How to Maximize The Power of YouTube Thumbnails

youtube thumbnails

Never underestimate YouTube thumbnails and their power.

They can drastically impact the number of people who actually click through to watch your video.

Below you’ll find some actionable strategies you can utilize to help your videos get more clicks!

Add a Photo

Pictures of people add personality and instantly make the video seem more inviting.  More specifically, pictures of women smiling into the camera can actually increase engagement even more.

That’s why you see so many women in advertising campaigns.  Companies have been using this trick for years.  And if you don’t have the luxury of being a woman :) or would rather not use your own face, grab a picture from your favorite stock photo site.

Just make sure you have rights to use the image on YouTube.  Remember, if you are a YouTube partner, that counts as a commercial use.  So make sure you are using the image according to the website’s license and terms.

One strategy I often use is a photo on one side of the image and text on the other.  That way it has a personal touch and it’s informative at the same time.  It also looks very balanced.

canva youtube thumbnail

Use Bright and Contrasting Colors

YouTube’s layout is mostly gray and white so using red, orange and other pastels is a great way to make your thumbnail stand out in the feed.

Try to avoid using too much gray and black unless you are using them in contrast with a brighter color, of course.

White text on a red background is a lot more effective than white text on a gray background.   Just look at the difference…


yellow youtube thumbnail

Which image do you think would grab your attention in the YouTube feed?

Small changes in color can make a tremendous difference in your click through rate.

Minimize Your Thumbnail Headlines

Don’t try to fit too many words in your thumbnail because it will be difficult to read.

Even though YouTube recommends a 1280×720 sized photo, it gets reduced to around 200 pixels in the news feed.

Also, use larger fonts to increase readability.

Play With Fonts Faces, Sizes and Colors

Varying up the size, style and colors of the font can also have a huge impact.

Notice how the words “traffic” and “24 hours” are in a different font and color for emphasis.   Pick out the most important words or phrases and call them out by increasing the font size, face and switching up the colors.


Take Advantage of The Two-Headline Benefit

Because YouTube also displays a headline, you actually get two chances to grab the viewer’s attention — once in the main title and again in the thumbnail.

No need to waste space by saying the exact same thing in the thumbnail.

Use this bonus to highlight the key phrases/concept in the video, or add a relevant question to the image to create interest.

Use an Online Thumbnail Creator

If you want to make your thumbnails fun and even more powerful, you can try a service like  They offer point and click software and you can even easily insert your picture to many of the templates for maximum personalization.


If you have any questions for Lisa about this post, just leave a comment below. :)


John Paul Aguiar

Blogging Entrepreneur that Helps Bloggers and Small Business Owners with Blog Marketing, Twitter Marketing and Social Media. I'm also a Kidney Transplant Recipient 2002

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  1. Hey Lisa,

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m a big fan of using TubeSlicer for creating attractive thumbnails too. I started seeing increases in my view counts and subscriber base as soon as I started using custom thumbnails.

    The other benefit is that since Google got rid of authorship, having your image on the thumbnail is the only way to get your face to show up on their SERPS.

    Thanks for the post Lisa!

    • TY for stopping by Ileane and for adding in the extra tip :)

    • Hey Ileane,

      I’ve noticed you’ve gotten real fancy with those thumbnails. I thought to myself, “Look at Ileane getting fancy!” I like what you’re doing. Makes your thumbnails look so personal. Good to know you like using TubeSlicer.

  2. I am new to google+ I have uploaded a video but the only place I can find it is in photos. Where can I find my video besides photos? Thank you George

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