Timer test: youTube Video Preview thumbnail

youTube Video-Thumbnail bestimmen

youTube Video-Thumbnail bestimmen

How does the selection of the youTube video thumbnails work? Is it by random? Can you change the preview image that is displayed on youTube lists? Two years ago I described a method of how it worked (at that time). Therefore you could use a timer. Included to the video you could read the frame-timecode of the three video thumbnails. With this knowledge you could replace in the video exactly these three frames. After uploading again you saw your preview thumbnails. Now I have tested this method again. And, unfortunately: it fails. This article shows the experiment and the results. Maybe someone has another idea?

Choosing the youTube video-thumbnail

If you are a preferred partner on youTube, it’s easy: you could upload prepared image as the preview image. But that only applies to very few youTuber. Usual is this: if you upload a video on youTube, three thumbnails are offered. You can reach this option if you open the „Video Manager“ and choose a video by clicking on „Edit„.

YouTube Video Thumbnail - choose 1 of 3

YouTube Video Thumbnail – choose 1 of 3

You see three video thumbnails. After the upload the middle one is selected by default. However, you can choose one of the both alternative thumbnails. Note: This change takes a while. Previously could take up to 24 hours, now it’s a matter of minutes. But patience is always needed.

What if none of the three images is really appropriate?

The solution that worked for a long time was associated with the timer, which I had described before (only german). But the following test shows that it is so not still working. The youTube programmers have hidden the timecode below the thumbnails. And they have changed the algorithm of the thumbnail-generator. Unfortunately. But anyway, here is the actual test.

The Thumbnail-Timer-Test

I create a series of videos that are all exactly 10 seconds long. And I have created a color-sheet, which moves from left to right. So you could compare the different video thumbnails exactly. Here is one of the videos:

If anyone is interested, here are the test videos: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8].

I’ve made a change in each video:

  1. Video 1: orange area, with grid and timer, without music
  2. Video 2: blue area, with grid and timer, without music
  3. Video 3: orange area, with grid and timer, without music, with text
  4. Video 4: orange surface without grid and timer, without music
  5. Video 5: orange area, without a grid, with no timer, no music
  6. Video 6: orange area, without a grid, without a timer, with music
  7. Video 7: Mona Lisa, without a grid, with timer, without music
  8. Video 8: Mona Lisa, without grid, without a timer, with music

The Result

Then I compared the thumbnails of the eight videos. In one video, it looks like this:

Youtube Video Thumbnails

Youtube Video Thumbnails

Things become interesting when the thumbnails are shown in a table:

YouTube Video Thumbnail - Timer Test Results

YouTube Video Thumbnail – Timer Test Results

To verify the whole thing, I have uploaded a copy of the first video to a different channel. A comparison of the thumbnails shows that they are identical:

Identical video in another channel -> same thumbs

Identical video in another channel -> same thumbs

Conclusion: youTube thumbnails can be (almost) NOT previously calculated

On the basis of this test can be stated as follows:

  • Identical videos have the same thumbnail. (It’s no by random).
  • Once the visual information changes the three thumbnails changes too. (!)
  • With little change one or two thumbs may by the same.
  • The greater the change, the more likely it is that thumbnail different.
  • Seems as colors and sound are not evaluated in the youTube evaluation process.

So what to do to set yourself thumbnails?

Long story short: I would rather try it with trial and error. So, upload a video and check the thumbnails. If unsuitable, change video length slightly (one second more or less), and then the whole thing again. As long as a thumbnail fits. This is the subscribers does not annoy it, you should do it in private mode, or have a second test channel.

But maybe someone else has another idea of how to determine the youTube thumbnail itself?

Here my original german version of this article.

youTube Video Preview Thumbnail selber bestimmen!?

youTube Video Preview Thumbnail !?

Category: youTube | Author: Martin Missfeldt   5 Kommentare

5 Comments zu "Timer test: youTube Video Preview thumbnail"

  1. John

    it can be calculated with some tricks check this channel http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnFl3AEY6NFfe53wj7HhDqg/videos

    • Missfeldt

      Hi John,

      interesting. I guess you will not tell how you did it, true? But I think, I know how you didi it. Do you need 3 or 4 versions before you got it?

      Do you have a blog?

      Best wishes, Martin

      • John

        doesnt work 100% always, i will keep trying to make it work properly then i will make a tutorial when it works 100% ,but is a bit complex to explain writing , and just need upload 2 videos in each test, 1 with the time and the final one

  2. Tom Martin

    Good news dude – this is no longe needed. Custom thumbnails are now available to all approved partners in Good Standing

Martin Mißfeldt

Author: Martin Missfeldt, Berlin based german artist, about creative image optimization and youTube video-optimization. This is the english version of tagSeoBlog.de. More

Latest Posts


SEO Workshop

Seo-Workshop with Martin Missfeldt & Marco Janck:

Seo for Images and HLP
5. Nov. 2018 (in Berlin)
Language: German

More about it see this article (german)