YouTube video thumbnails

According to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, people consume more than 1 billion hours of content daily as of March 2017.

This simply means your brand can get a huge exposure if you upload useful, engaging content to YouTube.

However, uploading super useful content alone can’t move the needle.

Viewers must watch your content in order that you can leverage the power of this ever-popular video-sharing platform.

With more than 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, is it easy to grab the attention of viewers?

The answer is a big resounding No.

You need to employ every tool and technique at your disposal to stand out from the crowd and lure viewers to click on your YouTube videos.

Video thumbnails, which let viewers have a quick snapshot of your videos as they’re browsing YouTube, play an important role in the success of your content on YouTube.

In this article, I will discuss how to create irresistible YouTube video thumbnails for your YouTube videos.

But before we get to that, let’s shed some light on the context:

Why YouTube Video Thumbnails Are Important

Titles and thumbnails are the first things viewers see when they are browsing videos on YouTube.

Needless to say, thumbnails work as miniature marketing posters for your YouTube videos.

The more enticing the thumbnails of your videos are, the more viewers will click on your videoes on YouTube. And if the content is useful, viewers will watch videos till the end. This will send YouTube a signal that videos deliver what they promise, and YouTube will improve the ranking of your videos.

If the titles and thumbnails are misleading, the exact opposite will happen.

90% of the best performing videos on YouTube use custom thumbnails. Therefore, you should never forget to create enticing thumbnails for your YouTube videos to maximise the impact of your videos.

How to Create Irresistible YouTube Video Thumbnails

Here are five tips to help you create high-performing YouTube video thumbnails.

1- Consider Using Visually Compelling Imagery

Needless to say, viewers take a split of a second to make up their minds for whether they should watch a video or not. Thumbnails, being miniature-marketing posters of your videos, influence viewers to click or not to click on your YouTube videos.

Visually compelling thumbnails catch viewers’ attention and entice them to click on the videos.

When you’re creating an image for custom YouTube video thumbnail, follow these best practices prescribed by Google itself, which owns YouTube:

  • The images must have a resolution of 1280×720 (with minimum width of 640 pixels
  • Upload images in formats such as .PNG, .JPG,.GIF, or .BMP
  • YouTube video thumbnail images should remain under 2MB limit
  • Keep 16:9 aspect ratio as it’s mostly used in YouTube players and previews.

In addition, you should consider choosing the right color and branding that will complement the white of YouTube’s background.

Make sure that your YouTube video thumbnails target any emotion (curiosity, happiness, anger, etc.) and try to have a close-up face to tease the mood of your YouTube video.

Also, I have observed that thumbnails that use text overlay are also popular on YouTube and get huge clicks.

2- Give Catchy Titles To Your YouTube Videos

Titles of your videos can make a big difference on YouTube. That’s why it is imperative that you should craft catchy titles for your videos.

How can you do that?

Here are a few tips:

  • You should keep your videos titles concise (not more than 60 characters)
  • Keep the most important information upfront
  • Check to ensure that your titles are not sliced off in suggested videos, search results, and on mobiles
  • Titles should accurately describe the videos
  • Never excessively use caps and symbols

One thing you must avoid when you’re writing titles is creating clickbaity, sensational, and misleading titles. This kind of content can turn away viewers and hurt your chances of getting recommended to new YouTube viewers.

You should create video titles that are appropriate for a wide audience in order to maximize your potential reach.

How to do it?

Make sure you always deliver what you promise, and don’t insert symbols, words or graphics that can send your potential viewers away. And don’t forget to make your video titles advertiser-friendly.

3- Create Consistent YouTube Video Thumbnails

As I mentioned before in this article, thumbnails work as miniature marketing posters for your YouTube videos.

Though thumbnail of your each YouTube video should be different and able to stand out from the crowd on its own, the overall theme of your thumbnails should be the same in order that viewers can identify your videos within search easily. This is very important for branding purpose.

If your old videos on YouTube have thumbnails that are out of your branding line, you should update those videos with refreshed thumbnails that are in line with your branding. Doing so will also help boost views on older content.

In addition to being consistent, you should also make sure that your YouTube video thumbnails stand out against others. Thoroughly research your competitors’ thumbnails and create better thumbnails to outperform your competitors.

4- Optimize Thumbnails for Multiple Devices

 63.1 % mobile users accessed YouTube mobile app in July 2017, making it the most popular mobile music and video app in the USA. This means people are now watching YouTube videos on multiple devices.

Focusing only on PCs is not going to help you leverage the ture power of Youtube. That being said, you should optimize YouTube thumbnails for multiple devices – PCs, laptops, smartphones, and other Internet-enabled devices.

The best way to optimize your YouTube video thumbnails is to test them before you upload them.

 5- Track, Analyze, and Improve

Ideally, you should create YouTube video thumbnails and titles that meet the expectations of your viewers.

However, it is not always easy to create such thumbnails at the first go. You need to track, analyze, and improve thumbnails.

Good news is YouTube Analytics can assist you in knowing whether thumbnails and titles meet the expectations of viewers or not.

Here are the two ways to successfully analyze YouTube video thumbnails:

  • YouTube Audience retention report will give you an idea of the viewers who immediately leave your videos or watch your videos till the end. If viewers leave your videos quickly, it means title and thumbnails don’t match the content of your videos
  • Check the Traffic Sources to find out which keywords viewers are using to find your videos. If your titles don’t have important keywords, include them

You should keep tracking and analyzing your YouTube video thumbnails till you get the high-performing thumbnails.


Thumbnails can make or break your YouTube videos. They should give viewers a clear idea of what they will get if they click on the videos. Misleading, sensational, clickbaity thumbnails do more harm than good. Therefore, you should avoid creating such thumbnails.

YouTube video thumbnails with visually compelling imagery perform great when they are accompanied with catchy titles. Also, you should create consistent thumbnails optimized for multiple devices. Tracking and analyzing is certainly going to help you create high-performing thumbnails for your YouTube videos.

Featured Image: Screenshot taken by Lalit Sharma

Lalit Sharma

Lalit Sharma

Lalit Sharma Is The Founder, CEO & Managing Director Of Ranking By SEO. He Has Been Working In SEO Industry Since 2005. He Can Be Seen Contributing To SEMrush, Social Media Today, And Entrepreneur Etc...

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  1. Three important things to remember while creating thumbnails:
    1.Should be in HD size i.e. 1920×1080 or 1280×720.
    2.Use bright colors and focus on background and fonts colors too.
    3.Optimize and eye catchy text as explained in this article.

  2. Content is the king on YouTube but thumbnails are king maker i believe. A combination of good attractive content and eye catchy thumbnail is absolutely fantastic. Let say, Anyone can create an informative video use good SEO as well but without thumbnail all the hard work will washed away.
    This guide really help out me in designing thumbnails and the way you write about optimization is amazing.
    Thank you.

  3. If you are an influencer and you made a YouTube video then you should consider to make high quality YouTube thumbnail for your content that attracts viewers with in milliseconds.

    1. Hi Swastik,

      Yes, I agree with you. It is important to have relevant and attracting YouTube thumbnails for everyone whether they are posting videos for fun or professional purposes.

  4. Video thumbnails play an important role in the success of your content on YouTube. It is the best point raised in the article and it’s pretty right. I am following this guide for a long time. Thanks for sharing this information. Stay blessed.

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