Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Are Custom YouTube Thumbnails Really THAT Important?

Are custom YouTube thumbnails really that important?
Are Custom YouTube Thumbnails Important?

Nine out of ten YouTubers would answer with a resounding yes, and I mostly agree with them.

However, none of them explain why good-looking thumbnails increase the ranking of your videos, or in some cases- why they don't help the rankings at all.

First of all, let's talk about why custom thumbnails can actually increase your rank. It's not like once you add a custom thumbnail, the YouTube ranking system will go "BOOM" and increase your rank right away.

What the custom thumbnails are actually there for is for drawing in more viewers who are truly interested in your video and for increasing watchtime.

Watchtime is key for ranking your video. A long time ago, YouTube changed the ranking system so watchtime would be the most important thing for increasing your video's rank. In fact, almost everything you do to increase your rank is an attempt to increase watchtime. (Yes, even improving tags and descriptions. At least in part)

So ultimately the goal of a custom thumbnail is to show what your video is all about, to get more viewers that will watch your video for a longer time, and stand out from other videos that appear on the search page.

If you had to choose between two videos with the same title with one of them having a well-made custom thumbnail, and the other having a random thumbnail. Which one would you watch? I'm guessing the better looking one. (Unless your video is the one with the random thumbnail ;) )

Someone who has incredibly well made thumbnails is PewDiePie. His thumbnails are eye-catching, usually have a face with an interesting expression, and they draw people in. And I mean.... He has over 30,000,000 subscribers so he must be doing something right! Right? Let's look at his most recent uploads and see if he makes custom thumbnails for every single one of his videos. Oh! Yes! He does! Anyway...

PewDiePie most recent videos

So what makes a good thumbnail?

It has to be interesting, shouldn't have a lot of text, and should let the viewer know what your video will be about.

Gone are the days of people putting sexual content in the thumbnails just for the sake of getting a view. Now if you get many clicks, but your watchtime is incredible low, YouTube will count that against you.
The Evil Within Great Thumbnails
Should you really make custom thumbnails for every single one of your videos? At this point, I try to do it for every single one of my videos if I can. Even something simple like picking a good-looking frame from your video, screenshotting it, and putting the episode number and the game name on there goes a long way.

As an example, let's look at the thumbnails for the search term "Evil within gameplay". As you can see, five out of the six top videos have a custom thumbnail, and the video that doesn't have one is Bethesda's first gameplay video so they don't need a custom thumbnail. Which video would you rather click if you didn't know the titles or the people who created it?

 Personally I really like the second one because the red really jumps out at me, and the last one looks very nice also.

All of these are simple and well-made and make me want to watch these videos!

To answer the question asked in the title of this post- yes, custom thumbnails are definitely very important, if you know how to make them properly, and you realize why they are important.

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