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Thumbnails Provide Free Visibility On YouTube

Screen Shot 2019-08-08 at 8.14.28 AMVideo thumbnails are in many ways the billboards of YouTube, allowing artists to capture potential viewers' attention by offering them a snapshot of video content. Here we look at why creating custom thumbnails is so important, and how to ensure you're creating images that are optimized for maximum visibility.


Guest post by Jennifer Santibanez of The Daily Rind

Think of Thumbnails as free billboards on YouTube. These visuals allow viewers to see a quick snapshot of your video content as they’re browsing on the platform. Once a video is finished uploading, creators can either use an automatically generated thumbnail using a still image from the video or upload a custom thumbnail.

Remember that thumbnails are the first thing viewers will see when searching for a video to watch on YouTube, and 90% of the best-performing videos on YouTube have custom thumbnails. If you decide to customize your thumbnails, be sure you’ve got a strong, vibrant image, that conveys key information about your video and looks great when it’s both large and small. You can apply the “rule of thirds” to compose interesting and dynamic images, then overlay with your branding and/or descriptive text. If you add text, make sure to use a font that’s easy to read on screens. Also, keep in mind that the thumbnail should be eye-catching and age-appropriate for your audience.

Here are a few ways to ensure you’re optimizing your video’s custom thumbnails:

  • The fourHave your title and thumbnail work together to tell a compelling story about the video
  • List the type of content (behind the scenes, music video, lyric video), so viewers know what to expect
  • Design thumbnails that stand out, but make sure they accurately represent your content
  • Source feedback from your community for examples of potential future thumbnail and title combinations
  • Make sure faces are visible for thumbnails that feature people
  • Use the largest possible thumbnail image
  • Get creative by using catchy titles


Note that thumbnails are subject to YouTube’s Community Guidelines, therefore no nudity, hate speech, or any other images that would violate YouTube’s guidelines can be displayed. A violation may result in the rejection of your thumbnail and a strike on your account.  Repeat offenses may lead to the removal of your custom thumbnail privileges for 30 days and, ultimately, account termination. Make sure your thumbnails also properly reflect what your videos are about to avoid misleading your audience, which can result in a high drop off rate and is also considered to be a violation of YouTube’s Community Guidelines. You can learn more about YouTube’s Community Guidelines and Community Guidelines strikes in YouTube’s Help Center here

Greater Visibility Is Just A Thumbnail Away

In summary, you should give plenty of thought to your thumbnails, as this is an essential part of your YouTube strategy and more importantly, gives your audience and new viewers a preview of the content on your YouTube channel. For more detailed information about adding and creating custom thumbnails, visit YouTube’s Help Center.