Thumbnails are one of the least time consuming and essentially free ways to increase YouTube views.
As a vlogger your more than likely making your own private documentaries or producing content that is of some sort of entertainment value for YouTube. If you are producing content for YouTube a good thumbnail is one of the most basic but yet incredibly powerful ways to get a lot of views. The thumbnail (picture) is your advertisement that says “Watch Me, don’t watch those other videos above or below me in the search results.” A
good thumbnail, I mean a great thumbnail is pretty much essential for top-viewership on YouTube or whatever video sharing site you are using.
I am quite a YouTube enthusiast myself so I tend to watch many of the popular vloggers and other well-known channels. They almost always have a thumbnail image for the video that makes you curious, excites you, inspires you or just somehow makes you want to click it and see what’s going on. I have seen many channels each handle their thumbnails in different ways and not always consistently either. It likely depends on the video content as to how you handle your thumbnail.
I think there a few basic principles for creating a great YouTube thumbnail for your vlog. The recommended size is 1280 X 720 with an aspect ratio of 16:9. 2 MB is the official size limit of the allowable file and you can simply use a jpg. or png. file.
This is a link to YouTubes official thumbnail guide, click here. It will answer basic technical questions as seen in the picture below.
#1 First and foremost, you should make sure whatever thumbnail you use is clear, meaning that is easy to see what’s going on. You don’t want to potentially confuse your viewer with a poor quality picture.
#2 As a basic rule of thumb, you should have a thumbnail that truly represents what the content is. Meaning that if you want to talk about your new skateboard, you probably should not have a picture of a tropical beach as your thumbnail, unless maybe you tested it out there or something that is relevant to the skateboard. I think common sense would apply here but that’s not always true, there are millions of videos on YouTube that intentionally use a powerful thumbnail to deceive people into watching a video when that thumbnail is not in the video at any point or not even related. Do not be that person that does that, it p*#ses people off and they will not watch your content anymore. If you are a daily or occasional vlogger a thumbnail of yourself at some point in your vlog is normal and standard.
#3 You should use a thumbnail that sparks the interest of the potential viewer. There are many ways to accomplish this and no one way is necessarily better than another. The most basic way is to show excitement, surprise, inspiration, before & after, or something compelling to make the viewer want to see your content. This is not always realistically easy if your an everyday vlogger or don’t live a super exciting life. I often times see thumbnails completely faked or embellished to gain viewership. It has gotten really bad on YouTube in the last couple of years, I can’t pull up YouTube in my browser without seeing obviously faked thumbnails over and over being recommended. It gets really annoying and turns off the viewer if the picture doesn’t tell the story. There are a lot of people diving into YouTube and everyone wants to make it big or become YouTube famous. My words of advice are don’t be dishonest with your viewers, it will not help you in the long run.
#4 The next way to enhance your YouTube thumbnail is to add text to the photo that is used for the thumbnail. Adding text or icons, emojis, other overlayed pictures, etc. can help distinguish it from the other and maybe more boring thumbnails. Adding text also allows you convey just a little bit more information to the viewer as well. It also says that you take your videos seriously enough to spend a couple of extra minutes to make a nice thumbnail. Believe it or not, people will be more attracted and gravitate towards your thumbnail because it will stand out from the others. I recommend the text be kept to a minimum if you do use some on your thumbnail because too much text will simply be impossible to legibly read and just turn-off the potential viewer.
#5 Add your face to the thumbnail if you want, this is quite a common tactic many successful channels use. If the original picture is a picture of a castle for example and you overlay a cutout/png. file of your face full of excitement to see the castle that will likely make for a more compelling thumbnail. I personally like this approach. I typically edit media on my Mac and use a program called PhotoScissors to help me accomplish this type of editing.
HERE IS AN EXAMPLE OF A NICE GENERIC THUMBNAIL (I totally just made it up for example purposes)
The example above clearly shows the video’s intent with a closeup picture of a fly fishing pole and labels the thumbnail with text the more thoroughly describes what the video is about. The thumbnail is simple and to the point but yet attractive at the same time, it doesn’t appear to be a joke or unprofessional, so someone who is really interested in learning to fly fisher better, they would be very likely to check this out.
These are are some of the best things you can do to enhance your thumbnails for YouTube at this point. I would use a combination of common sense, some nice wording/text that contrasts correctly with the background of the thumbnail and keep it real, meaning do not have a thumbnail of a barbie doll if you are talking about G.I. Joes.
You should also make sure the thumbnail as bright and colorful if possible. It will make it stand out more, do not make it look too unnatural, though. Changes to the brightness, hue, color saturation etc. can make it pop a bit more than other thumbnails in the search results. You could also simply apply a nice premade filter to the whole image much like Instagram offers or the online picture editors at the bottom of the page.
I would also recommend for those that really want to maximize your efforts, simply study the other thumbnails that are at the top of YouTube’s search results and try to make yours better. If you are doing a daily vlog about your life that might not be possible, but if you are talking about something specific then do a little research, it really can make or break the videos viewership for years to come.
I have a few different places that I personally use to edit some of the photos that appear on this website or the thumbnails for YouTube videos I have made. See list below:
I personally use this one the most because it’s got quite a few different features and possible outcomes for your photo editing. The basic account will allow you to edit your photos for free with quite a few great tools. The Plus account that adds more features and tools costs a nominal $25 a year. If you edit a lot of photos it might be worth it for you to upgrade. If you are doing basic editing the free account should be more than enough.
I have used this website several times in the past as well. Pic Monkey is very similar to Be Funky, in the sense that they have like kind tools, editors, enhancements and overlays for your photo editing needs. Their basic account is totally free with the ability to upgrade to a Royale account that offers more tools and editing power. The Royale prices are approx. $33 a year when billed annually or $5 a month if you prefer month-to-month pricing.
I recently started using Canva.com and have found some fresh templates to use for certain projects or designs I want to achieve. Canta offers pretty much the same ability to edit photos and or create new projects as the other two websites mentioned here. I only use the free account at this point to do some occasional editing. They do offer a paid membership that is more pricey than the other two options. Currently, the pricing is $120 yearly or $13 monthly. Canva definitely offers more than just photo editing. It allows you to create flyers, banner style infographics, collages and a lot more, you would really have to check it out yourself to see all that it has to offer. If you run a website it might definitely be worth the money to have all the tools and resources available online anytime you need them.