How to Get Thumbnail Images on Google Mobile Searches

thumbnail images on google

Getting Thumbnail Images for Your Website to Appear on Google

If you do a search on your mobile device on Google, you will notice some results have thumbnail images while others don’t.

I’m going to tell you how to get a thumbnail image to populate on Google’s mobile search results. Before doing so, I’d like to give an overview of what I’ll be covering in this blog: 

  • Why it’s important to have a thumbnail image on Google’s search results
  • How to get a thumbnail image to populate on Google’s search results 
  • Strategy for selecting a compelling image
  • Misconceptions on thumbnail images

Why It’s Important to Have Thumbnail Images Populate 

61% of organic search traffic to Google comes from mobile devices [source].  Almost three quarters (72.6 percent) of internet users will access the web solely via their smartphones by 2025 [source].

The statistics above reinforces that the majority of traffic to your website is likely already coming from mobile. This number will only increase over time.

Having a strong organic click through rate to your site is important. WordStream wrote an article on Why You NEED to Raise Your Organic Click Through Rate. When more people click on your Google search results, it’s an indicator that searchers are interested in the content on your site. When showcasing a compelling thumbnail image on mobile, your will increase your chance of getting more clicks to your site versus competitors.

Example of Google Thumbnail Image on Mobile

Below is an example of a Google Search on mobile for “Columbus SEO Company.” You will notice that our agency, The Media Captain, has a thumbnail image populating for our SEO service page. You will see further down in the rankings a competitor does not have a thumbnail image populating in the results. 

How Do You Get Your Thumbnail Image to Populate? Go Above The Fold! 

In doing many tests, I’ve noticed if you place your desired image above the fold on your webpage, you will have a much stronger likelihood of getting this image to populate in Google’s mobile search results as a thumbnail image.

Below is a screenshot of our SEO page on mobile. You will notice that the image that’s populating as the thumbnail is above the fold on this webpage. 

Above the fold goes back to the days of newspapers. If an article or image was above the folded print, it was more likely to be seen by the reader. This term has carried over to web design. Content that’s above the fold will be seen immediately when someone lands on the specified page page. If you have to scroll down on the page, you are no longer above the fold.

I ran a test placing the Media Captain sign image image below the fold the day before publishing this article. Our thumbnail image on Google’s Search results disappeared when I did this. The next day, I moved the image back above the fold and what do you know, it started to populate in the search results as a thumbnail image!

If you look at one of our competitors, you will notice on their SEO page, they don’t have an image that populates above the fold. It’s no coincidence that they don’t have a thumbnail image populating on Google. If you look closely, you will see they have a background image on their SEO. From my research, background images don’t populate at the frequency as standalone images You have a better chance of getting your thumbnail image to populate when it’s placed above the fold as a standalone image. 

Strategy for Selecting Compelling Images 

I can’t tell you how many businesses waste valuable real estate by not optimizing their thumbnail images.

In The Media Captain’s example, on our SEO page, we talk about being an award winning marketing agency. Our image above the fold is a picture of a big Media Captain sign with awards underneath it. I love this as a thumbnail image because from a branding perspective, searchers on Google will immediately see our brand name when they see the picture. In thumbnail images, I also like to showcase personality with pictures of our staff. It’s important to choose pictures that aren’t too zoomed out tough. Thumbnail images are 1280 × 720 pixels so they are not big to begin with. If your headshot isn’t zoomed in, it will lose some of its value.

Below is an example of a Google Search for “Columbus Personal Injury Lawyer.” Justia and Expertise are both competing for the same website traffic as they are aggregators, meaning they compile a list of attorney websites.

Justia has a solid thumbnail image, showcasing an attorney. Expertise.com on the other hand has a terrible image that you can’t even read. I don’t have any hard stats on this example but it’s easy to assume that more people will click into Justia.


When you look at Justia’s website, above the fold, you will see that the image of Daniel P. Mead is above the fold on this webpage. I outlined the image in red as this is the image that’s populating in Google’s Search Results as the thumbnail image. 

Misconceptions About Thumbnail Images 

In WordPress, there is the option to select a featured image. Many people believe if they set a featured image, it will populate as a thumbnail image. There is a chance this will happen but you’ll have a much greater likelihood if you place your image above the fold. 

It should also be noted that as of this writing, Google does not showcase thumbnail images on desktop. 

Getting Started 

If you didn’t have thumbnail images populating for your website on Google Search results on mobile, this article should give you the simple tactics on how to change that. If you had subpar images populating, you should now have a better understanding on the importance of being strategic in selecting your thumbnail images.

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