How Custom Thumbnails Impact Your Click Through Rate on YouTube

With approximately five hundred hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute, the platform has to be selective about the content that they’re promoting. If you’re looking to grow your channel and increase your brand’s visibility, paying attention to your Click Through Rate should be a part of your strategy. 

Your Click Through Rate (CTR) is the number of people who click on your video when they see it appear on their YouTube home page, within their recommendations, or anywhere else on the platform. As an example, if your video has 1,000 impressions and 100 people end up clicking on it, you have a CTR of 10%.

Watch Time, Retention Rates, and CTR

It’s commonly known that YouTube uses watch time and audience retention rates when deciding which videos to promote within their algorithm. However, even if your video content is amazing, you can’t build watch time or retention if nobody clicks on it. Before focusing on what happens when people are watching your video, you need to get them to click on it first. 

While YouTube says that half of all videos on YouTube have a click through rate that ranges between 2-10%, it can’t be said that you should necessarily strive to be within that range. Smaller channels and videos are dealing with smaller numbers, which makes it more likely to see a click through rate that ranges between 1-30%. 

How long your video has been posted can also affect your click through rate. When you first post a video, it’s being promoted to all of your subscribers by YouTube, so you’ll most likely see a higher click through rate. 


Now it’s also important to keep in mind that if a video gets promoted on the Home Page or as a “Watch Next” recommendation, it’s likely going to have a lower click through rate when compared to videos that saw impressions from sources like your channel page. Your subscribers are already engaged with your content and familiar with your brand. Viewers that stumbled upon your video based on their recommendations may be less likely to click on it. 

Ideally, your video will start off with a high click through rate. Because of this, YouTube is more likely to give your video a boost and you’ll see lots of extra views as a result. Following the boost, the click through rate will naturally decrease and eventually level off. 


The Effect of Thumbnails on Your CTR Analytics

To access your click through rate analytics, you’ll want to navigate to the Creator Studio, click on “Analytics”, and navigate to the “Reach Viewers” tab at the top of the page. From there, you’ll be able to click on “Impressions/ Click Through Rate” where you can see your CTR for the last 28 days. 

While becoming familiar with your channel’s analytics is important, it’s just as important to recognize that the only analytics that you have control over are your own. Focusing on how you can compete with yourself, rather than competing with other channels, is what will bring your brand lasting success. 

Your video’s thumbnail plays a vital role when it comes to increasing your CTR. By ensuring that your viewer’s first impression of your content is engaging, visually-pleasing, and professional, you’ll be able to connect with your audience in a way that goes beyond YouTube’s algorithm. With 90% of the top-performing videos on YouTube using custom thumbnails, it’s important to go beyond the automated thumbnails that YouTube provides and learn how to design custom thumbnails with improving your CTR in mind. 

Here are a few tips on how to create custom, engaging thumbnails to help improve your channel’s click through rate: 


Use bright, contrasting colors:

Bright colors will help catch your viewer’s attention while high-contrast images help keep the different elements clear.

Be intentional about your text:

It’s important to choose quality over quantity when it comes to incorporating text into your thumbnails. Shortening titles or inserting a couple of keywords is all you need. Make sure that your font is bold and easy to read, as well. 

Use stand-alone photos taken during or directly from your video:

Ensuring that your thumbnail contains an image that is relevant to your video is vital when it comes to increasing your engagement. Clear, professional photos that accurately depict your content will help to increase your CTR. 

Incorporate people, when possible:

Viewers are more likely to click on thumbnails containing images of people. If possible, incorporating an image of someone facing the camera into your thumbnail is a good way to encourage people to click on your video. 

When it comes to growing your channel on YouTube, creating engaging content is only the first step. Managing your analytics and creating quality, custom thumbnails are great steps to take if you’re looking to build your brand awareness on the video platform.

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