"PictureThumbnailURL" configuration in SharePoint Online Search Schema

“PictureThumbnailURL” always null in SharePoint Online Search results

This post was most recently updated on November 23rd, 2018.

We’ve been observing an issue in SharePoint Online’s Search Index, where the Managed Property “PictureThumbnailURL” is always null, no matter what values the crawled properties it’s mapped to might contain.

The issue seems to have first appeared a few months ago. The first time we encountered it was maybe around July, 2018. Microsoft probably made some changes in SharePoint Search schema, and the property “PictureThumbnailURL” wouldn’t get values anymore. Pre-existing values were conserved, though.

All things considered, this does not seem like an intentional change.

Scope of the issue

This unfortunate change might break some 3rd party functionalities, and of course will make search results not display pictures. Returned results like Delve blog posts won’t show any thumbnails anymore – see an example below.

SharePoint Search Query Tool showing results for Delve blog posts - even posts with a photo showed null for PictureThumbnailURL, and newly created PictureThumbnailURL2 got no values either
SharePoint Search Query Tool showing results for Delve blog posts. The newer post with a photo is showing null for PictureThumbnailURL (whereas the older one has a value), but the newly created PictureThumbnailURL2 got no values for both posts.

In the screenshot above, you can see properties “PictureThumbnailURL” (out-of-the-box managed property) and “PictureThumbnailURL2” (a property I created). The created property has mappings to same crawled properties as the out-of-the-box one. However, it’s not getting those values either.

The older post (published in early 2017) has a value for the PictureThumbnailURL. Apparently, the header photo has been succesfully crawled. The newer post (published in October 2018) has no value for the PictureThumbnailURL. Neither of them have value for the Managed Property I created afterwards, PictureThumbnailURL2.

Right now (November 2018), this indexing issue seems to affect most, if not all, of the dozens of SharePoint Online tenants I’ve seen in the last months.


Currently, there’s no solution. We have multiple tickets open about the issue, and Microsoft has been investigating it for a few months.

Lastly, I encourage you to open a new ticket about the case using Office365 Admin Portal’s Support-section. When enough customers let Microsoft know about the issue, there’s a better chance the issue gets fixed.

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Antti K. Koskela

Solutions Architect / Escalations Engineer at Koskila / Norppandalotti Software / Valo Solutions
Antti Koskela is a proud digital native nomadic millenial full stack developer (is that enough funny buzzwords? That's definitely enough funny buzzwords!), who works as a Solutions Architect for Valo Intranet, the product that will make you fall in love with your intranet. Working with the global partner network, he's responsible for the success of Valo deployments happening all around the world. He's been a developer from 2004 (starting with PHP and Java), and he's been bending and twisting SharePoint into different shapes since MOSS. Nowadays he's not only working on SharePoint, but also on .NET projects, Azure, Office 365 and a lot of other stuff. This is his personal professional (e.g. professional, but definitely personal) blog.

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