How to Split Test YouTube Thumbnails and Get MASSIVE Views!


Have you ever wondered why your YouTube video traffic sucks? Well, you’re not alone. Even those popular YouTubers and established channels can find themselves dwelling on this question.

As soon as you’ve uploaded a video, YouTube starts doing its magic to make its way to your relevant audiences. And the first thing they see is your video thumbnail.

So, have you thought about your video thumbnails? How well are they performing? Are you struggling to get enough views even if you have awesome content?

Here’s the truth, folks. First impressions last. If your thumbnail doesn’t catch their attention with an image that shows them what they want or needs to watch, anyone can just skip right past it. It doesn’t matter how great your video is, or how eye-catching you’ve titled your video. If your thumbnail sucks, it won’t get any views.

Don’t use low-quality images, screenshots from the actual video, or a generic photo you’ve seen on Google as your thumbnails. You might be guilty of this but hey, we’re here to help. You can avoid these mistakes.

Now, if you’re not sure whether your thumbnails are performing well or need to be changed, then you should split test YouTube thumbnails and find it out!

What is Split Testing?

Split testing, also known as A/B testing, is the process where you compare one variant to another variant through a test you’ll run for a certain period. After the test, you’ll figure out which works better for your campaign.

Now when it comes to your YouTube videos, the variants are your thumbnails. You have a variant for your original thumbnail and another one for your second thumbnail. You’ll display both of them online to test on consecutive days. After the test, you’ll discover the better performing thumbnail. This is where you find out whether to keep your current thumbnail or change it.

Why Do You Have to Split Test YouTube Thumbnails?

When a user is using YouTube, the first thing they usually see are the thumbnails on their search results or recommendations section. They’ll only click and watch your video if your thumbnails are attention-grabbing. 

This is where click-through rates come in. If you want to grow your YouTube channel and improve visibility, CTR is one of the top metrics to focus on. Now, if you don’t post your videos with great thumbnails, your click-through rate is low, and you barely get traffic. 

This is so important not just for content creators, but also for entrepreneurs who are using video marketing to get sales. If you’re promoting your services or products through YouTube, you should always come up with awesome thumbnails. The best way to find the awesome ones is through split testing. 

Split testing YouTube thumbnails works best with the right tool. We’ve tried a few options, but we always go back to using TubeBuddy.

What is TubeBuddy?

TubeBuddy is a browser extension/browser plugin that adds a layer of tools directly on top of YouTube’s website. 

This tool will allow you to manage, oversee and scale your YouTube channel. You can mainly use it to split test YouTube thumbnails, but it also has several features designed to simplify and automate many video marketing tasks. It can help you boost your efforts in a short time and get better results. 

We’ve worked for TubeBuddy over the last two years, and the knowledge we have gained from our time with TubeBuddy has helped me take Owen Video’s channel from 400 to 1,500 subscribers in six months. 

Why should you use TubeBuddy?

Well, TubeBuddy is currently the best tool when you split-test YouTube thumbnails, but aside from that, it has a bunch of cool features that will rev up your video marketing game! Here are a few features that you can use.

  • Video Tag Explorer [Keyword Explorer]. Are you targeting to achieve maximum exposure? Then this feature will help you. Video tags are part of optimization tools that TubeBuddy has. They work to boost your ranking in YouTube search results.  Now, if you look for video tags to use manually, it’s going to take a lot of time. With TubeBuddy, just put your main keywords, and it’ll come up with a set of video tags.
  • Video Tag Lists. Create a list of tags that you can use in your future videos. No need to put tags manually on every video you’ll upload.
  • Publish to Facebook. Yes, you can post videos to your Facebook profile or page from TubeBuddy. You don’t have to go to Facebook and copy-paste the link. 
  • TubeBuddy A/B Testing. This feature permits you to split test various features. This is the most effective way to see which video title, tags, and thumbnail imagery achieves the best results.  
  • Best Publishing Schedule of Videos. TubeBuddy has its own algorithm that gives the best time to post your videos. This is important to achieve the best possible engagement with your audience. You’ll find out the exact days and hours of the best posting times.
  • Card Templates and End Screen Templates. This is exactly what you need if you want to further optimize your videos. They’re also known as CTAs (call to action) that you embed on your YouTube videos. With TubeBuddy, you can save templates of them so you can use them for future videos.
  • Audit Tools. Got any awesome videos that aren’t getting as many clicks than you expected? Use the audit tools and fix any broken links in your description and prompt you to insert keywords in your titles, tags, and descriptions.

What are Their Pricing and Plans?

They have plans for individual content creators and companies.

  • Pro – $6/mo
  • Legend – $26.39/mo

For those starting their YouTube Journey and wanting to get access to new tools for growth, opt for the Pro plan. Now for content creators looking to achieve maximum efficiency and time savings, the Star plan is a better fit. The Legend plan is for creators looking for the maximum competitive edge for making data-driven decisions and expanding their reach.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to take one thumbnail and compare it to another thumbnail on the same video at the same time on YouTube so that you can discover which design will get you more views. 

  1. The first thing to do is to go to Tubebuddy and sign in to your account. This will bring you to the back end of your TubeBuddy account which will look something like this. 
  2. Scroll down to find the channel that you want to split test on.
  3. Click on this little half-moon guy to get this split test started. 

Note: Now it’s important to note here that if you don’t have the A/B test icon, then you probably need to upgrade your TubeBuddy account to the legend plan. Check their plans here.

  1. You’ll notice here that they call it the A/B test. It means the same thing as split testing. Scroll down and you can see here are all of the tests that you’ve run in the past.
  2. Now if it’s your first time, click the green tab here to create a B test.
  3. You can see that it’s first going to ask you “Which video would you like to run the test on?” which means you need to have the video already uploaded to YouTube. 
  4. Select a recent video you’ve uploaded. You’ll see it on the page.
  5. Once you’ve done that, you’ll notice a checkmark here and a red X here. If you need to go back just click the red X and then you can go back to that question. Now, you have two options here.
    1. Thumbnail CTR test – testing thumbnail
    2. Metadata test – test title (description, tags)
  1. Click the “Thumbnail CTR test” and type a number that shows how many days you’d like to run your A/B test.
  2. Note: Your test won’t begin until midnight. So if you set up your split test at 3 PM on a Monday, it’s not going to start until midnight of that night. So you can do this for a set number of days like 30 days if you wanted to.
  3. If you want to get faster results, choose the run until a click-through rate is statistically significant. This is more preferred by users to run because if one thumbnail is doing really well early on, then TubeBbuddy will tell you and you can stop running the test and start using the more advanced thumbnail right away. So click select on this option.
  4. You’ll see a default Start Test ASAP (with a specific timezone). If you’re not happy with it, feel free to change it to your preferred time zone. Click continue.
  5. You’ll see the original thumbnail (the first one you uploaded on YouTube). On the right side, upload your test thumbnail. 
  6. Click “Start Test”. You’ll see a pop-up notification letting me know that the test is running so I can click “yes start the test.”

How to Get the Results Once You Split Test YouTube Thumbnails?

Now the next thing we want to show you is how to tell which thumbnail won the contest once the testing period has ended.

  1. On the left-hand side, you can navigate to the A/B test and click “Manage.” This will get you to the AB test homepage here. And now you can check in on the progress of your latest A/B test.
  2. In the upper left corner, you’ll see the result of your A/B test. In this example, my test thumbnail/alternative is better. 
  3. Click “Set Video to Variation” and TubeBuddy will change the thumbnail for you so you don’t need to upload anything and that’s really good.
  4. Take a look at the data analysis. It comprises of:
    1. CTR
    2. Impressions
    3. Watchtime per impression
    4. Daily impressions
    5. Daily clicks 
    6. Total views
    7. Avg. video duration
    8. Estimated total min. watched
    9. Daily views

If your channel is more engaged than ours then you could get some even better numbers. 

  1. Want to know more about traffic sources or where are the views coming from? Check this section out below. It comprises of:
    1. Subs gained
    3. Likes and dislikes

Final verdict: Is it worth it?

Testing thumbnails is a marketing genius and most entrepreneurs skip this step. You’ll excel past your competition when you know which thumbnail style will get you the highest click-through rate on YouTube. Start split testing YouTube thumbnails right now, go back to some old videos and see if you can bring life to them. It will give you a ton of data that you can use to grow your channel. Get TubeBuddy now!

Want better thumbnail strategy, along with title strategy and hook strategy? They work all together for major growth on your channel. Join our next full-day virtual workshop and get 1 year access to monthly training calls and access to bonus trainings in our vault to help you launch/revamp your channel.

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