The thumbnail for a YouTube video is the static image a user sees before they click or hover to preview a video before watching it. It’s a little like the subject line for an email – it plays a big role in whether or not someone decides to click the video.
By default, YouTube will select an image randomly from the video upload itself, but you also have the option to customize it with your own image. According to YouTube’s data, 9 out of 10 of the top-performing videos use custom thumbnails. Mr. Beast, one of the most popular YouTube creators, obsesses about the thumbnails of his videos.
If you want to get more views on your videos on YouTube, you need to create custom thumbnails that grab attention and draw viewers in.
Start With A High Quality Image
The higher-quality image you use, the more polished your video will appear and stand out alongside the myriad options a user has when they open YouTube. Instead of grabbing a screenshot from your video, export a high-quality still image from the original file or use a still photo from the video shoot.
Use Text Overlays
Think of the thumbnail as free real estate where you can add more context or pique more curiosity for your video. You can add some text about your video or add a logo to brand your video.
Close-ups And Faces Draw Viewers In
YouTube’s data also reveals that viewers are more likely to engage with a video if the thumbnail has close-ups or faces. Remember that the thumbnail can be very small on mobile devices, tablets, or smart TVs so these close-ups tend to be more distinctive than a distant photo.
The ideal thumbnail size for your YouTube video is 1280×720 pixels. You can use JPG, PNG, or GIF.
Always Be Testing
As with all digital content creation for algorithmically filtered platforms, testing multiple variations is essential to improving overall performance. YouTube is making it easier than ever to test different versions of thumbnails with a new “Test & Compare” feature coming next year.
Use The Right Software To Make Thumbnails
Apps like Canva have templates to help you create YouTube thumbnails with a consistent brand and familiar layouts.
Avoid Clickbait Thumbnails
Your thumbnails should encourage viewers to watch the video you posted. A thumbnail that misrepresents the content of the video will just push viewers to abandon after a few seconds and this will send a negative signal to YouTube’s recommendation algorithm.
You’re putting a lot of effort into creating the videos your campaign posts to YouTube, but your job isn’t done once you’ve hit “Upload.” Having a custom thumbnail that uses high quality images, text overlay, and properly formatted is a prerequisite for a successful video.