How to design enticing YouTube Thumbnails that get your videos watched

How to design enticing YouTube Thumbnails that get your videos watched

“One of the easiest ways to get more views on your videos is to have an appealing thumbnail image.”

(ref: Social Media Examiner)

Thoughtfully planned, designed and created YouTube thumbnails play a critical role in whether your videos are viewed or not. You can spend thousands of dollars creating amazing videos but if they go unwatched it’s wasted time, money and energy. You want your Thumbnails to be clickable and increase your click-through rate.


1. Make it relevant

Your thumbnail must be relevant to the content of your video that you want people to view. If it’s not relevant, not only will your viewers leave immediately, where according to YouTube the average ‘time on page’ is 3 seconds, your rankings will take a nose dive. Plus you may just get a ‘Thumbs Down’ which might not affect your ranking all that much but will certainly look bad for future viewers. The image used must re-enforce the content and message, convey the subject of the video and differentiate your brand from your competitors. The key here is to be authentic, real and to the point!


2. Create instant rapport with the right photo

“If the eyes are the window to the soul, including emotive eyes can lead viewers into the heart and soul of your video. The added emotion will pique the curiosity of viewers and make them want to see what caused the emotion in the video.”

(ref: ReelSEO)

Use a close-up photo of yourself, because as an Entrepreneur you want to build a meaningful connection with your audience, instantly. So show some emotion and if possible have some movement in your photograph. This is where a professionally created Headshot or Branding Portrait, created in a 16:9 aspect ratio, will rule supreme over trying to use a still image from the video. Remember to use a photo that is relevant to your content and that clearly describes what the video is all about.

Ensure that your styling is the same form your Thumbnail to your video, including your hair, make/up and clothing so that you are congruent in your appearance which will show consistency with the message you’re conveying.

Also, don’t be fooled into thinking you can just use a still from the video, for two reasons. Firstly, if you try this it requires many key elements to come together at the same time, such as the lighting, your expression, your hands being in the right place, your hair falling in the right way and your clothes sitting neatly and looking good. Plus the still image needs to be sharp as a tack so including emotion and movement just about rules out a still image from the video. The second reason is colour, or the lack thereof unless you’ve got loads of bright colours in your video and contrasty ones at that, and let’s face it most Entrepreneurs won’t have, then your thumbnails may look flat and won’t draw the eye to them which means fewer views.

3. Write a killer title that packs a punch!

Add a benefit-driven title, one line that gets your viewer wanting to click on the video. Be specific, not general and vague. Pose a specific question that aims to solve a particular problem not the world’s problems with one video. Use as fewer words as possible, there is no space for explanations.

Use a serif font (one with no ‘tails’ at the end of the characters like Arial, Helvetica and Verdana) and ensure it’s large enough to be read on any device, like a mobile phone. And again, using a few words means that the text can be larger.

Remember, you want the right people to watch your videos, all the way to the end, and then take action.


4. Design it right

You must keep the overall design eye-catching, with as few elements as possible and spaced out to give it a simple, impactful and uncluttered look. The easier it is to view and understand the faster your viewer will get the message and be clear about what you’re saying.

Colours play a vital role in attracting the viewer to your thumbnail. Use bright contrasty colours and a solid colour for the background and remember to keep the colours on-brand and not make it tacky and cheesy.

Adding a border will help to again increase the contrast of the overall design and including some branding elements like your logo, fonts and colours will differentiate it from the other videos.

Re-enforce your brand by creating a template (with the main image, text, branding elements and a border) and use it for all your thumbnails to be consistent and on-brand so the viewer instantly knows they’re your videos and can find them amongst all the others.

Thumbnail specs for YouTube (1) and PODCasts (2)

(1) Aspect ratio 16:9,
Size 1290×720 pixels (min. width 640 pixels),
File formats: JPG, GIF, BMP, PNG,
Resolution: 72dpi

(2) Aspect ratio 1:1
Size 1400×1400 pixels
File formats: JPG and PNG
Resolution: 72dpi

In summary

Your thumbnails need to be relevant, create rapport with the right photo, be snappy with your words and designed to look on-brand.

Check out these great examples from our clients …

YouTube Thumbnails

PODCast Thumbnails

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1. YouTube: Video Thumbnails Published: no date provided by source/author

2. Fullscreen: TIPS FOR A PERFECT YOUTUBE THUMBNAIL Published:17 June 2014

3. Social Media Examiner: How to Create Custom YouTube Thumbnails Published: 6 Nov 2012

4. MiniMatters: A Custom YouTube Thumbnail Will Make Your Videos Pop Published: no date provided by source/author

5. Reelseo: 6 Killer Tips to Make Your Custom Thumbnails Pop Published: 14 Oct 2015

6. The Audacity To PODcast: How to make great podcast cover art Published: 22 Sep 2014