Why You Should Use Custom Thumbnails

With the exception of a prime-time Saturday evening TV show co-hosted by the contestants on ‘Love Island’ and Ann Widdecombe*, we can’t think of anything worse than wasted effort.

Whatever it is you put your heart and soul into, you want to see it bear fruit and get the results you’re hoping for.

After all, if it doesn’t do that then the entire endeavour has been a waste of time and as pointless as trying to get a camel to play the harpsichord.

Now we know from experience that one thing that requires a bit of effort is the creation of a fantastic video production.

No matter how good the video you’ve created is however, all of that effort involved in its making can turn to ash if you overlook one simple thing – its thumbnail.

It is with this in mind that we need to talk about custom thumbnails and why you should be using them!

What is a thumbnail?

We’ll start with the basics.

A thumbnail is the snapshot image which represents your video on websites which host the medium – e.g. YouTube, Vimeo, and social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

As Mike mentions in our video above, the thumbnail is effectively the “front door” to your video, and it’s one of the key things you need to utilise properly to get your effort seen by as many viewers as possible.

And what is a custom thumbnail?

After your video has finished uploading on YouTube, you have three choices – 1. Let it choose any frame for you, 2. you can choose a thumbnail from the three options which the site automatically generates for you, or 3. you can upload your own image and use that.

It is this latter option which is a custom thumbnail – in short, it’s a specific image, created by you, designed to attract attention to your video.

This image does not have to be a still from the video itself!

Why you should use custom thumbnails

There are a number of reasons why we think custom thumbnails are incredibly valuable and well worth your time. Here’s a select few…



As much as we love trying to deny it, we all make instant judgements about people or things.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that first impressions only count in the “offline” world however – we make snap decisions online, too.

The thumbnail for your video is the very first thing viewers will see, so you want to make it look really great.

Remember, this could be the difference between a viewer deciding to click on your video or not, so it’s really quite important!



We know that SEO isn’t something you’d want to spend hours discussing at a dinner party**, but it IS important so it needs mentioning here!

Once you’ve created your custom thumbnail, you’ll need to give the file a title and save it.

This file name should include whatever keyword it is you want to run with – remember, these are the specific words and phrases people use when searching for information.

So, pick a keyword relevant to your business and include it within the file name. Every little helps!



Finally, consider what happens if you DON’T use a custom thumbnail.

As mentioned above, sites such as YouTube auto-generate thumbnail options for you from stills of the video itself.

These images are A) Random and B) Susceptible to being a bit rubbish, frankly. They’re often an unflattering still of a person in mid speech, or just irrelevant to the overall topic of the video.

After all, a one minute video is formed of 1500 still images stitched together.

Do you really want to take the chance that the still image chosen out of those 1500 is a good one?

Remember – the thumbnail is the primary advertisement of your video. Don’t leave this promotion to chance with a randomly generated image.


Thanks for reading our blog post on this subject.

If you haven’t already (we know you probably have, but just in case) please click the play button on the video above to hear Mike’s thoughts on this very topic, and then go here for another blog post all about what exactly makes a good custom thumbnail!


* No offence Ann

** You should go to Matt’s dinner parties if you want to chat SEO and other thrilling topics all night

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