Video thumbnails – Creator Academy YouTube
Learn about attracting more YouTube viewers by creating visually interesting, click-compelling and properly sized thumbnails across all devices.
Thumbnails and titles act like billboards to help viewers decide to watch your videos. Well-designed thumbnails and titles can attract more fans to your channel, encourage viewers to watch through your videos because they know what to expect, and make your content appealing to a broad range of advertisers.
Boost discovery with your thumbnail and title
Thumbnails and titles are usually the first thing that viewers see when browsing on YouTube and an important piece of your video's metadata. They work together as a team to build anticipation while accurately representing what's in your video.
When viewers click into your video and stay to watch through, this lets YouTube know that the viewer is enjoying your content. However, if your thumbnails and titles don't deliver on their promise of what's in the video, viewers tend to leave almost immediately, which can limit your discoverability on YouTube. The longer you can keep people watching on YouTube because of your content, the more your content is likely to be surfaced.
Changing the thumbnail and title combination can completely transform the viewer's expectation of what a video is about. Think about how this yellow thumbnail with each title changes the perception:
- 'My room colour' is perhaps a DIY or how-to video
- 'This is NOT yellow', perhaps a science video
- 'Mustard factory explosion', perhaps a comedy video
- Give viewers a sneak peek of what's in your video without being 'clickbaity'.
- Make your title and thumbnail work together to tell a compelling story.
- Ask your community for feedback on different examples of your potential thumbnail/title combinations.
See it in action
This is not yellowThis clever combination of a solid yellow thumbnail and a (seemingly contradictory) title raises viewer interest in watching a science video about colour.
100 years of beauty: AgeingThis thumbnail strategically hides faces, but its title teases an intriguing story about ageing – the result is an urge to see the final reveal.
How to vlog and a few reasons it's so popularThe title of this video works together with the thumbnail of the vlogger's face and camera phone to communicate to viewers that this video is about vlogging.
"3 Things To Do With: POTATOES"This thumbnail gives a sneak peek of the three potato recipes introduced in the title. It works well because, even without text on the thumbnail, viewers have an idea of the content.
Design thumbnails that stand out and accurately represent your content
Thumbnails are usually the first thing that viewers see when they find one of your videos, and 90% of the best-performing videos on YouTube have custom thumbnails. When you customise your thumbnails, make sure that you've got a strong, vibrant image that looks great large and small, and that conveys key information about your video.
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 that you use a font that's easy to read on screen. Also, think about how you can be eye-catching and age-appropriate for your audience.
It's a good idea to think about your thumbnail even before you shoot your video so that you’ve got several options when you upload. Remember, thumbnails show up in different sizes across YouTube and external sites that embed YouTube videos, so check that your thumbnail looks good on mobile and desktop.
- Think about your thumbnail BEFORE you shoot so that you can capture several options.
- Make your thumbnail as high resolution as possible but stay under the 2-MB limit.
- Specs: 1280 x 720 pixels (16:9 ratio) as a .JPG, .GIF, .BMP or .PNG.
- Zoom in and out of your thumbnail to see if it looks good small and large.
- See if your thumbnail would stand out among other thumbnails.
See it in action
How we make our title and thumbnails pop!Three successful creators share their experiences for attracting viewers with compelling thumbnails and titles showcasing their content.
Matthew Santoro reveals his top YouTube tipsIn this episode of The Creator Show, Matthew discusses how 'top 10' list titles helped to generate curiosity about what's in his videos.
Mastering the rule of thirdsStephen from ReelSEO explains how to use the "rule of thirds" to frame images that draw in a viewer's eye. Try to apply his advice in your next thumbnail.
Shooting and editing the perfect imageCaseyNeistat created a thumbnail that jumps off the page by combining the rule of thirds, bold colour saturation and close-up cropping.
Write the right catchy titles
Well-written titles can be the difference between someone watching and sharing your video, or scrolling right past it – and it's best to create titles that accurately represent what's in the content. You can do this by sparking curiosity with a creative title or teasing what’s in the content.
It’s important to accurately describe your video so that viewers stay to watch. If viewers don't stick around because the video didn't match their expectations, you'll see a drop in your audience retention, which can result in your video being less likely to be recommended on YouTube. (As a reminder, any content that violates our Community Guidelines is removed.)
- Keep titles concise (60 characters) with the most important information up front.
- Save episode numbers and branding for towards the end.
- Check that your titles don't get cut off in suggested videos, search results and mobile.
See it in action
'How girls get ready…'This super-clickable title resonates with IISuperwomanII’s community. The viewers who are most drawn to this title will probably be girls who enjoy getting ready to go out – or the people who wait for them to get ready.
Unboxing my Silver Play ButtonThis playful thumbnail captures the excitement of a creator who is recognised for reaching 100,000 subscribers as she receives a shimmering Silver Creator Award.
17-year-old killed in Venezuela protestsEven though this video has footage of a violent protest, the thumbnail avoids imagery that may turn off viewers. The title provides proper context that this is a news report of a fatal incident.
Place episode-subject information at the beginningThis is a good example of titles for a series. It puts the most important information first and includes the show name and episode number towards the end.
Avoid using misleading, clickbaity or sensational thumbnails and titles
Misleading or clickbaity refers to thumbnails and titles that misrepresent the content of your video. Sensationalised refers to outrageous, offensive or gross thumbnails and titles. This sort of stuff can turn away viewers and hurt your chances of being recommended to new viewers.
If you want to grow a loyal, sustained audience on YouTube, your goal is to get viewers interested in your video, while avoiding misleading, clickbaity or sensational thumbnails and titles.
If your video has these things and doesn't cross the line (see Community Guidelines), it still can live on YouTube. However, the video may be less likely to be recommended to new audiences, and it may rank lower in recommendations and other areas of YouTube.
Here are some attributes that can impact video recommendations to new viewers:
- Deceiving or misleading: Misrepresents the content of the video.
- Shocking: Includes offensive or outrageous language or imagery.
- Disgusting: Contains gross or repulsive imagery.
- Gratuitous violence: Unnecessarily promotes violence or abuse.
- Indecent: Implies sexually suggestive or lewd conduct.
- Loud: Uses ALL CAPS or !!!!! to overemphasise titles.
To maximise your potential reach, create thumbnails and titles that are appropriate for a wide audience. One simple rule is to always deliver what you promise, and avoid inserting words, symbols or graphics that could deceive or turn away potential viewers.
Custom thumbnails need to follow our Community Guidelines. Violations may result in your custom thumbnail being removed and a Community Guidelines strike. Learn more about thumbnail policies on YouTube.
Examples Explanation THESE FOODS WILL KILL YOU! YOU WON'T BELIEVE!!!!
This is clickbaity because it tries to lure viewers with extreme exaggeration. The dead body in the thumbnail creates shock value, and the title seems to make deceptive claims.
A better approach would be to use a thumbnail and title that illustrate the video content in a more positive and audience-friendly way.
WATCH ME BREAK MY OWN ARM!! #OUCH
This is violent and repulsive. The thumbnail may catch some viewers' attention, but it's also likely to turn away others. The title plays up the violence for dramatic effect.
If a video happens to contain violent imagery, such as an accidental injury, consider how the thumbnail and title can represent the content without being distasteful.
Super Hero POOP PRANK on Princess w/ Super Friends
This is gross and offensive. By referencing a superhero, the thumbnail and title target a young audience, but the content seems intended for mature viewers.
Even for prank videos, carefully consider how the combination of thumbnail and title will look to potential viewers and whether it may be inappropriate.
Things to avoid
- Excessive violence (even if a parody)
- Images unsafe for all audiences
- Overly racy or titillating content
- Misleading use of family characters
- EXCESSIVE CAPS AND SYMBOLS!!!
- Deception or wild exaggeration
- Inappropriate or vulgar language
Craft advertiser-friendly thumbnails and titles to help your monetisation
Advertisers can choose to target videos that contain particular terms and keywords in their titles, descriptions or tags, in order to reach the audiences that they value. This may influence which of your content can be monetised. Learn more about advertiser-friendly content.
Advertisers can also opt-out of terms and keywords that don't align to their brand. For example, videos that contain profane, controversial or sexually suggestive terms (even if they are being used in a comedic, ironic or otherwise non-offensive context) can result in some advertisers excluding your video from their campaigns. So consider the text that you use in your titles.
While thumbnails should accurately represent the content and be enticing to potential viewers, you may also want to think about whether brands would be comfortable showing up alongside more mature thumbnails. Thumbnails that are shocking, overly graphic or sexually suggestive can also cause some advertisers to exclude that content from a particular campaign.
Remember, while some videos don't violate our policies, they may not be appropriate for all audiences. YouTube removes ads from any content depicting family entertainment characters engaged in violent, offensive or otherwise inappropriate behaviour, even if done for comedic or satirical purposes.
Tips to ensure that advertisers are comfortable with your metadata:
- Make accurate titles, tags and descriptions - Most importantly, metadata should accurately describe the content of your video.
- Every word matters - Videos that contain profane, controversial or sexually suggestive terms can result in some advertisers excluding your video from their campaigns.
- Words can be taken out of context - Advertisers will often opt out of certain words or phrases – consider how your titles, tags and descriptions may be interpreted.
Check whether your thumbnails and titles deliver on the promise
YouTube Analytics can help you determine whether your thumbnails and titles match expectations by looking at what your viewers do once they start watching the video they've selected.
YouTube will recommend a video to viewers if the video is relevant and if viewers find the video interesting, as reflected by the video's average view duration. Clickbait videos tend to have low average view duration and therefore are less likely to get recommended by YouTube. You can tell if your thumbnail is clickbait if it is getting high CTR but low average view duration and lower than expected impressions. Learn more.
You can also look at the Traffic Sources to check which keywords viewers are using to find your video. If an important keyword is missing, consider adding it to your title or description.