Believe it or not, clickbait thumbnails can make or break your youtube and social media platforms video
When people are browsing content online (especially on their phones), they tend to be picky and scroll past
anything that doesn’t quickly grab their attention. That’s why thumbnails are huge deciding factors in
whether a video is worth watching or not.
Statista.com reports 228.8 million video viewers in 2018 and predicts 248.9 million
viewers in 2022. That’s a great big chunk of the online audience right there.
So whether you’re a video creator for a Youtube channel offering online practice tests, or monetizing video streaming for B2B services, an eye-catching thumbnail can mean the difference between getting lost
in a platform’s algorithm or standing out in a crowd of videos.
And what’s the most common strategy to get attention on online videos?? A clickbait thumbnail.
But what is a clickbait thumbnail? What are its benefits? Does it still work now? If it does, what’s the best
way to make them?
By the end of this post, you’ll know everything there is to know about clickbait thumbnails helping you be a
better content creator. So stick around if you want to create scroll-stopping thumbnails.
What Is A Clickbait Thumbnail?
First of all, a thumbnail is the still image people see when they come past your video. It’s sort of a
liaison between a viewer and the play button of the video. Ideally, it’s a preview of the content, the value
anyone can get from watching it, or a talking point.
It becomes a clickbait thumbnail if it doesn’t deliver what is promised if the viewer feels fooled and if
they end up disappointed by clicking your video. This is the reason why clickbait thumbnails have developed
such a negative reputation in the online world.
Initially, though, clickbait thumbnails weren’t made to mislead viewers. It used to be a clean video strategy
to attract people and induce them to click.
After all, if you can’t attract attention, no one would click on your video. If viewers don’t click, they
won’t get to watch, and if they don’t watch, it’s already a lost opportunity to get the message across or
move the viewer to take the action you’d like them to take.
However, while a misleading clickbait YouTube thumbnail can entice viewers to click on your video, it won’t
be able to retain them for the duration of the video. They’ll bounce off the moment they realize the video
isn’t what they expected, and likely avoid content from that YouTuber in the future.
And here’s where you have to be careful because that’s when a clickbaity thumbnail can completely backfire.
You captured their interest for a second there, but you’ll ultimately lose them as potential subscribers.
The good news is, that not all clickbait thumbnails are bad. Effectively and genuinely crafted clickbait
thumbnails can bring benefits.
4 Benefits Of An Effective And Genuine Thumbnail Image
i) Increases Clickthrough Rates
A well-crafted thumbnail gets people curious and drives them to click, in turn increasing clickthrough rates.
ii) II. Boosts Brand Awareness
Before people even click on your video, you have the opportunity to present your brand and what you offer.
Plus, if the thumbnails are aligned with your branding, viewers will easily recognize another video you
produce just by seeing the thumbnail design. This is especially helpful if you’re still an emerging brand
whether for services, products, or even online
iii)Increases Topic Understanding
A well-thought-out thumbnail will compliment your video. If it’s able to deliver what is promised, it makes
it easier for the viewers to grasp the whole point of the video content.
For example, say you offer a guide for podcast software on Youtube. If you clearly convey the video as a
podcast guide, that’s what YouTubers and subscribers will expect from the content.
iv)Can Increase Search Engine Rankings
If you create your thumbnails the right way, your viewership is sure to increase search engines like Google
take note of this. If your video content generates a significant amount of viewers, Google will consider it
quality content it can push to people searching relevant keywords. Simply said, a great thumbnail helps with
The online graphics creation niche is a
tough space, but if they can produce quality videos with scroll-stopping thumbnails, over time they’ll rank
better in search engines and drive more organic traffic and customers.
Now for the best part, the tips you can apply in creating the right clickbait thumbnails.
8 Tips On How To Create Thumbnails The Right Way
Powerful tools like Adobe Photoshop and Canva are amazing for creating clickbait thumbnails; let’s discuss 8
tips you can use to ensure your thumbnail images are getting clicks.
1. Use High-Definition Images
I’m sure you’ll agree with me that if the image is blurry or pixelated, it gives you the notion that the
video is low-quality content.
On the other hand, if the image is crisp and clear, you’ll give viewers the idea that an effort was made
to produce high-quality video content, plus visual distinction is emphasized.
Most video hosting platforms maintain an image’s integrity if it’s at least 1280 pixels x 720 pixels.
Keep your clickbait thumbnail size at this or higher.
Also, using a high-definition resolution ensures the clickbait video’s thumbnail is easy for viewers to
read. Otherwise, they won’t be able to take the bait if they aren’t able to read it.
Additionally, adding a good preset that mirrors your
brand will make brand recognition easier.
2. Use Engaging Text
Logically, you can’t call it a bait if it doesn’t provoke curiosity, so while you should make your text
enticing, be careful not to go overboard. You have to draw the line between an attractive thumbnail and
one that promotes false advertising. Video titles are intriguing enough to induce curiosity but not so
much that the video content fails to uphold the promise.
Provoke but don’t disappoint, or else it backfires; as I said earlier, it affects the long-term goal of
your videos. Your subscriber growth will suffer.
Here are a few ways to provoke curiosity:
- Be mysterious– use texts like: “debunking myths about…” or “9 lies you can avoid…”.
- Unbelievable results -use texts like “shocking anti-aging technique”. Just be careful you don’t go
- Fearful -use texts like “how safe is…” or “warning, you shouldn’t…”.
- Missing out -use text like “5 things every gamer should…” or anything that conveys
they’re at a loss if they don’t watch the video.
- IQ test-use text like “can you spot the…”.
For example, if you’re uploading a video to promote a review blog for digital marketing certification
programs like Reliablesoft does, you can use the missing out factor by having the text: “Top 14 Digital
Marketing Courses You Should Know”.
A great example of unbelievable results is what Close’s predictive dialer offers. The text can say ”cut
call gap to 3 seconds”. It seems unbelievable, but that’s what the software can really offer and it’s a
real attention grabber.
When crafting engaging texts there are 2 elements you should keep in mind: space and time.
You only have limited space, because most people use their iPhones or other mobile phones to view online
content. The clickbait thumbnail has to incorporate a subject image and a group of text in a 16:9 area.
It’s best if you use fewer words, 6 words, or less to avoid visual clutter.
Again, people are picky scrollers. You have a split second to stop them from browsing – another reason
why you have to keep the word count at a minimum: so they can get your message before they start
Simply said, don’t overload the thumbnail with text. It avoids visual mess, it gets the message across
fast, and you don’t have to decrease the font size to ensure readability.
Speaking of readability, here are a few tips you can follow:
- Minimize colors and shapes (any colored text will work great with a black outline).
- Put the text in a contrasting or a plain portion of the image.
- Don’t overkill alignment and text direction.
- Use bold and simple fonts.
3. Take Advantage Of Color Psychology
What does color psychology mean? It simply means you use color to determine behavior. If done
effectively, you can use color to lead the audience to the right to your content.
This might be unnecessary for some who want to be as creative as they can, but it does have a significant
subconscious impact on the viewers… especially because colors induce emotions too.
It takes a clickbait thumbnail to the next level and paves the way for a positive first impression before
the viewer clicks on the video.
One way this is done is by using a minimalist background, either gray or white, and putting the vibrantly
colored subject in the middle of the photo. Subconsciously, your eyes are led to the center of the
A great example of this is VPNoverviews’s What Is The Dark Web Youtube video. The thumbnail is in
grayscale but the text is in blue. Subconsciously, your focus will be on the blue text.
This works for words too. If you use red for alarming text or blue for calming text, it helps the viewer
reflect on the feeling you want to convey.
But you have to balance it with the next element we’ll talk about.
4. Be Consistent With Branding Essentials
We’re not just talking about your logo here. We’re also talking about style elements like fonts,
composition, colors, filters, and other repeatable elements.
For this, having a thumbnail template or working with a brand agency can be very helpful. A thumbnail template is also beneficial for 3
- A timesaver when creating clickbait thumbnails.
- Easily recognizable on the feed so viewers won’t scroll past new content.
- Clean and attractive-looking channel when all thumbnails are neat, looking professional, and
We’ll take Premio, a Shopify chat plugin
provider as our example. The website is dominantly purple and a Comic Sans font is used for the word
Premio. You can incorporate these elements into the video thumbnail so it’s easier to relate the video
to the website.
5. Leverage Emotions
I talked a bit about this in the engaging text section when I said to provoke curiosity. Here, I’ll talk
more about the images to use.
Using an image that portrays a real human emotion, say a man with a shocked face will make it more likely
for the viewer to click on the video and watch it to get a feel of the shock the man in the image feels
just like what Coffeezilla did.
If you cause an uproar with the image you use, you’ll give the users the emotion they should have on the
Other than a shocked face to elicit surprise, you can have a picture of a man with sad eyes to induce
empathy or a man with a grin to elicit excitement. For example, if you make a video promoting growth
hacking tools, you can use a grinning face to convey how excited you can get to see your business grow,
it makes for an attractive thumbnail.
On the other hand, if you talk about affiliate marketing ROI in your video, you’d use a shocked face to
make the viewers feel they’d be surprised to know how the content can help them do that.
Emotionally-charged pics with a real human face as a clickbait thumbnail grasp the attention and work
best for clickthrough rates.
6. Stay Within The Context
I cannot emphasize this enough, a clickbait thumbnail that stays within the context sets the right
expectations and prevents disappointment.
Whatever the video is for, whether it’s to promote a costume for an upcoming event or a dress forms service, the thumbnail design should
reflect the emotional value and the information they’ll get in front of the content.
It should provoke curiosity while resonating with the audience’s pain points.
To help you out with this, you can create a video thumbnail mood board checklist. You can ask questions
- What is the video’s goal?
- What tone of voice should I use?
- What’s the video’s target emotion?
- What colors and words evoke the target emotion?
For a service-based business, a video version of the blog like this usability
testing article will have the goal of brand awareness. The tone of voice used will be
professional since it’s in the business niche. The target emotion will be excitement and the colors that
can be used are blue for business stability and yellow for vibrance.
If you get these questions answered, it’ll be easier for you to conceptualize a clickbait thumbnail that
goes with the vibe you want for the video.
7. Assess The Layout
Different video streaming or video hosting platforms have their own video formatting. Be sure to check
where the play button sits so it wouldn’t obstruct key elements of the clickbait thumbnail.Arrange elements appropriately and research about the most recent graphic design trends.
The play button can cover part of the text or be in the middle of a face. As a general tip, avoid placing
vital information in the center of the clickbait thumbnail.
Alongside the play button, is also a length indicator on most video streaming platforms. It can cover a
logo, overlap with a word, or sit on an important portion of the image. So another good tip is to avoid
placing vital elements on the lowest 1/8th strip of the video.
The same goes for the upper 1/8th of the video where you’ll likely find the title bar.
Not all video platforms are the same, so it’s best to assess the platform you’ll use first before
crafting your clickbait thumbnail designs.
8. Optimize For Mobile
As said earlier, most people use iPhone or Android devices to browse the internet. In fact, statistics
show that on average, each person spends over 5 hours using their phones to browse the internet or play
As also said earlier, there’s a prediction of almost $250 million regular video viewers by 2022 showing
how heavy video consumption is. Along with that is the heavy competition for attention among video
creators highlighting, even more, the need to stand out and use clickbait thumbnails the right way.
For this, other than ensuring a good contrast of the image and text and eliminating unnecessary visual
clutter, the thumbnail should retain its quality even when zoomed in.
The Bottom Line
Clickbait thumbnails are the absolute first interaction between the viewer and the video. It’s an important
element that should never be neglected because it carries with it a decisive role that could make or break
your video content.
Always go back to your goals and your target audience. Always keep in mind what induces curiosity in them.
This means you’ll have to do a bit of research before creating the clickbait thumbnails.
Once you determine your goals and what your target audience likes, be sure to use high-definition images,
engaging text, color psychology, consistent branding, audience emotions, the platform’s layout, and
mobile-friendly features in order to create the most effective clickbait thumbnail possible.
In many cases, some A/B testing will do wonders. Try out at least 2 clickbait thumbnail variations by
altering one element at a time to see what works best.
Keeping all of this in mind will help you make scroll-stopping and eye-catching thumbnails so you have the
best reach audience-wise, and can start turning viewers into subscribers, and subscribers into clients.
The Bottom Line
Burkhard Berger is the founder of Novum™. Follow Burkhard on his journey from $0 to $100,000 per month. He’s
sharing everything he learned in his income
reports on Novum™ so you can pick up on his mistakes and wins.
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