Hopefully someone already told you that YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world after Google. And if they didn’t… well at least you know now 😉

What do people do when they have a problem? They search the internet. This is of course a fantastic opportunity for business owners, content creators and church leaders.

If people are actively looking for answers then they are already looking for you. They just don’t know it yet.

All we have to do is figure out three golden questions:

1. What problems do people have?
2. What language are they using to describe said problems?
3. How do we attract their attention?

In all honesty, some of this is trial and error and not every video we create is going to hit the mark in all of these categories.

But don’t worry, the wonder of the algorithm means no one will see it if it doesn’t. Keep on putting yourself out there and experimenting.

As we work on figuring this out, our aim is to do the following:

1. Create good content that helps people solve their problems
2. Use the right keywords that reflect what they’re searching for
3. Have engaging thumbnails that grab people’s attention

Today we’re focusing on the third aspect. Because even if you have great SEO, people may be reluctant to click on your video if it looks rubbish. This is where we come to understand that design is not just about art but achieving a specific purpose. In this case, getting someone to click.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

One of the most common errors with YouTube thumbnails is simply to use them to repeat what the title says. Instead as much as possible you want to expand on the concept of the video.

Let’s search on YouTube for “places to visit in London”. Here’s what comes up.

How To Design YouTube Thumbnails That People Click On 1

Whilst this thumbnail includes a lot of the same information there are some crucial additions:

1. Big Ben in the background is a strong association for London.
2. The colour of the text is tuned to the Union Jack.
3. Heart eyes emoji & the smiling girl paint a picture of tourist wonder, joy & happiness.

How To Design YouTube Thumbnails That People Click On 2

Here’s why this thumbnail isn’t as good in my opinion:

1. It’s not immediately obvious what the background image is.
2. Is that a child? Lol – I wasn’t sure at first glance.
3. Orange text colour isn’t very London.

Use Your Thumbnail To Tell A Story

Here’s an example from YouTube legend Mr Beast.

(By the way, one of the best ways you can learn about thumbnails is to go and look at successful YouTubers and how they do it).

How To Design YouTube Thumbnails That People Click On 3

I know what you’re thinking – if you were making a video about giving away $100,000 then it wouldn’t matter too much what the thumbnail looked like. But consider how the thumbnail expands the story:

1. Working at McDonalds is seen as the ultimate low paid job.
2. The size of the money compared to the person shows how much this could transform a person’s life
3. The expression on the person’s face is a mixture of sadness (from working at McDonalds) as well as shock, wonder and joy at the prospect of $100,000

Create Intrigue By Challenging Assumptions

How To Design YouTube Thumbnails That People Click On 4

Many of us have heard that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. In this example, the text on the thumbnail challenges this belief and creates intrigue.

Don't Go Bonkers Though

If you’re thinking that YouTube thumbnails need to be fun, loud, controversial and surprising then you’re absolutely right. But be careful to make sure that they are always relevant and connected to the content you are creating.

If you create crazy looking thumbnails but your actual video is very different then users will be frustrated with you. Of course it’s not fair to trick people. This will also undoubtedly affect the algorithm which will show your videos to less people.

What About Thumbnails For Churches

Here’s one final example from our church YouTube channel (C3 Reflect):

How To Design YouTube Thumbnails That People Click On 5

This was a snippet of a preach which was repackaged to try and reach more people.

1. The background image looks trippy (like your mind)
2. Shot of the person actually talking in the video (yes that’s me ha – we take separate images just for thumbnails)
3. The text “THIS IS WEIRD” adds to this specific story about the subconscious.
Bright and clashing colours help grab your attention

Creating YouTube thumbnails is definitely an art not a science. And experimentation is the key so go test some things out. Pay attention to the results and then adjust as you go.

For more training on levelling up in design, you might also find a Design Workshop helpful.

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