Welcome to the first article in a new series I’ll be putting together regarding YouTube content and creation. These articles are intended to help inform you about new ways to grow your channel, show you good content producing techniques and help you discover ways to keep your viewers watching.
Starting off the series I’m going to discuss the importance of thumbnails and titles for your videos and how they can drive viewership. When your video thumbnail and title work together they act as a digital billboard for viewers to discover your videos and channel.
Thumbnails are one of the first things viewers see when they find one of your videos. Think how often you scroll through your Facebook or Twitter feed and click on something you thought was interesting because of the thumbnail. YouTube will automatically offer you thumbnail options when you upload a video. When your account is in good standing and verified you can create your own custom thumbnails to better advertise what your video is about and encourage viewers to click.
Thumbnails shouldn’t be an afterthought in your production. When I start a new video series or a one off video, an idea of the thumbnail is already in the back of my head forming. You want your thumbnails to be consistent with the visual of the series and your channel, consider them an extension of your branding. While they should be consistent, they should also be unique enough for each video so that viewers can tell the difference between them.
- High resolution and high contrast close-ups often outperform the rest.
- Specs: 1280×720 (16:9 ratio) as a .JPG, .GIF, .BMP, or .PNG under 2MB. Check to make sure it looks good on mobile and desktop.
- Be sure the thumbnail adheres to YouTube’s community guidelines.
I’ve gone through a variety of thumbnail creations over the year to find something I like and that’s informative for my viewers before they even click my video. Take a look at my progression of thumbnails over the year; notice the framing, quality and information they offer without a video title to assist.
Engaging Video Titles
The next big thing that gets people to view your content is your video title. The title and thumbnail should work hand in hand, telling an engaging story about your video. Look at newspapers or media outlets as inspiration to create a captivating title. If your video showed up in a search, would you click it based on the title and thumbnail?
Video titles need to be concise and descriptive, make sure the entire title will appear in a search result or suggested video, especially on mobile. Ensure that all the important information is visible. You will also want to include descriptive and relevant keywords earlier in the title, leaving episode numbers and branding near the end of the title. This makes it easier to be found in a YouTube search and informs viewers before they start watching you. Stay away from misleading titles and thumbnails, this causes hard audience drop-offs, can have a negative impact on your viewership and may violate YouTube’s policies.
When all is done, your title and thumbnail should tell a story about your video and what viewers can expect to see. If the title and/or thumbnail don’t work to describe your content you will see the effect in your videos, beyond being called “click bait”.
Don’t Forget Descriptions
With all the talk about thumbnails and titles you don’t want to leave your descriptions lacking either. The description allows you to give your viewers more context, story and information that you can’t provide in the title or thumbnail. This section appears in search results, your channel page, your subscriber’s boxes and on social sites.
The first one or two sentences of your description should help give viewers more context and information. These first sentences show up in social media feeds and when working together with your title and thumbnail, can drive viewers to your videos. Past that, you can include links to your other content, time stamps, social media, merchandise and more for your viewers in the description.
Hopefully this will help get you started in making your thumbnail and title work together in creating a story for your viewers. It’s never too late to go back to previous videos and change the title and thumbnail to something more cohesive and compelling but still relevant to your video. Changing your videos title, thumbnails, tags, description and metadata can signal behind the scenes YouTube systems to take another look at your video, changing it’s placement which can bring new viewers.