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Eva Hekman LinkedIn
Posted on June 14, 2018

How to make a video thumbnail: 5 mistakes

Header image for How to make a video thumbnail: 5 mistakes

Tags: video engagement, video marketing, video seo

Everyone is familiar with the phrase: "don't judge a book by its cover". But we are all guilty of doing this sometimes. The saying also applies to online videos. If the thumbnail is inviting, chances are viewers will click.

Sometimes organisations have amazing video content. But they end up making poor choices when it comes to the thumbnail. This can cause the number of clicks to be somewhat disappointing, while the right custom thumbnail can increase your click rate with 34%. So, beware of these five thumbnail mistakes, so you can avoid them.

#1 Candid thumbnail

Do you have video content with talking heads? Then we advise you to go with the thumbnail with the friendliest face. Seeing a friendly face helps build trust.

Make sure you choose a good facial expression. We have seen examples of thumbnails with faces with closed eyes, faces that are out of focus or have a weird expression. For example, someone who is yawning or is just about to sneeze.

Video Thumbnail - gek gezicht

Tip: When a face appears in your thumbnail, look at it as a photo for elementary school: you want someone to look their best.

#2 Boring thumbnail

Your video content looks excellent and is substantive, but the thumbnail is tedious. Either a thumbnail in a monotone colour, such as black or grey. Or a thumbnail with a nondescript object or indecipherable graph. Not much is happening and the subject of the video remains in the dark.

Tip: Pick a thumbnail with a more colour and preferably one with a bit of action. Something that triggers curiosity and looks inviting. Give a little hint, so people have to click to find out what happens next.

#3 Thumbnail search picture

When creating an online video, you want people to watch it from beginning to end. But first, people need to start watching. Make it easy as possible by having an obvious play button. Sometimes the play button blends in with the thumbnail. For example, because it has the same colour as the background.

Tip: Besides having a big play button in the middle of your thumbnail, you can add a player bar at the bottom. This way there is no mistake that a video is about to play. And the viewer has two options to hit play.

#4 Blurry thumbnail

Usually a thumbnail is a snapshot of a video. Sometimes this leads to images that are out of focus and blurry. This can make it difficult to decipher what the video is about. And the guessing game is not very inviting to viewers.

Tip: You have an entire video to create a new thumbnail. So, why not go for the best option possible? Or create a thumbnail by using a still that you upload yourself.

#5 No (con)text

Choosing the right thumbnail can be a battle. On the one hand you want a visually stunning thumbnail that will make people click and on the other hand you want a clear thumbnail that communicates the subject of your video.

A thumbnail that solely consists of an image can leave your video without any context, since titles and descriptions for your video can be invisible or incomplete.

Tip: add a short title or a catchy Call to Action to your thumbnail, that includes more detail on what the video is about. For example, you can state the episode number if the video is part of a larger video series. Make sure the text can be read on any size screen and that it’s placed in a spot that is always visible.

Custom thumbnail done the right way

  1. Consistency is key - Are you making a video series? Consider creating a format for the thumbnails of your videos. For example, the series of cooking videos by Jamie Oliver. He switches between images of himself and his recipes. But always with a banner with the name of the video on the left-hand side of the thumbnail. Creating a format for your thumbnails makes it easier to recognise who the video is from and that it is part of a series. Use this format to set yourself apart.
  2. Curiosity - You want people to click and watch. So, create suspense and some sense of mystery in your thumbnail. This way, people have no other choice but to click if they want to find out what happens next.
  3. Testing 1, 2, 3... - Just try it! Once you decide on a thumbnail, it is not definitive. So, make sure you test out multiple options. By testing, you find out what works and it allows you to continue optimising.

Make a thumbnail: often an online video platform already offers some pre-selected thumbnails that you can choose from. But you can also easily create one yourself. The Blue Billywig Online Video Platform offers the Thumbnail Generator. This allows you to take snapshots directly from your video. The last option is to create your own thumbnail with Photoshop or InDesign, and upload this to the platform.


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