5 Tips to Help Videos Get More Clicks (Hint: YouTube Thumbnail Size)

On a laptop in a dark room, YouTube thumbnail size
Photographer: Leon Bublitz | Source: Unsplash

If you’ve been uploading videos to your YouTube channel for a while but your videos aren’t performing as well as you’d like, the issue might not be a matter of SEO. Believe it or not, the issue could lie in your thumbnails. While YouTube thumbnail size might seem like a small and seemingly insignificant detail, they definitely make a big impact on your click rates. And it’s worth paying attention to, especially if you want to get more views on your YouTube videos.

In fact, Best SEO Companies did a bit of research on this topic. Their analysis found that 72% of thumbnails that feature a face actually get 921,000 more views than thumbnails without. And 70% of the most popular video thumbnails had some sort of title or explainer text.

If you don’t put in a little effort, there are a lot of missed opportunities for your video content to be clicked on (especially since there are 2.1 billion monthly visitors on YouTube!). What we’re saying is, take advantage and give your thumbnails some extra attention so your videos don’t get overlooked.

How to Create YouTube Videos that Fit the Size Requirements

Before we get into YouTube thumbnail size and other key factors, let’s harp on overall size requirements for a moment. Why? Because YouTube is a very competitive platform, so you’ll want to be sure that you’re creating videos that meet ALL of YouTube’s requirements.

What Are the Updated YouTube Video Sizes?

First and foremost, you’ll need to understand what video sizes are allowed under YouTube’s community guidelines.

The following list is the recommended YouTube dimensions:

  • 2160p (3840x2160 resolution, 4K quality)
  • 1440p (2560x1440 resolution, 2k quality)
  • 1080p (1920x1080 resolution, this is the MAXIMUM resolution for HD and the most ideal for mobile device viewing)
  • 720p (1280x720 resolution, this is the MINIMUM resolution for HD)
  • 480p (854x480 resolution, standard definition quality)
  • 360p (640x360, traditional website resolution)
  • 240p (426x240 and this is the MINIMUM size for YouTube videos)

But since YouTube uses 16:9 aspect ratio players, it probably makes the most sense to upload 16:9 files (1920x1080).

A few other tips and notables:

  • You should limit the maximum file size to 2GB.
  • ​​The standard video size on YouTube is 320 pixels (width) by 240 pixels (height).
  • The maximum video file size for YouTube uploading is 2GB, according to the guideline. However, if you use an up-to-date browser, you can upload files larger than 20GB. The maximum storage capacity is 128GB.
  • The max video length is 15 minutes if you’re new to YouTube and haven't verified your channel or Google account.
  • The maximum file size allowed after verifying your accounts is 12 hours.
  • The best image formats for a thumbnail are JPEG/JPG, GIF, or PNG.
  • .mov,.mpeg,.mp4,.avi,.wmv,.mpegps,.flv, webM, and 3GPP are all video formats accepted by YouTube.

Okay, so we've covered some best practices to fit YouTube's size requirements. Now let's move on to 5 thumbnail best practices to get some views for your videos.

1. The Best YouTube Thumbnail Size

The ideal youtube thumbnail size is 1280x720 pixels (which is an aspect ratio of 16:9). You’ll want to make sure it’s a minimum width of 640 px at the least.

In general video files should be kept under 2MB, but still… don't those seem to be quite big for YouTube thumbnail dimensions? That’s because, while thumbnails are typically displayed as small images when stretched to the size of your YouTube player, you don't want your thumbnail image to become pixelated.

Aside from having the perfect YouTube thumbnail size, what are some other custom youtube thumbnail best practices?

2. Use Text Overlays (No Matter the YouTube Thumbnail Size)

Thumbnails are an opportunity to get creative and draw in your potential viewers, so take advantage of text overlays. But avoid using clickbait practices! No one likes it and you’ll only be doing yourself a disservice. Sure, you may get a click or two, but at what cost. You’ll want to make sure your text is relevant to your video title and content.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Show Your Face

As we mentioned earlier, one of the most clicked-on thumbnails is the ones that feature a human’s face. Why? Because, while it's difficult to demonstrate active listening from an image, eye contact can still demonstrate that cue and make people feel connected and involved.

Aside from eye contact, images of people expressing emotion. And believe it or not, it’s important to consider what type of emotion… surprisingly, expressing a sad emotion gets more views (2.3 million, that is!). That’s opposed to joy (1.5 million) or anger (818k). Now, we’re not saying slap on a sad face for attention (remember what we just said about clickbait!). Just something for you to think about...

4. Branding Consistency Is Key


If you’re using YouTube for video marketing and your business (and we’re assuming that you are!), take advantage of incorporating branding to help you stand out.

Now, this doesn’t just mean adding your logo to a thumbnail and calling it a day, no-no. Keep everything uniform by giving your thumbnails a nice, cohesive look with your brand fonts, brand color palettes, and graphics (88% of colorful preview images get more views – 617k on average!).

This will make you instantly recognizable and stand out from the crowd. Especially to past viewers who already watched your stuff and want to see more.

5. Despite YouTube Thumbnail Size, White Space Is Your Friend

If you’re a copywriter, this phrase may sound familiar to you. And it’s just as true when it comes to the design elements of a youtube video thumbnail as it is to social media captions or a book cover.

While you might look at the stats and tips for optimal thumbnails, you might try incorporating all the things. But cramming them all in can be visually overwhelming and that will just turn viewers away.

It’s always wise to keep it simple when it comes to graphic design. Less is more, as they say. In the small youtube thumbnail design space you have to work with, try using a few works or contrasting colors. Try using Photoshop or Canva as a design tool.

Why YouTube Thumbnails Matter So Much

People are visual creatures and YouTube is a visual medium. So while having a keyword-optimized headline is important, grabbing viewers’ attention by stopping the scroll with your thumbnail is just as– if not more – important. And if you haven’t given yours a second thought, then that might be the reason why your videos are only getting a handful of views.

YouTube has a great function where it automatically creates three still image alternatives from your video. While this is okay, if you want to really stand out, you’ll need to put a little more effort into it than that. Eye-catching and attention-grabbing thumbnails are much more effective than a simple screenshot from YouTube.

That said, there’s also an option to create and upload a custom thumbnail (which we highly recommend!). You don’t need fancy software or all the bells and whistles. But you do need to take some time to consider what your audience wants to see and what would make them want to stop and click your video versus the one above or below it.

Don’t feel confident using Adobe Photoshop or Canva to create high-quality channel art for YouTube? No worries. Make sure your YouTube thumbnail image makes a memorable first impression every time you upload a new video by using a YouTube thumbnail maker or YouTube thumbnail templates. Make sure to upload thumbnails that are the image size and file types. With that, you can’t go wrong in creating custom thumbnail images at the ideal YouTube Thumbnail Size.