Why Is a YouTube Thumbnail Important?

Sep 27, 2020


There are many aspects of YouTube marketing that are important for achieving success. Content strategy, video search engine optimization, and thumbnails are a few of these aspects. Speaking of thumbnails, why is a YouTube thumbnail important? After all, thumbnails are just used to look "professional" aren't they?

It is crucial for content creators on YouTube to have good video thumbnails. Believe it or not, a thumbnail can make-or-break the performance of a video. If users do not click on your videos, you cannot get views. How do you get more users to click on your videos? Use good YouTube thumbnails!

The importance of video thumbnails cannot be stated enough. It is well-known that click-through rate has a direct impact on the number of views a video gets. So, if you're trying to grow your channel, it would be in your best interest to use good thumbnails. In this article, I'll dive deeper into the importance of thumbnails and how you can use them effectively.

What Is the Purpose of a Thumbnail Graphic


If you've ever done any research into thumbnails, you've probably been told a lot of different reasons why they are important. But what is the purpose of a thumbnail graphic? What makes thumbnails so important in regards to YouTube? Do they have that big of an impact on the performance of a video?

A thumbnail has 3 main purposes. These purposes are:

Let's dive deeper into these 3 purposes.


The main purpose of a video thumbnail is to attract the attention of potential viewers. As I mentioned earlier, if users don't click on your videos, you will not get any views. The best way to get more views is to get more clicks. The thing is, you cannot get more clicks if you do not attract any attention.

There are a lot of different videos for users to watch on YouTube. Due to this, it's in the best interest of every content creator to make their videos stand out. Typically, content creators will be told to stand out by creating good or unique videos. The problem with this advice is, nobody will watch your videos if they don't click on them.

So, the main focus when creating a thumbnail should be on attracting as many eyeballs as possible. Your goal should be to make your thumbnail stand out from the others. When your thumbnail attracts more attention, you put yourself in the position to gain more views on your videos.


Another purpose of a video thumbnail is to describe the subject matter of a video. You see, while attracting eye-balls is the primary focus of a thumbnail, you must be careful not to give viewers false expectations. Meaning, your thumbnails still need to be relevant to the videos you create.

Many people tend to only focus on the attraction side of things. This causes them to create thumbnails that are eye-catching but don't represent the subject matter of the video. While getting clicks is important, there is no point in having a lot of users click on your videos just to exit the page 3 seconds later.

So, while thumbnails should be eye-catching, they should also describe the video at hand. The goal is not to "bait" users into clicking on your videos. Do not use unrelated images or text in your thumbnails- everything needs to be relevant. If your video is about dogs, you should not have a wolf in the thumbnail just because it might attract more attention.


The final purpose of a video thumbnail is to create consistent branding for your channel. In other words, thumbnails can help users recognize your videos. If you use thumbnails that have a consistent style, users will begin to recognize a video from your channel just by looking at the colors, for example.

Many business-oriented channels prioritize branding when it comes to their video thumbnails. Usually, this is because the target audience is more professional. With this said, however, even non-business channels should use thumbnails of a similar style to create consistent channel branding.

Usually, thumbnails become consistent when a particular style gives good results. Certain colors and images will result in higher click-through rates, leading to those colors and images being used more often. When certain colors and images are used on a more frequent basis, they become part of the channel branding.

What Does Click Through Rate Mean on YouTube


The term "click-through rate" gets brought up often when discussing YouTube marketing. But what does click-through rate mean on YouTube? Click-through rate is an important topic for a content creator to be educated about, as it is a very impactful metric. This is why learning the meaning of this term is so important.

Click-through rate (CTR) is the number of clicks a thumbnail gets, divided by the number of impressions the thumbnail received. For example, if a thumbnail received 1000 impressions and 100 clicks, the click-through rate of the thumbnail would be 10%. Typically, as a thumbnail gets more impressions, the CTR begins to decline.

As with most things on YouTube, your goal should be to get as high of a CTR as possible. The higher your CTR, the more views you will get. Again, this is why video thumbnails on YouTube are so important. Your CTR will mostly be influenced by your thumbnails, so having good thumbnails will in turn lead to a higher CTR and more views.

How to Improve Impression Click Through Rate on YouTube


As I mentioned, your goal should be to have the highest CTR possible. The higher your CTR is, the more views your videos will get. But how can you ensure that your click-through rate is as high as it can be? What can you do to entice more users to click on and watch your YouTube videos?

Here's how to improve impression click-through rate on YouTube:

Optimize Thumbnails for Clicks

The easiest way you can increase your impression CTR is to optimize your thumbnails for clicks. Since thumbnails are the biggest contributor to click-through rate, having thumbnails that are click-friendly is important for having a high CTR. Sure, other factors impact CTR, but thumbnails are the most important factor.

You can make your thumbnails more click-friendly by using certain colors, images, and fonts. The easiest way to determine which colors, images, and fonts you should be using is to test out different versions of these elements. Then, you should evaluate the data given to determine which colors, images, and fonts resulted in the most clicks.

Along with this, it's important to remember that certain audiences will respond better to certain thumbnail styles. So, if you're struggling to design thumbnails for your videos, do some competitor research. Take note of the colors, images, and fonts that the successful channel in your niche use, and use them for your thumbnails.

Use Click-Friendly Video Titles

If thumbnails are the biggest contributor to click-through rate, titles are the second-biggest contributor. Titles are a little bit tricky to work with, as it's important not to focus strictly on getting clicks when titling videos. Video SEO best practices must be followed when titling videos, so balancing optimization best practices vs CTR best practices can be difficult.

An easy way to make titles more eye-catching is to use a combination of lower case and upper case text. By capitalizing more eye-catching words, you can help attract the eyes of potential viewers. Using both lower case and upper case text won't negatively affect your video SEO either, which makes doing so a safe way to make a title more eye-catching.

While many large channels don't focus on following SEO best practices for their titles, you must do so. Your channel is different than a big channel. This means you need to do things differently than they do. You're better off having a less click-friendly title but a more optimized title as a small channel, as optimized and good titles can help your videos get more visibility.

Publish at a Consistent Time of Day

A lesser-known way to increase impression click-through rate on YouTube is to publish videos at a consistent time of day. When a subscriber recognizes that your videos are always in their subscription box in a similar location, they will begin to recognize your videos more easily. The easier you can make it for subscribers to find your videos, the better it is for you.

Having your videos show up in subscription boxes in a similar location is a benefit of publishing at a consistent time. Along with this, however, is the benefit of programming your subscribers to expect a new video from you at a certain time. When this happens, subscribers will typically go directly to your channel at the time you publish videos at.

The easier you can make it for subscribers to discover your videos, the better it will be for you and your channel. Having more subscribers become repeat viewers will benefit your channel greatly. So, try to publish your videos at a consistent time of day so your subscribers begin to be programmed to expect a new video from you at your publishing time.


I try to nail home the importance of video SEO in my articles. However, while video SEO is important, having good custom thumbnails is important as well. It doesn't matter how many people see your videos if you don't get clicks you won't get views. If you've ever asked yourself: "Why is a YouTube thumbnail important?" you should now have your answer.

Daniel James
Hi there! I’m Daniel, the founder, and CEO of Tubefluence. I help businesses and influencers utilize the power of YouTube marketing to grow an audience and generate leads.
TubeRanker offers the ultimate toolset for Creators & Marketers to optimize their videos against the YouTube algorithm and rank higher in YouTube & Google searches and recommendation engines.
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