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2019 Guide To YouTube Thumbnail Optimization & Best Practices

2019 Guide To YouTube Thumbnail Optimization & Best Practices

April 6, 2021
June 4, 2019

Having captivating thumbnails is one of the most critical elements to your YouTube videos, but the custom thumbnail uploader is one of the most overlooked and underused features on YouTube. Think of custom thumbnails as the official movie posters for your videos. We’ve put together some best practices to help you create compelling thumbnails that will entice viewers to watch your content.

YouTube Thumbnail Best Practices

  • Use clear, hi-resolution images that aren't just stills from the video. Try to use professionally edited images that are 1280p x 720p in resolution.
  • Consider using an image editor to increase the contrast of the image and brightness of the background. Use vibrant colors to make your image pop and consider blurring the background so that your foreground objects are highlighted. Thumbnails with the colors yellow, red, and green have been shown to exhibit the highest click-through rates.
  • Thumbnails that clearly depict people’s faces receive more clicks on average than those that do not. Try to feature a human's face in your thumbnail that shows emotion. Try to make the faces big enough so that viewers can see the whites of the eyes of the person depicted. The thumbnail should be able to tell some sort of story and create intrigue, entertainment, or excitement.
  • Make sure to not clutter your thumbnail with many objects, it's best to keep it clean and simple. The goal should be to draw the viewers eye to the center of the thumbnail, so put the most interesting point of the thumbnail closest to the center of the image.
  • Keep your thumbnails consistent with each other by including similar elements in each thumbnail. This will help viewers recognize your videos more easily. Consider updating old thumbnails on videos that are still performing well.
  • Consider only featuring two to three elements in your thumbnail to keep it simple. Make sure your thumbnail looks good when shrunk down to thumbnail preview size.
  • Consider adding text to your thumbnails, but keep it simple and don’t obscure the image. We recommend only using 1-3 words in your thumbnail.
  • Remember that YouTube includes the running time of each video in the bottom right corner, so avoid placing text or important objects there.
  • Most importantly, make sure your image isn’t misleading and accurately reflects your video.

Remember that a very significant percentage of YouTube traffic comes from having your video recommended next to other videos. While your subscribers may be familiar with your channel, make sure your thumbnails will stand out to people that have never heard of your channel but see your content recommended next to the videos they’re watching. Thumbnails may be the most effective tool to help you get your videos in front of new viewers, so make sure to upload custom thumbnails for your priority videos whenever it’s possible. See below for some examples of good thumbnails on YouTube:

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