Top 10 Tips On Getting a Better YouTube Thumbnail Click-Through Rate

Last updated on June 15th, 2024

On this episode of Video Marketing Value Dane and Renee give you their best 10 tips on making a better thumbnail to get higher click-through rates on YouTube.

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HOSTS: The VidAction Podcast is hosted by:
– Dane Golden of VidAction.tv and VidTarget.io | LinkedIn | Twitter | YouTube
– Renee Teeley of VideoExplained and ReneeTeeley.com | LinkedIn | Twitter |
Instagram | YouTube

SPONSORS: This episode is brought to you by our affiliate partners, including: TubeBuddyVidIQMorningFameRev.com, and other products and services we recommend.

PRODUCER: Jason Perrier of Phizzy Studios

TRANSCRIPT

Renee Teeley:
Make your title and thumbnail work together. Your title and your thumbnail, those two things together, that essentially makes up your book cover. It’s really what compels someone to click, to watch your video, or to skip your video entirely and look for something else. So, make sure that your title and your thumbnail work together, and that they provide context to your video topic.

Dane Golden:
It’s time for the VidAction Podcast. This is the podcast, you know what kind of podcast this is. This is the one where we help marketers and business owners just like you, get more value out of your video marketing efforts. My name is Dane Golden from VidAction.tv, where we help you up your game on YouTube for business, and transform your viewers into loyal customers. And my other businesses, VidTarget.io, where we help you save time and money through our service of more targeted YouTube ads. Along with my co-host, she’s the powerhouse video marketer from San Francisco, it’s Renee Teeley, from VideoExplained. Hello Renee.

Renee Teeley:
Hello Dane, did you just go through puberty? What just Happened?

Dane Golden:
It’s great. It’s great to see you, Renee.

Renee Teeley:
It is great to not see you, but talk to you today. And today, I am happy as Winnie-the-Pooh with a full pot of honey, to be co-hosting this podcast with you.

Dane Golden:
But are you thrilled?

strong>Renee Teeley:
I’m thrilled. I’m delighted. I am all of the things.

Dane Golden:
She is all the things. And Renee, what do you do at VideoExplained?

Renee Teeley:
At VideoExplained, I offer video production and consulting services to help companies use video to build credibility, generate leads, and convert those leads into paying customers.

Dane Golden:
Those paying customers. That’s the important thing. And for you the listener, you should know as always that you can follow along in your podcast app, that you’re listening to us on, right this very second. We’ve got a transcript and links. And hey, why don’t you tweet Renee or me, Renee is rteeley, I’m Dane Golden, danegolden. And, let us know what you think of the show, or if you have any questions. So Renee topic today, top 10 tips on getting better YouTube thumbnail click-through rates. Sound good?

Renee Teeley:
Sounds great. I think that thumbnails are one of the most overlooked, and underrated things of YouTube. So, very important stuff.

Dane Golden:
Better than underlooked and overrated?

Renee Teeley:
Under… Much better than that.

Dane Golden:
So, what is your first tip?

Renee Teeley:
Yeah, so my first tip with thumbnails is really to make your title and thumbnail work together. So if you think about it, your title and your thumbnail, those two things together that essentially makes up your book cover. So, this is essentially your cover for your video, and it’s really what compels someone to click, to watch your video, or to skip your video entirely, and look for something else. So, it’s really important. So, my first tip is to make sure that your title and your thumbnail work together, and that they provide context to your video topic. So, one thing I want to note here is when you’re creating your thumbnail and your title, if you are putting text on your thumbnail, it doesn’t have to match what’s in your title. So for example, if your title says something like, “13 mistakes to avoid,” the thumbnail could just say something like, “Danger.” But, the important thing is those two things need to work together.

Dane Golden:
They’re a team.

Renee Teeley:
They’re a team. They are a team. They’re a dynamic duo.

Dane Golden:
All right. And, I want to give my next tip, which is how to use big faces with emotion. Now, these thumbnails for most people, 90 percent of the folks that see them, are going to see them super, super small. They call them thumbnails, because they’re about as big as your thumbnail, may be a little bit bigger. And so, you want to zoom in, and have big emotion, you can never be too close. If you think you’re close enough, you’re not, get closer. You’re an experienced photographer. I’ve heard one tip that pro photographers give to amateurs, and that is get closer. Is that true?

Renee Teeley:
Yeah. I think that a lot of people are… Well, with photography in general, people are afraid to get too close, because they want to give sort of the whole picture and context to that. But, when you get close to a subject, it really pulls in the viewer. There’s just something that just feels a little bit more intimate. And so, when you get close, it especially works well on thumbnails, because it’s a small image, especially if people are looking at it on a mobile device. So get closer, make that image stand out.

Dane Golden:
Okay. And, high emotions really work. Remember people are seeing these very small, so you have to exaggerate a little bit. So, if you’re taking photos of yourself for the thumbnail, you might want to use emotions like surprise, or joy, or even anger, or fear. And, you see a lot of thumbnails, particularly like, I don’t know why Nick Nimmin and Sean Cannell, they always do the regret, which is you’re sort of biting your lip, or you’re just sort of.

Dane Golden:
I’m a student of body language. I don’t know why the regret face seems to do well, but they like it. Also, we believe that a photo will do better, if the eyes are looking directly at the camera or viewer. Our eyes are drawn to people who are looking at us. If someone’s looking at you from across the room, whoever they are, you have to look at them. You’re drawn to that. That’s our belief. And, it doesn’t always have to work this way. Sometimes you can be looking at like, let’s say, the videos about which camera’s best. You can look at each camera. Eyes and teeth will also get you more clicks, than if you don’t show them. So, photos with eyes and teeth.

Renee Teeley:
So, I want to take a step back just to talk a little bit about the emotion part of it. So, I think it’s actually really important to include emotion in your photos. And, it’s something that I struggle with a lot, because I like the photos of me just smiling, they look better. Those are not always the photos that work best for thumbnails.
So, what makes you look your best, maybe isn’t the thing that is going to work best on the thumbnail. So, it is a good idea to show some emotion and yeah, Sean does use the photos of him kind of biting his lower lip. Sometimes that means, I think that he’s thinking about something. So, there’s a lot of different ways to interpret that. But, it is good to show emotion. I don’t particularly like the YouTube your face that much. And by YouTube [crosstalk 00:07:47]…

Dane Golden:
Lets describe what that is. Yeah, the YouTube face.

Renee Teeley:
Yeah, the YouTube face, it’s really with your mouth open. And, I guess the emotion that kind of strikes me with that poses a is surprised. People do look surprised when they’re doing that, but I do think it’s kind of an overused look. And so, while I think it’s important to show emotion, I think it’s also good to experiment a little bit with what that emotion is, and also, still make sure that it fits the video.

Dane Golden:
Yeah. And, if you’re a business, you want to match the tonality of the thumbnail with the tonality of your business. You don’t want to make it boring, but if you’re selling insurance or something like that, you could do that, just sort of crazy face. But, someone wants to trust you a little bit more. Or, if you’re a bank or whatever, you want to tone it down just a tiny bit, because people are looking for trust, and someone who’s showing great emotion of fear is more silly or frightening depending on your viewpoint. So, adjust the tonality for your particular business.

Renee Teeley:
Yeah. Emotions are very important, but like I said, I think it’s good to kind of explore different emotions, and make sure that you’re finding something that fits. On that note, my next tip is keep the design simple. So, when you’re creating your thumbnails, keep in mind that a lot of people are probably viewing the thumbnail on a phone. And, even if it’s not on the phone, even if they’re viewing it on their desktop, it’s a good idea to keep the design simple. And so, really what that means is you’re not cluttering the thumbnail. And so, you don’t have too much that you’re trying to pack in, because it can be overwhelming. And also, if it’s really cluttered and you have a lot on there, sometimes it’s hard to tell what the video is about. So, make sure that you are keeping that design simple.

Renee Teeley:
If you’re using photos of people, which is a good idea, it’s a best practice to put in your thumbnails, remove the background. So, remove the background from people. And, that way you can be very specific and conscious about what you’re putting in the thumbnail. I haven’t used this tool, but I know Dane uses a tool that he highly recommends called remove.bg. And, that helps you remove the background of images with people. I think you could probably do this with photos of objects too.

Dane Golden:
Yeah.

Renee Teeley:
Okay. So yeah, great tool to use, and really nice way that you can create simple and clean designs.

Dane Golden:
Yeah. And, we’ll put my affiliate code in the show notes. Here’s one I like to do, is hand positions. I’ve found, anecdotally, I can’t really say for a hundred percent sure, but sometimes if you use hands, they will do better than if you don’t use them. And what I mean is, in your normal profile photo, it’s going to be like shoulders up, and you’re clearly not going to point in a profile photo. But, if you can point to a product or the other words, the text on the thumbnail. Or sometimes, you may accentuate your emotions with hands, you might throw your arms up in the air, or things like that. And generally, you do it in an… Usually when we do our hands in emotions, they’re more like shoulder, or somewhere in your mid body area height. But, if you want to do hands for a thumbnail, since you’re mostly showing your head, you want to raise your hands up a little bit more, so they fit, right. So, you sort of exaggerating them. That’s my thought.

Renee Teeley:
I actually really like this tip, and it’s something that I don’t hear very often when people talk about thumbnails as hand positions. And I have seen, there’s a lot of thumbnails where people are pointing, but I think that it’s good to be conscious about what you are doing with your hands. And, it reminds me of the same thing with videos too, is that, I think there’s a connection between emotion and your hands, also. When I’m doing videos, I have done this before, where I was doing a video, and someone asked me not to talk with my hands. So, I had my hands down at my side, and the video just seemed so unnatural. I just needed to talk, I just needed to use my hands while I was talking. So, I do think there’s just some weird connection. So, I think that’s a great tip.

Dane Golden:
Oh, I’ve done a whole other video about how you should actually speak more with your hands, than you usually do for a video. Because you’ve got to bring sort of twice the energy. And actually, when you make more gestures, you tend to put more into your voice and emphasis. So, that’s a whole nother topic for another day.

Renee Teeley:
Yeah. I think it directly relates, like there’s just some attachment with emotion and hands. So, a really good tip. My next tip is to minimize the length of the text, but to maximize the text size. So, use as few words as possible in your thumbnail. Some people don’t use text at all, and that can work really well. I like to add maybe a word or two, no more than three to the thumbnails, just to give a little bit more context to what it’s about, if someone is not reading the title. So, it kind of jumps out at you, what the videos about. But, just use as few words as possible, and that’s going to help… It’s going to allow you to keep your thumbnails nice and clean, but also it’s going to give you enough room that you can make your text as big as possible, so that people can read it.

Dane Golden:
Right. And, there’s the other ideas, you can test these thumbnails. AB test them, or, test one against another. And, TubeBuddy has a way of doing this. We’re using their premium package, which is called Legend, which I think it’s $50 a month, or so. And, I have an affiliate code that you can click on link. But, the best practice is to actually wait until the video’s already been published for a couple of weeks. Can you guess why that is Renee? This is a real test.

Renee Teeley:
To wait after it’s been published for two weeks.

Dane Golden:
Yes.

Renee Teeley:
I’m going to assume just to give the audience some time to actually react to it, so you can get some views. Otherwise, you have no data. You have nothing to work with.

Dane Golden:
Good. But in addition, the first few days of any video is going to get the most traffic.

Renee Teeley:
Well, yes of course.

Dane Golden:
So, it’s really going to influence your numbers if you’re just testing day one versus day two. So, what you want to do, is you want to wait until the traffic is leveled out, and sort of static, same number of views per day. And then, you can run the AB testing on, apples to apples comparison. And then, what you do with that AB testing is you take a best practice. You don’t take necessarily that exact learning, but then you can apply that best practice and find out, oh, if we always use green text versus red text, we’re going to get 15 percent more clicks. And then, you apply that at the beginning of the process to a future video.

Renee Teeley:
Yeah. I really liked the idea of AB testing thumbnails, because there are a lot of variables with your thumbnail. And, even in this podcast, we’re giving you some best practices, but it’s good to test things out, and to figure out what’s going to work well for your channel, and you’re specific video topic. And, it’s good to AB test, not just on one video, but you can start testing on all of the videos and see in general, do your thumbnails work better when you have no text, do they work better when you have some texts, do they work better when you show your face, but they don’t show your face. And so, you can start to get some of those learning lessons over time to make your thumbnail style better for your channel.

Dane Golden:
Right.

Renee Teeley:
So, my next tip actually goes along the lines of AB testing. And, it’s really about updating old thumbnail images. So, if you have videos that are working well on your channel, so they’re getting good view time, and people are watching it. You’re getting views, watch time is good, but the click-through rate is low. You might want to change out that thumbnail. And so, it’s okay to go back to old videos, and refresh the thumbnail. And, this is something that you can also try optimizing with TubeBuddy, in the same way that we talked about with AB testing. And so, you can figure out what’s going to work well for those old videos.

Renee Teeley:
In addition to that, another reason you might want to go back to old videos is so, let’s say that for whatever reason, you’re updating the style of your thumbnails, and you want everything to have a consistent look and feel; you may want to go back to old videos, and update the style, so it fits with your new style. So, lots of different reasons why you might want to update those thumbnails.

Dane Golden:
Right. And then, there’s a dead spot in a thumbnail area that you don’t want to design for. And, what I mean is a dead spot, is that there’s a timer. If you ever looked at the suggested videos, there’s a timer that they overlay onto the bottom right side of every video. And, if your video is five minutes long, it’ll say 5:00 in that area. And, that size of that area is different depending on where that thumbnail shows up.

Dane Golden:
So, if you have texts that runs the full width of the thumbnail, that last few letters is going to be knocked off. So, I think of that bottom right area as a place where you might have something shown, like if your head is on the right side, that might be your neck, so it’s covered up, but you still get to see your smile, type of thing. It may look like a bow tie, or a turtleneck, it said five minutes on it. But, you don’t want to cover up any key, like messaging in the thumbnail. So, I just don’t put anything that’s essential in that bottom right area. And, I don’t hear a lot of people talk about that, but that’s one of my tips.

Renee Teeley:
Yeah. That’s a really good tip. I have run into that issue in the past. So, it’s good just to keep that as a safe space when designing things. It’s also good to be mindful about what you’re putting in the top left, because depending on how and where you’re sharing that video, so if you embed the video, the title of your video may show up on the top right.

Dane Golden:
Oh, that’s true. That is true, yes. Because, if you’re embedding it, that area is totally overlaid. Right.

Renee Teeley:
Yeah. So, you could still design, like you can put graphics and some design elements there, but I wouldn’t put any texts there. I have seen in the past where people put text towards that area, and then with the title overlaid over the top of it, it just looks like a mess. So, it’s good to keep that area clear, at least of anything busy.

Dane Golden:
Yeah, that’s basically the top 15 percent of the thumbnail.

Renee Teeley:
Yeah.

Dane Golden:
Across the entire part.

Renee Teeley:
So, my next tip is to show transformation. So, depending on the type of videos that you’re doing, before and after thumbnails can work really well. And so, this I know works really well for beauty bloggers, and things like that. Or, if you’re doing like hair tutorials and stuff, you can show the before, and the after. It also works really well if you are doing production techniques. So, if you’re going to show how to get better lighting, you can show what the set looks like, before you’ve improved the lighting, and what it looks like after. And so, people already know, hey, here’s what it looks like going in, and here’s what my set could potentially look like after. So, show that transformation directly in your thumbnail.

Dane Golden:
If people are thinking my thumbnails are of make-overs, it always looks like the before picture. So, my next tip and our final tip is our design style at VidiUp. And, we like to do a collage. We’d like to do text graphics, and faces. And so, we’ve been doing cartoons, but not entirely cartoons, because I always put my own face, a photo of my face into the cartoon. And, it’s a unique look, and we’re experimenting. You can go to the VidiUp YouTube channel, and see a few of them, we’ve started to do.
And, we’re pretty pleased with it, because one, I can just take two or three photos of my head, and I can just plop them on to any situation in the world, and give an example of what I’m trying to convey with that. So it’s a time saver, in a way. And then, we also have texts, usually one or two words, maybe three, that’s big and bright, red, and black, and gray. We use a lot of high contrast, and we use VectorStock mostly, to get the vector images that combine with my head.

Renee Teeley:
I know you just said, “This is our last tip,” but I want to sneak just one [crosstalk 00:22:29]…

Dane Golden:
No more tips.

Renee Teeley:
I’m going to sneak a bonus one in there.

Dane Golden:
All right.

Renee Teeley:
Just listening to you talk about this, and just thinking about your thumbnails. I just have to mention this one, and that is to create your own thumbnail style. So, all of the things that we’ve just mentioned, these are all things that we’ve learned along the way, and some best practices, and things that we’ve explored with. But, I want to encourage people to also come up with a style that works for them. And, I know with your thumbnails, you’ve gone through a bunch of different variations, but I think you’ve landed on something that works really well for your brand. And, I know it’s taken a while for you to get there, but I think it’s amazing, and it’s something that’s repeatable. And, you use that same style for all of your thumbnails. So, I want to encourage other people to come up with a style that is all their own as well.

Dane Golden:
Right. And, my name is Dane Golden, and I’m with my cohost Renee Teeley. And, we want to thank you the listener for joining us today. Don’t we Renee?

Renee Teeley:
Absolutely. And today, I want to leave you with a quote. “As I once told my good friend, Thomas Edison, I have not failed.” “I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” So, don’t be afraid to try new things, and go different directions on your path to success.

Dane Golden:
That was a famous quote from old T to the E. I also have found 10,000 ways that don’t work on pretty much every project I try, but then I eventually get to the right one. I want to thank you, the listener, for listening, and invite you to review us on Apple Podcasts. Or, you can tweet Renee, rteeley, or me danegolden.

Dane Golden:
Let us know what you think of the podcast, or ask us a question. Renee and I do this podcast and our various other independent, and YouTube videos, and projects because we love helping marketers and business owners, just like you do YouTube and video marketing better. Until next week, here’s to helping you, help your customers through video.

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