Meet VidCon speaker and YouTube guru Jeremy Vest, who shares his tips on why thumbnails are the key to branding, visual storytelling and attracting millions of views.

jeremy vest

If you’re looking to grow your audience and business on YouTube, then Jeremy Vest is a must-see speaker. A YouTube-certified video marketer, SEO expert and Director of Marketing at vidIQ, Jeremy will share his tricks of the trade at December’s inaugural VidCon Asia. Here’s a sneak peak of his thoughts. 

You’re heading to VidCon Asia this December to hold a workshop on YouTube thumbnails. So firstly, what is a thumbnail? 

A YouTube thumbnail is a static image you see before you click and select a video on YouTube. The number one most-clicked thing on YouTube are thumbnails. 

Why is a thumbnail important for optimising your YouTube channel?

When you watch a YouTube video you can see a list of additional videos on the right-hand side of your screen. That is basically you and your competitors competing for eye space.

A thumbnail is a stop sign. It gets someone to stop and look at your title and then make a choice about clicking. This influences your click-through-rate (CTR) and it is very important to have a high CTR if you want YouTube to show more of your thumbnails in future. 

What is your advice for creating an effective custom thumbnail?

The first thing I will say is that eyes are the window to the soul. We have more non-verbal communication than we do verbal communication. The more emotion you can put into a thumbnail, the more people can more subconsciously connect to you. 

You want your faces on the thumbnails to be very large, so people can see the whites of the eyes. This allows non-verbal communication to kick in meaning viewers can trust you, like you, and have emotional engagement with that thumbnail. I call this the three E’s: eyes, excitement and emotion. 

What a lot of people also do, which isn’t as effective, is tell the whole story. You don’t want to tell the whole story with a thumbnail – you want to add mystery and give someone a reason to click. 

On the production side, remember that a thumbnail is the size of a Post-it Note, so when you have an image it gets shrunk down. You want to dramatically saturate your colours by 50% to 60% and then sharpen your images by 50% to 200%. This means when it is shrunk down it’s still going to pop out compared to your competitors.

  1. What is your advice for brands wanting to making thumbnails stand out?

My biggest recommendation for thumbnails is to have the same background colour, text and typography, and essentially the same look and feel as your brand.

On the right-hand side of a YouTube video display you want to be understood and you want to be recognised. Whatever the theme of your thumbnails is, make it very consistent. So when people click they know that they are clicking on your channel. 

Aside from a Youtube expert, you’re also the director of marketing at vidIQ. Can you tell me more about the company, and how it helps people optimise their YouTube channel?

At vidIQ we currently have over one million users of our browser plugin. We tell you what is trending, what tags and titles to use, and gather information on your competitors. We quickly show how you are doing, what is working, which videos are doing the best and what needs fixing. 

If you are missing cards, in-screens or thumbnails on any of your videos we will give you a list, and you can go fix those videos. We save people dozens of hours a month and give them actionable data-driven decisions. 

What are your top tips for standing out on YouTube. 

The biggest tip I would say is to find a niche and narrow your focus. If you are going to make 200 videos in the next two years, then make them on the same subject. Then you can become the perceived thought leader on that subject. You become a content hub for Google and YouTube, and have a chance to rise above the noise. 

If you make one video on this, and one video on that – with over 500 hours of video uploaded every minute on YouTube – the reality of you becoming a perceived thought leader on anything is very, very low.

A lot of people have the mentality on YouTube of winning the lottery with a viral video. That is just not what happens to most people. Most start by getting a few thousand views and build from there. Use that as your business plan and be consistent. Constantly put up content on what people are asking questions on, then you will do well. You must be consistent and niche with your content, otherwise you won’t perform well. 

Jeremy is running a masterclass on YouTube Thumbnail Optimization at VidCon Asia Summit, happening on 3-4 December in Singapore. See the lineup here, and buy your ticket here