How to create effective custom thumbnails for your Youtube videos

Custom thumbnails from a top 200 youtube star, Bethany Mota
Custom thumbnails from a top 200 YouTube star, Bethany Mota

Man, I am dumb.  I’ve been uploading my video contest entries to Youtube for 8 or 9 years now and it just hit me that maybe I should be giving my entries custom thumbnail images.  Ok sure, that feature has only existed for a few years but still, I should have started doing it long ago.  Eye-catching thumbnails probably won’t help me score any points with contest judges but they might help me get extra views.  And I’ve always suspected that a decent view counts will improve your chances a bit.  Think about it; if judges see one entry that has 12 views and another that has 450 views, they’ll probably assume that there’s something special about the 450-view video.  They may even conclude that entry #2 has viral potential.  And a video contest entry going viral is pretty much the dream scenario for any sponsor that runs one of these contests.

So from here on out on I’ll be giving my videos custom thumbnails.  I’ve never done one before so I had to do a little research before I started.  (I couldn’t see the option anywhere in my video manager!)  Turns out that you need to verify your account before you can create your own thumbnails.  The next step is to cook up a thumbnail that’s 1280×720 pxs and has a resolution of at least 72 px per inch  (The thumbnail’s gonna be pretty small so the resolution doesn’t need to be super high.)  Here’s a template I created.  Feel free to download it and use it for your own projects:


And that’s about all there is to it.  But if you’d like more info plus some tips about creating attractive, click-worthy images, you should go ahead and watch these official YouTube tutorials: starts posting daily contest updates on their Youtube channel

You’re a fan of, right?  If you like entering video contests, you pretty much have to be.  Sure, VCN is the #1 video contest blog but OVC is easily the #1 video contest site in the universe.  I only post one or two articles a week but the OVC team updates their site every, single weekday.  And now, they’re actually increasing their coverage!  As of July 4th, OVC has been posting video updates to their youtube channel five days a week.  Each video is hosted by the site’s admin Marissa and in each episode she recaps a hot new contest.  Here’s a sample of a recent upload:

If you’d like to keep track of all these helpful videos, you should probably follow this link and hit the SUBSCRIBE button:

Indy Mogul returns to Youtube

I have a bunch of cousins that range from ages 5 to 16.  Whenever I see them at a family gathering (like the memorial day BBQ I went to on monday) they pull out their phones and start showing everyone youtube videos.  Most adults run away from that sort of nonsense but I’m always interested to see what kids are into these days.  (Turns out it’s mostly vapid junk).  Once we start talking about youtube, my cousins always ask me “what’s your favorite youtube channel!?!”  I usually rattle off the names of the only youtubers I know (like Jenna Marbles or Pewdepie) just to mess with their heads.  When they get excited and say “wow, really!?” I say “no…not really.  I’m a grown man and grown men aren’t supposed to have a favorite youtube channel.”

But I guess that rule’s about to change because one of the only youtube channels I ever liked or cared about has been resurrected.  Indy Mogul was a how-to channel for low-budget filmmakers and I found it to be an invaluable resource during my early video contest days.  I remember specifically that their puppet-making tutorial helped me win a few grand in a contest way back in like 2009.

Unfortunately, Indy Mogul was sort of cancelled about three years ago.  What happened to the channel is actually an interesting and complicated tale.  You can get an abridged version of the show’s backstory here:

Indy Mogul will start posting new episodes next week.  But if you’re dying for some fresh content you can watch this video to hear some A’s to frequently asked Q’s.

And now if you’re REALLY an Indy Mogul fan you might as well go all the way and make a donation to the show’s Patreon account.  The guys behind the show, Eric and Justin (who also happen to be successful Tonglers) are paying for the new episodes themselves.  So follow this link if you’d like to kick in a little something you know, for the effort:

Youtube’s biggest star talks about money

Has anybody else noticed that kids today are weird little creeps?  Babies are still pretty chill but kids from age 8 to 14 give me the willies.  Every time I see kids at a party or something they’re acting sketchy.  I was at a 4th of July party this year and as the fireworks were exploding over our heads I looked over and saw a cluster of 12 years olds and they we’re all staring at their phones and tablets.  At other parties I see the kids scuttling around hiding from everyone so that no one tries to take their electronic devices away.  A few years ago I was at a family BBQ and I asked my 12 year old cousin, “hey what exactly are kids doing on their phones all the time?”  His response was “watching youtube videos!!”  He started telling me about all the awesome and hilarious shows he watches on youtube.  He could barely contain his excitement as he rambled on and on and on.  I was stunned.  The modern Internet finally made sense.  Millions and Millions of weird little kids with their expensive little phones are responsible for the phenomenon known as “Youtube Stardom.”   My little cousin is the reason why a video like this can generate tens of millions of views and earn thousands of dollars in revenue.

All that ad money can really add up and some youtubers are now making millions of dollars a year.  According to Forbes, the king of Youtube is a 25 year old guy from Sweden who posts videos under the name PewDiePie.  PewDiePie’s videos have been viewed more than 10 Billion (yes, billion with a B) times and last year he made $12,000,000 in ad revenue.  Youtubers don’t usually like to talk about money because they’re worried Google might shut down their account.  But PewDiePie has decided to come forward and talk a little big about his finances. So if you want to be the next Ray Williams Johnson (and who doesn’t) you may want to watch PewDiePie’s video for some insight and inspiration.

How to buy real video views directly from Youtube

Last year a Minneapolis-based ad agency named Solve set out to prove that purchased youtube views are a meaningless way to measure a video’s success online.  The company created and posted a 4-minute long video that was totally blank.  Then they managed to manage to get 100,000 real views for the video with almost zero effort.

Again I should stress that this video got 100,000 REAL views.  Actual human beings watched this video (or at least let it play) on their computer screens.  Every youtuber knows that it’s hilariously easy to rack up tens of thousands of fake views; you just have to buy them from a shady website like this….

For just $299 you can be the next Smosh!
For just $299 you can be the next Smosh!

A youtube view is generated each time a new IP address plays a video.  So some people just create programs that load and play a video, switch IPs and then load and play the video again.  But the more sophisticated operations are able to promote “real” views because each view comes from a real person.  The catch is that most of these real people don’t realize they’re “watching” your video because it’s hidden in the code of a popular web page.

Youtube warns their users that fake views can get their video deleted or their account suspended.  But that almost never happens.  300 hours of video are uploaded to Youtube every minute so their techs don’t have time to figure out how some 14 year old kid’s iphone unboxing video got 20,000 views in 2 days.

But the folks at youtube are no dummies and they’ve realized there’s a demand for fake views.  So the website basically sells junk views to people who want to increase their view counts.  Youtube calls the service “promotion” but it’s only slightly less sketchy than the hackers that embed videos in places they’re not supposed to.

And this brings us to Solve’s 4-minute long, blank youtube video.  The agency wanted to prove how pointless it is to buy viral success directly from youtube.  So according to AdWeek, “Solve promoted the video as pre-roll to U.S. viewers using YouTube TrueView In-Stream advertising. Viewers could skip it after five seconds. Solve was charged if a viewer watched at least 30 seconds.”

When the run was over, the video had accumulated 100,000 views from people who “chose” to watch the video.  But of course these people didn’t really chose to watch it.  They just chose not to click away once it popped up.  46% of viewers did watch at least 30 seconds of the video but the team from Solve thinks that a lot of those people didn’t realize they were looking at a blank video.  Instead they thought they were waiting for their real video choice to start playing.

Solve wound up paying 1.4 cents per view so those 100,000 views cost them $1,400.  That’s a lot of money.  But if you’re an ad agency with a client that is demanding that their video “goes viral,” 1.4 cents per view seems like a bargain.

And that was the point of Solve’s experiment.  The agency could have told their imaginary Blank Video client that their promoted Youtube run was a smashing success.  But those 100K views were worthless junk.  About half of all viewers will watch 30 seconds of anything if you shove it in their face.  But that doesn’t mean they’re actually paying attention.  Solve CEO John Colasanti explained the point of the experiment to Adweek….

“Among many marketers and agency peers, ‘views’ have become the holy grail.  Views offer a seemingly simple and easy way to measure the power of content. This is a false indicator of success, particularly when a video receives a high number of views, but a low level of likes. Often the video didn’t truly go viral; the view metric was purchased.”

So the video’s view count was high but the level of “engagement” was low.  And that’s the problem with all promoted videos.  You can’t buy viral success.  A true viral video gets spread around because the content is good and worth sharing.  So promoted pre-roll video views are no better than the junk you can buy from  But some people obviously don’t care about engagement.  So if you just want to get some real (but super expensive) views for your video you can run your campaign via google Ad Words.