Much has been written and discussed on creating a proper thumbnail for your videos.  We've discussed optimizing custom thumbnails before, but only recently did it become something everyone could do.  Thumbnails are your "magazine covers," your initial impulse as to whether a viewer will be interested.  They not only need to be enticing, though, they need to accurately describe what a viewer will see in the video, or at least not outright lie about it.  Thumbnails are like content itself, where certain triggers: sexy, funny, outrageous, etc., will sell the video and get people clicking.

5 Tips for More Engaging YouTube Video Thumbnails

To review:

1. Make the Thumbnail Enticing. Be sure you create custom thumbnails that are interesting enough that you would want to click on it.  This is you being objective about your work: would you want to watch this?

2. Select an Image with Action. You just standing there with a dull expression on your face won't do: you need something that expresses fun, and doing that involves capturing an image that shows action.

3. Choose an Image that Explains Your Video. Nothing gets people clicking "dislike" more, and causing your search results to go down, than showing say, a scantily-clad woman on your thumbnail and there's nothing about scantily-clad women in the video.  Those are the kinds of videos you run across that have a long red line underneath the likes/dislikes.

4. Include Text on Your Image. Yes, action is important.  But sometimes it doesn't quite sell someone on what the video is.  Try to come up with a short phrase, hopefully three words or less, that describe the contents in an exciting way that you can plaster onto the image without obscuring the image.  Here's a good one:

5. Choose an Image that Stands on It's Own. Similar to number three, you want an image that can give viewers a good idea what your video might be about even if you don't include text. This is important because when related videos come up at the end of a video, they won't include titles, so your image really needs to convey your topic.

QUESTION: What tips do you have for video thumbnails that drive more views?

  • Grant Crowell

    A couple of comments on this video post...

    in regards to your tip #2) "Selecting an Image with Action,"you don't need something that expresses "fun." What you need is something that reflects the audience you're trying to reach with the content you're trying to communicate, plus an understanding of the tone of the content itself. That's part of the attraction and interest factors. If you do a thumbnail image that has action and appears "fun," while that might be enticing to glance at, it doesn't necessarily mean that's what's going to engage your target audience, especially if you have a niche audience.

    In regard to tip #4, text graphics in the image (whether it's a small thumbnail image or a larger still image) isn't necessary if the existing image already conveys the content well. That's what the existing title and description are for, the former of which will show up on or next to the video window itself.