Quite a few common searches done these days, result in having a small thumbnail image with a tiny play button embedded in the bottom right hand side of the thumbnail that accompanies the title and description of some of the search results.
This is especially the case whenever a search query has a related youtube video.
These are "Video thumbnails" and are not to be confused with "image results" that only seem to appear in a group with other images and have no title or description.
Does having a thumbnail image beside a search result make a difference to the click through rate for that result?
Well it does for me.
I find that if I do a search that has a thumbnail beside the result, my attention is drawn towards the image. If the image is appealing enough, I click on it.
So assuming it does increase the CTR, then having thumbnails show in the SERP's must be a good thing for the site owners with embedded content.
Does Google show video thumbnails for any other sorts of files beside video?
Yes. Google will also show video thumbnails for embedded "flash games". If you have a website dedicated to online flash games, then I am sure you can see the massive potential benefit an image of the game appearing next to your site in the SERP's will have.
So how can I get them to show up for my site?
Well, like anything related to search results, nothing is guaranteed.
But here are a few tips that will help get video thumbnails in the SERP's.
First you obviously need to have videos or flash games embedded in pages on you site.
I am not sure if hosting the files on the same domain/server will increase the chances of generating image thumbnails in results or not. May need to do some experimenting to see if there is any difference.
Once you have you content embedded on pages in your site, you can now create the thumbnail that will appear in the results.
This part is obviously important; having a non related/non compelling thumbnail may turn people off visiting your site.
Because Google and other search engine bots are not able to watch videos or see images, you need to provide them with titles and descriptions about the embedded files on your site.
You do this with a videofeed or video sitemap.
The sitemap needs to be in the XML format.
To create one, download this one by right clicking and choose save as videofeed.xml
Change the parameters to suit your sites address, content, video duration (In seconds), family friendliness, title and description.
Then save it as
File name: videofeed.xml
Save as type: All files
Now upload it to your site.
Add this line to your robots.txt file
"sitemap: http://www.siteaddress.org/videofeed.xml" (without quotes "")
If you have a Google account, then add it to your sitemaps in webmaster tools as well.
If all goes well, you may start seeing video thumbnail results for your sites search queries in a couple of months.
Please fell free to add any other tips or tricks you may know of in the comments section for this post.