So you've spent a small fortune and a large amount of time getting your video to be everything you wanted from beginning to end. You've uploaded it to multiple places to try and spread your word and it's still not getting the amount of views you had hoped for. What could be the problem?
Well if we don't take into account the content of the video itself that leaves us with the presentation of the video. Looking at the presentation there are really only a few factors that you have any control over - the description, meta-tags and the thumbnail.
So the description needs to be interesting enough or accurate enough to represent the content of your video such that people are inclined to begin streaming or watching the video. Can that description be enhanced? It sure can. By utilizing the proper keywords and meta-tags it will help get your video in the proper search engine results. But that may not make the users click the videos.
Picture this situation, you have an exquisitely crafted description full of Pulitzer-quality prose, yet you have a simple black square as your thumbnail. It seems sort of half-done doesn't it? Many people simply cannot be bothered to read, no matter how high-quality the words you have crafted (the author is painfully aware of this fact) so you need something that sums up the entirety of your video and is worth a thousand words.
Enter the thumbnail, which, as an image, needs to be worth those thousand words. Of course it must also directly correlate with the content of the video to prevent viewers from negatively rating your content as they are likely to do if your description and thumbnail are not accurate representations of the content.
Of course, it is not surprising to note that videos which contain thumbnails of girls in bikinis often get hundreds of thousands of views. However, unless your video is relevant to the thumbnail, you may likely get a high abandonment rate as well as negative ratings and comments. So, while we do not recommend this as a strategy, it is clear that compelling thumbnails drive clicks and views. So, what is the correct strategy for optimizing video thumbnails?
So right there you should have realized the importance of the thumbnail. Now taking hours poring over stills from your video isn't at all necessary but taking a single image that iconifies everything you are trying to get across is. The thumbnail needs to be eye-catching and representative. It needs to show the potential viewer what they can expect from the video and it needs to be of interest, relevant, and high quality.
How does one go about making an effective thumbnail?
How about taking into account the fundamentals of composition that make for a good photo? If a video is sitting on a results page with other videos, a compelling video thumbnail is probably the single most effective strategy to maximize the number of clicks that a video receives.
Make sure that your main focus is centered and clearly visible - if you have a presenter or a product this might be a good idea for the central image of the thumbnail. The thumbnail needs to be a finely crafted piece of photographic excellence that will compel those that see it into clicking the play button on video to find out what the video is all about.
Other ideas to think about might be:
- Action Shots - Think of movie posters you see at the theater. Often characters are 'caught in the act' of doing something which draws the eye to them.
- Big Poses - If you have a main character in your video then give them an iconic stance in the thumbnail showing them to be larger than life.
- Content Rich - Make sure there's something visually interesting from your video in the thumbnail. Something that can stand as a representation of what the video is about. Good examples would be the product - a house or room in a real estate video, the car in a video automotive ad.
As you probably know by now, Google uses thumbnails in the universal search results (SERPS) pages which, along with the title, would be the only information a potential viewer has to decide whether or not to click on your content. YouTube auto-generates 3 thumbnails for your video. However, we know that they generally pick the exact middle of the video for the thumbnail so you can make sure that the thumbnail you want is exactly in the middle. If multiple thumbnails are made for you to select from, they are (allegedly) from the 25%, 50% and 75% points in the video timeline.
The quantity and quality of information are of vital importance when promoting your video. If all it takes for a couple extra hundred or thousand viewers is to make a good thumbnail, don't you think that is something you should be looking into for every video you create and place online?
There was an article from Techcrunch last year regarding the power of video thumbnails in viral video marketing strategies which provides some additional tips:
"Two rules of thumb: the thumbnail should be clear (suggesting high video quality) and ideally it should have a face or at least a person in it."
Additionally, the author suggests rotating and refreshing your video thumbnails. In particular, the author describes a technique whereby they change their thumbnail on videos that make it to the "most viewed" section of Youtube in order to keep the video "fresh"
However, this brings up another strategy worth pursuing, Multivariate testing, and A/B Testing. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this strategy, basically it is a technique to test multiple variations of content within a live environment in order to determine which variation performs optimally. Though not a true multivariate test, I recommend rotating between thumbnails to see which thumbnail results in the greatest interaction.
I was unable to find any hard facts on the effectiveness of video thumbnails on click through however we know that logically, a good thumbnail will drive more interest, and more views. If anyone knows of research to this effect, please let us know so we can share with others.
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