Back in August last year, Google started testing thumbnail images in mobile organic listings – and not for the first time. Since then, the search giant seems to have been adding more thumbnails to a growing number of mobile results.

While we haven’t got any confirmation from Google, this clearly has nothing to do with rich snippets or any kind of markup. It looks like Google is simply plucking images from certain pages and pulling them through to the mobile SERPs. So when was the last time you checked your keywords on mobile?

 

A more visual mobile SERPs

Google has been testing these things for a while now but in case you haven’t seem them yet, this is what they look like:

 

Okay, so these are completely different to any of the rich snippet listings like articles, recipes, reviews, etc. They’re also unrelated to swipeable rich cards.

When Google announced it was testing thumbnails again, there was no talk of improved experience or boosting click-through rates. It simply introduced them with the idea of looking at pugs in costumes and hedgehogs in teacups.

 

Yeah, exactly. So we’re not talking about a feature designed to drive qualified traffic to eCommerce stores or business websites here. That said, product images are appearing as thumbnails in some mobile listings. Not all, but some.

In fact, there’s not a great deal of consistency, as far as we can tell, about the kind of queries/listings that get the thumbnail treatment.

 

A few examples (that don’t involve pugs)

In a bid to figure out what kind of queries are triggering thumbnails – ones that don’t involve animal abuse – we tried out some tests. Here are a few examples of the kinds of queries we got thumbnail results for:

As you can see there are a number of potential product searches that are bringing up images, which could make thumbnails beneficial for eCommerce brands. However, there were plenty of similar searches that returned no thumbnails for us, including “running shoes” and “garden sheds”.

Likewise, we also got thumbnails for “odd couple” and “stupid signs” and a bunch of other random queries, which opens the possibility for BuzzFeed style list articles (as if we need any more of those). Once again, though, these kinds of queries were inconsistent. For example, “embarrassing pictures” returned no thumbnails in our little test.

Are you getting thumbnails in your mobile results?

As we say, it seems to be a bit hit-and-miss regarding which queries and listings feature thumbnails in mobile SERPs. If this is the case, then there’s not a great deal you can do to optimise for them, save for having suitable images on your pages.

It’s true there could be a CTR advantage to having thumbnails in your mobile listings, but there’s no data to back this up – and you would have to actually get the images in your listings for this to apply, even if it were the case.

So we won’t be breaking a sweat to get thumbnails in mobile results but we’ll be keeping an eye on things to see how they develop. And, of course, we’ll keep you in the loop as soon as there’s anything new to report.