It may sound absolutely insane to think about, but around 720,000 hours of content are uploaded onto YouTube every day. Yet, YouTube remains one of the most successful social media platforms on the internet. Despite the massive amount of channels competing for everyone’s attention, more and more organizations and people find success every day. There are more than a few factors that go into a YouTube video’s success, and the YouTube thumbnail is an integral part.

One of the most important measurements for a successful YouTube video is how many people see your video in their recommendations or subscription feed and then click on it. We call this the click-through rate (CTR). Obviously, we want our video’s CTR’s to be as high as possible. The average CTR for a YouTube video is 4-5%. This doesn’t mean that your video can’t be considered successful if your CTR is lower or meeting the average. This means that your thumbnail isn’t doing the job of bringing in new viewers, and/or not bringing back subscribers if you have more subscribers than views. Your video can be successful despite having a weak thumbnail.

But why have a weak thumbnail when you can help your video perform the best it can by making a few simple changes? The thumbnail is the image people see when they’ve been recommended your video. It’s their first impression of your video, you should want to impress them regardless. But, there are key visual points you want to hit when you’re first building up your subscriber base.

Branding YouTube Thumbnails

You don’t want to add too much branding to your YouTube thumbnails when you’re still building a subscriber base. If you’re gaining revenue and/or sustaining enough views for a sponsorship, you’re likely at the point where you start branding your thumbnails. If not, you’re adding images that complicate and confuse the viewer. Don’t use logos, borders, or stylized text to build a brand your YouTube channel doesn’t have.

Branding works when viewers can see your channel’s logo and styling, and know it’s your video. When you’re just starting out, this only works to create visual noise. When you’re starting out, you want to keep it simple and clean, and we can explain how.

Images in YouTube Thumbnails

When you’re first starting out, you want to focus on your thumbnails. Pick one person, symbol, or character to put on the thumbnail. This becomes the object of focus, and you want that object to be something that will grab someone’s attention. If you’re doing a video that contains one of your employees, it might be a good idea to have that employee be on the thumbnail. You can use your company logo, which can also do the trick, but we would usually recommend a person.

People subconsciously look to meet your eye, whether you are seeing them in-person, in a static image, computer-generated, or drawn. We search for eye contact, so you want a thumbnail that has that, hence why you want to put the employee in your video in the thumbnail, specifically with their eyes facing the camera.

You don’t typically want more than one though. Sometimes you can hit the jackpot and get a combination of people or characters on screen that will get a surge of interest in your video, but that’s risky. Usually, you don’t want multiple faces drawing attention from each other. They’ll split the viewers’ attention which is already split from the other videos in their recommendations. They can then lose focus on your thumbnail and not click. Situations like this can lead to the less-than-ideal CTR of your video.

Text in YouTube Thumbnails

Text is a double-edged sword in a thumbnail. The right combination of words can grab a potential viewer’s attention better than any image, but the text can also lose it. If they make the thumbnail hard to read or cover up the object of the image, you’ve turned off most viewers. It’s best practice to have the object specifically to the right of the video, and the text to the left. That way they don’t crossover, and the auto-generated length stamp in the bottom right corner of every video isn’t over the text.

The next important part of the text after its position and appearance is its content. You want to get your point across in as few words as possible. This typically means that your thumbnail does not need the whole title of your video in it. You actually don’t need to put the video’s title in the thumbnail. You can instead, pick a subject or interesting fact from the video to talk about

For example, if your video is about a current event, ask a question the video answers or reports on. If it’s a review, suggest it is or isn’t of quality to get people to view it. Some videos can get away without having any text, but then the object of the image has to be incredibly strong.

Background Images in YouTube Thumbnails

The background of a YouTube thumbnail is important more for what it shouldn’t do rather than what it should. If it has too much detail, it can distract from the object of the thumbnail, and make it difficult to read the words. If it’s too plain, it can appear dull.

Use complementary colors, and then find a texture with that color to compliment your image. If your object is red or wearing something red, use a green background, or a blue of the opposite shading if you don’t want to be extreme. The goal is to make the text and the image pop without taking away from either.

Get Your Videos Views

Make thumbnails that work. These may seem like a lot of rules to consider, but none of them are more complicated than making a video. If you have a video, you’ve already done the technologically advanced part, this is about your creative side.

If you’re interested in learning more about mastering YouTube, read about how to make the most of the platform and avoid YouTube copyright strikes. But, if you want marketing help, and extra hands to take care of all of this social media work for you, contact ENX2 Marketing.