If you’re like most people, you probably spend a good deal of time browsing YouTube during the week. But, how often do you actually read the full title and blurb of a video in the search results when deciding what to click on? Most of us just look at the thumbnails in search of something that looks interesting.
Chances are, the majority of your viewers are going to be doing the same. Whether they’re looking for something informational or entertaining, generally people will be scrolling page after page of video searching for a thumbnail that stands out and grabs their attention. Are yours doing the job?
What Are Custom Thumbnails?
A custom thumbnail is one that you upload during the publication process of your video. Used to, YouTube would just automatically generate a thumbnail from a random point in your video. Then, they allowed you to select a thumbnail from a few different screen shots from the video itself. Now, they allow you to upload a completely custom thumbnail.
The thumbnail you upload doesn’t necessarily have to feature a screenshot from the video, but most people find that it helps if the thumbnail does. But, what you can do with a custom thumbnail is edit the screenshot and add text so that it stands out really well. Good Mythical Morning is one big channel that’s an excellent place to look for inspiration when it comes to custom thumbnails.
How They Will Increase Your Click Through Rate
So, how will adding custom thumbnails to your videos improve your click through rates? Well, the answer to that question is simple. Remember: When people are searching for a video to click on, they are most often just going to be looking at the thumbnails of the videos being suggested to them.
If you just have a plain old thumbnail, most people aren’t going to look twice at it. Especially when that plain old thumbnail is surrounded by interesting custom thumbnails that catch their eye. You need to come up with a design for your thumbnails that quickly tells people what the video is about and gets them to want to click on it.
Adding text and exaggerated photos relevant to the video (again, take a look at Good Mythical Morning for examples) will help hype up the video and get people interested enough to want to click on the video and see what’s inside.
Verify Your Account to Access Custom Thumbnails
Not just anyone can publish a video and use a custom thumbnail. In an effort to avoid clickbait, spam, and low-quality content, YouTube requires that you verify your account before you can publish videos with custom thumbnails. The steps to do this are very simple, just log into your YouTube account and follow the verification steps when prompted.
In general, you’re going to want to do this anyway because it also gives you access to the ability to publish longer videos and eventually monetize your videos.
How to Create a Custom Thumbnail
When it comes to actually creating your custom thumbnails, you will find that there is a host of software out there that you could use. Obviously, if you are skilled with a program like Photoshop and you have access to it, it can be the best way for you to create eye-catching and unique thumbnails.
But, even if you don’t, that’s not an excuse to settle for a plain old thumbnail. A free tool like Canva.com can be used to create your YouTube thumbnail. Start with an interesting screenshot from your video, size 1280 x 720 pixels, and then get to work putting your custom thumbnail together.
Remember to use two contrasting, eye catching colors to bring the eyes to this thumbnail on the page and add big, bolt, clear text in a plain color that contrasts with the background. Use stickers and overlays where needed to really make the thumbnail pop.
Really, the secret to a good thumbnail is starting with a good screenshot. In some cases, like if you’re doing pranks or tricks, this might be a screenshot from the video itself. But, in other cases, like if you’re talking about food for example, you might want to take an exaggerated closeup of you eating or reacting to the food. Reaction shots showing your face with the main object placed in are also good for thumbnails.
Good Mythical Morning is absolutely a great example of these things and looking at the channel briefly will give you a good visual representation of what you might try to do with your custom thumbnails. They use text boldly yet sparingly and they focus on a closeup shot of one of the host’s faces, usually with the main item in front of them.
Remember, your custom thumbnail should include:
- A bold photo or screenshot as the base. Something that clearly illustrates the main focal point of the video and sets the tone. A surprised face, for instance, can be used to build hype. If there’s a secret element to the video that you don’t want to reveal in the thumbnail, blur it with a question mark to show that there’s a mystery involved. It will help entice people to click on the video to reveal what that secret is.
- Bold, contrasting colors. You’ve probably seen the thumbnails where people photoshop just them and/or an object out as the main focal point and then add an outline or completely different graphic background behind them to bring the eye to them and what they’re doing. This takes more than Canva is capable of doing, but if you can achieve this effect, it looks great! Just be sure to stick with 2-3 bold, contrasting colors.
- Bold and clear text. If you decide to incorporate text into your thumbnail, be sure the color contrasts the background and that the font is bold and easy to read. Hard to read text isn’t going to do your video any good and it’s just going to clutter the thumbnail.
- Stickers and emojis. Putting a big emoji or sticker on the thumbnail can help dress it up and set the tone for the video while piquing people’s interests. Don’t be scared to use them when there’s room!
A thumbnail that draws attention to your video and builds hype is very important to the video’s success.
Adding a Custom Thumbnail to a Video
When you are publishing a video, you’ll see the option to upload your custom thumbnail during the process. If this option isn’t showing for you, you may still need to verify your account. Your Account Standings page will show if you’re allowed to add custom thumbnails for your videos. If it happens that you have verified your account in the past and the option still isn’t showing for you, there may be an issue with your account’s verification status.
Reach out to YouTube if you have any issues uploading a custom thumbnail for your videos. If you are having trouble completing the verification process in itself, YouTube has lots of helpful guides to get you sorted out, so you can start adding custom thumbnails to your videos in no time.
If you have already started publishing videos, it may be worthwhile to go back in and add custom thumbnails to your older publications, especially those that you think deserve more attention. This will help them stand out and, in turn, will help your channel grow. This may take some time, but if you have one or two dozen videos, it could really pay off because every video that’s out there has the chance to promote your channel.
Going forward, you should make it your standard that all new videos you publish have a custom thumbnail up to help bring in viewers and attract the attention of potential subscribers.