Is Your Thumbnail Image Costing You Business?

by | Jul 6, 2016 | Branding

Thumbnail Image

How much time did you put into picking your thumbnail picture?

You know . . . that little picture of you or your business that appears on your profile or beside your comments and updates;

. . . the one that is on sites like Triberr, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, and appears beside your blog comments and across the internet;

. . . the one that actually represents you and your brand across the web and is often your best opportunity to make that all important positive first impression?

It seems like such a minor detail, yet in reality, it can often influence whether people read and share your content, connect with you, or ever do business with you.

How Influential Can It Really Be?

I know that your thumbnail seems like a small thing, it is only one element of your online brand or persona, but it is often part of the doorway into the rest of your content. If I don’t open that door, I never get to see how great you really are, or find out all of the ways that you could help me.

Right or wrong, you have at most seconds, realistically probably fractions of a second, to convince someone to click on your link, update, or post.

In that short time, the visitor or searcher will see the title of your post and your thumbnail picture and decide to click through or share, or to disregard and move on.

A Thumbnail Experiment

In 2012, when profile pictures were still appearing alongside Google search results, Cyrus Shepard did some testing with the profile picture that he used for his Google Authorship image (the image that appeared on Google Search results beside his material).

He measured the click through rates using different pictures. He tried

  • different images of himself
  • wearing glasses vs. glasses free
  • different amounts of white space around the photo
  • different colored backgrounds

. . . and tracked it all through Google analytics.

Thumbnail images


The photo that he finally settled on – the red one in the top left, showed an increase of 35% in the click through rate of his search engine results page listings (vs. the initial photo on the bottom right).

Although what is acceptable and appropriate will change within industries, and around your individual goals and personality, generally speaking:

Thumbnail Don’ts

  • use a picture of you with your kids or family
  • don’t have a picture of you when you were a kid
  • use a picture of your pet
  • use a moving or flashing image
  • use the platform’s default image (i.e. Twitter’s egg)
  • use an image that’s so small (far away) that you can’t be seen or recognized
  • use an image that looks too casual or unkempt (i.e. like a college student during finals week)
  • use significantly different images on different platforms. I agree that this is more creative, but from an engagement perspective, you want to make sure that the person that loves your blog posts on Triberr, recognizes you on Twitter and other networks as well.
  • use your company logo. I know that this is sometimes the best answer and I have used it on some of my accounts and for some of my clients, however, know that engagement is usually lower with a logo than a picture of a person.

Thumbnail Do’s

  • smile
  • be warm, not stiff
  • show some personality
  • casually professional is a good look for most industries
  • have fun with it (i.e. change it to celebrate special holidays or occurrences)
  • use good lighting
  • close up picture
  • update it occasionally so people can still recognize you when/if you meet off-line.

I know that the people that engage with you may eventually want to know you on a more personal level, and that the business world, especially online, is becoming less formal than it once was, however the thumbnail picture is often your first impression – your first (and maybe only) opportunity to let people know what you’re about. What does your thumbnail image say about you – does it show someone that you would want to do business with?

What are your thoughts on thumbnail pictures? Do you agree or disagree with these guidelines? Are there do’s and don’ts that I should add to the list?

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcomed and appreciated.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December of 2012, but has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Brent Carnduff is the founder/owner of Advisor Web Marketing and a search engine optimization (SEO) expert. He works with Financial Advisors across the country to help them develop a stronger online presence and increase their organic web traffic. In addition to this blog, he is a a V.I.P Contributor to Search Engine Journal, and is syndicated through Social Media Today, SteamFeed, and B2C.