Your YouTube Channel’s Thumbnails and SEO

By Rob Ciampa, Theresa Moore, John Carucci, Stan Muller, Adam Wescott

Thumbnails are visual snapshots of your video, similar to a poster for a movie. They have a tremendous impact on a video’s view rate and search engine optimization (SEO), so you should choose a good one. Thumbnails by default are chosen by YouTube — three optional frames from the beginning, middle, and end of your video will be provided for every video asset that’s uploaded.

You can, however, create a custom thumbnail for each video. (See the figure for some examples.) If you do decide to create custom thumbnails, it’s best to choose a thumbnail that is illustrative of the content in the video.

Effective video thumbnails.

Effective video thumbnails.

Thumbnails show up in the following areas:

  • Channel page

  • Watch page

  • Playlists

  • Suggested videos

  • Channel guide

  • Subscriber feed

  • YouTube search

  • Web search

  • Mobile display

  • Mobile search

Keep the following key considerations in mind when deciding on a custom thumbnail:

  • Incorporate boldness: You’re competing for viewers, so you need to stand out among the many other thumbnails across YouTube and the web. Color contrast and image quality and visual layout matter.

  • Add personification: Show the close-up view of faces, if possible. Viewers will click on faces more than anything else.

  • Strive for accuracy: The thumbnail has to relate to the content of the video. Don’t use the thumbnail as click bait.