YouTube Thumbnail A/B Test: The Key to Killer CTR

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Carla Marshall
January 17, 2024

Running a YouTube thumbnail A/B test — AKA a YouTube thumbnail split test — is key to understanding which thumbnails drive traffic to your videos. Understanding which thumbnails drive traffic to your videos is key to… well, driving more traffic to your videos.

You may have heard rumblings that YouTube is working on its own YouTube thumbnail A/B testing option but YouTube creators who are A/B testing thumbnails today have a clear competitive advantage. TubeBuddy YouTube A/B testing is here to help. With a TubeBuddy Legend license, you can start testing to find your best thumbnails today.

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The Secret to YouTube CTR Success: A Killer Custom Thumbnail

The main factor for getting your videos discovered on YouTube and getting more traffic is click-through rate (CTR). And your thumbnail is directly related to your click-through rate. In other words, YouTube thumbnail A/B testing is… kinda important. And by “kinda” we mean absolutely and “important” we mean vital.

What is CTR? How can YouTube A/B Thumbnail Tests Help?

CTR (click-through rate) is the number of people who are shown your video versus the number of people who clicked on your video to watch it. 

The higher the click-through rate, the more likely YouTube will suggest the video, and the better that video will perform. YouTube will see that more people will click when they suggest it.

In a video exclusively made for TubeBuddy, creator Jessica Stansberry walks through the process of split testing a custom thumbnail to identify which one leads to more clicks on your video. 

She also breaks down the importance of a killer thumbnail for a good YouTube CTR:

How to Identify the Best Custom Thumbnail for Your Video

The most deciding factor, on whether or not someone clicks on a video when it is shown to them, is your thumbnail. That’s what they see on their homepage or subscription feed. Of course, your video title and description play an important role here too, but your thumbnail has by far the biggest impact on driving a higher CTR.

Picking the right thumbnail could literally make or break your video. YouTube thumbnail split testing (running YouTube video thumbnail A/B tests) helps you put your best foot forward. If you’re on TubeBuddy’s Legend Plan, you can easily identify which one of two thumbnails is outperforming the other.

How To: Split Test YouTube Thumbnails

Just upload your video in the usual way, and add a custom thumbnail. Then log into TubeBuddy, and select ‘Video A/B Testing’ from the dashboard. Then just click on ‘Create A/B Test Now’.

YouTube thumbnail split testing in the TubeBuddy YouTube thumbnail AB testing interface

A new window will open, and from here, you can select which video you want to test a thumbnail for. You can run a test on a published video but also on an unlisted or scheduled video.

Once you find the video you want to do an A/B test on, TubeBuddy will ask you which kind of A/B test you want to do. This post is focused on thumbnails, but you can also A/B test your titles, tags, and descriptions too.

So, select a thumbnail and then decide how long you want to run the test.

Creator Tip: You can choose to run the test for a set amount of time. You can also tell TubeBuddy you want it to run until the statistics show that one of the thumbnails is clearly outperforming the other. You can stop YouTube thumbnail A/B test manually if you see that a winner has emerged and you don’t want to “waste” views on the lower-performing thumbnail.

Now upload the other thumbnail and hit ‘Start Test.’ TubeBuddy will automatically begin to switch out your thumbnail every 24 hours for the duration of the test.

With feedback regarding click-through rate, average view duration, watch time, and so much more, you can make an educated decision between the two thumbnails on which one is outperforming the other. 

And as it’s switching out your thumbnails, TubeBuddy will also be grabbing the analytics that matter. So what does this look like in real life? Below you can see that we ran an A/B test on thumbnails for “YouTube Playlist Tutorial | Optimize playlists to EARN MORE VIEWS!”

YouTube thumbnail AB test shows two variation on a thumbnail with the "variation" thumbnail showing a 3.8% greater click through rating (CTR)

According to the analytics, the original thumbnail (the A in A/B testing) outperformed the variation (the B in A/B testing) by 3.8%. That’s golden data for any creator.

The Value of A/B Testing for YouTube CTR

If you want to get the maximum CTR on any given video, A/B testing is an invaluable feature that will provide data on what’s working and what can be improved. Sign up for a TubeBuddy Legend license today to take full advantage of this unique tool.

Stay tuned to learn how to A/B test your titles, descriptions, and tags too. You will be fully armed with the knowledge you need to succeed. 

Carla Marshall Author

Carla Marshall

Carla Marshall is the Content Marketing Manager at TubeBuddy. She has 10+ years of experience in video marketing, social media management, content marketing, DRM, & SEO.

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Free feature: TubeBuddy AI Agents generate new video ideas, completely customized to you, then help you bring your ideas to life.

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