endless. If you were listing publications, the thumbnail could be dynamically drawn from an image of the front page. If your site is in the CMS, you could generate the meta tag to automatically use the asset thumbnail.

There is another method of specifying these images using a structured content snippet that Google calls a ‘PageMap’. PageMaps are more complicated, so if you are only wanting to specify thumbnails, then there’s probably not much point using them, however, PageMaps can also influence a bunch of other result display options which I plan to cover in the coming weeks. As usual, Google has some pretty good documentation about Thumbnails, as well as the other aspects of PageMaps.

One Response to “Thumbnails on search results”

  1. […] Thumbnail: A relevant image can support your message. This is most useful for an online shop, where an image of the product is displayed, but it can also be useful if there are images relevant to the page content. The problem is that Google will add any image it thinks is relevant, and it’s often not. You can avoid this problem by specifying the image you want used. […]