January 25, 2013 Jill

Thumbnails are a huge part of YouTube Marketing

A lot of traffic on YouTube comes from someone clicking on your thumbnail and watching the video. That means your thumbnail has to be hot.

I’ve been redoing all mine to make them stand out in a crowd.

Here are two of my videos — an old thumbnail on the left and a new one on the right. (Eventually, I’m going to update that lefthand one and then this comparison will be useless.)

I checked out what a bunch of popular channels are doing with theirs — Lizzie Bennet Diaries, AwesomenessTV, Geek and Sundry. I notice a lot of them are using text on their images. Especially web series, to indicate the name and also the episode number. I have been emulating them.

I like to use people’s faces — head and shoulders usually — to fill about half the space.  In a couple of cases, I’ve used a graphics program to (clumsily) mask out a complicated background so that I can add readable text.

I’m using big fonts — 45-65.

The YouTube playbook tells us that thumbnails should be 640×360, bright and high contrast and that foreground should stand out from background.  They also remind us that the image should represent the content.

It’s worth noting where the YouTube overlays are locating and adjusting what you do accordingly.  YouTube places a narrow black overlay at the very top of the image, the red and white “Play” triangle in the middle and in some cases, a small video length box in the right-hand corner.

Enable your channel for custom thumbnails:

If your channel is enabled for monetization, you should have the feature that allows you to create a custom thumbnail.  To check, in YouTube, go to settings.  

In settings, enable monetization.


It may take a week or two after you enable for monetization before your custom thumbnail feature comes online.

How to upload a custom thumbnail:

In your YouTube, go to Video Manager. Under the video you want to work with, select Edit.

On the right-hand side, under the three thumbnails that YouTube automatically generates, there will be a fourth option: custom thumbnail. Click on it and select the thumbnail you want to use.

Input please!

My new thumbnails aren’t perfect by any means but getting there… I hope. I would love your thoughts on what works and what doesn’t. And on how to improve these.

Ruby Skye PI: Meet Diana

Facebook Doesn’t Play Nice

We did have one little glitch and that’s when pulling a video into a Facebook promoted post. When you post a video on your Facebook channel, the thumbnail becomes the image.

But when we tried to promote the story, Facebook “disapproved” it. Facebook advertising guidelines say that not more than 20% of an image can be covered in text.

Photos with too much text can be disruptive in news feed, where people are used to seeing photos of their friends and places in their lives. Use text sparingly to brand your image or add emphasis to what it’s showing.

So to use my YouTube videos in promoted posts now, I will have to find a work-around. If you know of one, let me know.

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Comments (2)

  1. Simon Tael

    Awesome thank you. Special thanks for the note on YouTube overlays – i wasn’t paying attention to that.

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