June 04, 2021
It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
You put so much work into creating your original content, blog, articles and social media posts, yet no one clicks on them! (Don’t worry, it’s happened to me too.)
You use catchy titles. You choose relevant topics. So what’s the problem?
The most likely possibility is that users aren’t clicking on your content because the thumbnail image you’ve chosen is boring or unrelated to the topic.
When you’re scrolling for videos through YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms, the video thumbnail captures your attention and helps you decide whether or not to click on the video. This same concept applies to your written content thumbnails, too.
Without adopting this practice to your blog or article thumbnails, you’re locking your content behind a poorly chosen image that doesn’t entice users to click on it.
Fortunately, I can show you how to change that and drive real results.
Through years of video marketing experience, I’ve learned how to strategically leverage the use of thumbnail images to generate more clicks, more engagement, and ultimately more sales. Let me show you how it’s done!
An article’s thumbnail image is a critical real estate opportunity. It’s often underutilized and considered an afterthought rather than a vital part of the content experience and distribution strategy. I’ll show you how to maximize that real estate in just a moment.
As a result, thumbnail images are an integral and important link between the actual article content and the subsequent CTA or desired action. Without a compelling gateway thumbnail, fewer readers will get to the important part of the article: the CTA!
With this in mind, your article thumbnail has to captivate the audience and encourage them to take a specific action. Just as videos rely on thumbnails to attract viewers, articles do, too!
Remember the old saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover?”
Well, I’m telling you to forget all about that!
In the digital marketing world, you get one chance to make a first impression, and that’s through your article’s thumbnail. In fact, you have only a few seconds to make a solid, lasting impression with your thumbnail.
If your thumbnail fails to attract the reader and communicate important information, they won’t click on your article. It’s as simple as that.
Keep my helpful tips in mind as you create your article thumbnails.
There’s a reason marketers still rely on the foundations of advertising to choose images for their campaigns: because they work!
When creating article thumbnails, use classic advertising techniques that evoke an immediate emotion, such as:
For an added impact, you can also use short and simple on-screen messages to reinforce the content beyond the thumbnail.
The rule of classic advertising techniques applies to your imagery as well. Select imagery that resonates with your main content message.
People will not click on an image if it doesn’t connect with the content topic or title. After all, would you click on an article with a strange image? I wouldn’t!
With that said...
By definition, clickbait is content designed to generate as many clicks as possible. This concept starts with the article’s thumbnail image.
Many marketers argue the advantages and disadvantages of clickbait, but I’m here to say that so long as the image correlates with the topic and title, go for it!
For instance, if a thumbnail says, “You Won’t Believe These 8 Marketing Tips,” and uses an image of an employee looking shocked at their laptop screen, this is an ethical form of clickbait.
If you use that same title and image to drive clicks to a completely unrelated article, then you’ve crossed into the unethical clickbait territory.
The last thing you want is for your thumbnail imagery to quickly become irrelevant. With this in mind, I highly recommend you work to ensure your thumbnail image is evergreen and not topical. The best content has a long shelf-life, but images can lose their impact over time.
Use imagery and copy that won’t be considered outdated in a few weeks. This means not including seasonal copy or imagery or relying on trending images or topics.
Otherwise, there’s no reason for readers to click on your thumbnail if it’s an outdated topic.
Thumbnail imagery is a look into what’s to come. Give readers a sneak peek at what they can expect from clicking on the thumbnail by using imagery that lures them in or is also included in the article!
If you want to capture the attention of your audience — and you do! — try using a gif as your article thumbnail. It’s worked for me!
Remember to include your logo, article headline, and (if room allows) CTA in the gif to tie the whole package together and entice users to click through to the content.
As with any aspect of your content strategy, your article thumbnail needs a defined strategy as well. This is something that large media companies have learned to employ.
While the strategy will vary based on your market and overall goals, these quick tips will help you formulate the best strategy for your company’s thumbnails.
It’ll take time and a lot of experimentation to understand what thumbnail images and designs your audiences react to. Leverage A/B testing tools to determine which perform better with your audience.
Create a Thumbnail Schedule
If you plan on repurposing or republishing the content on different distribution channels, it’s best to have several thumbnails queued up and on a schedule. This ensures your audience sees and reacts to a different thumbnail every time.
Tailor Thumbnails to Each Target Audience
Your brand has several defined audiences that each have their own preferences. Therefore, tailoring the thumbnail to each audience will increase your chances of positive results.
For instance, an article published on Facebook and Instagram will likely need a different thumbnail image than one posted on Medium or your website blog.
The audiences on these channels all react to different styles of thumbnails, so remember to use the A/B testing tools to determine which audience reacts to which thumbnail style on which channel!
Switch It Up
Change your thumbnails every three to six months so that the content remains fresh. The content may be the same, however, a new thumbnail image may attract readers who overlooked it the first time.
Tag Thumbnail Images for SEO
The goal of creating quality content is to rank better on search engines, right? With this in mind, do your best to include the appropriate tags on your thumbnail images where possible.
Ready to create your own thumbnail images or identify third-party content with stellar thumbnail images? Use my recommended best practices to get started.
Use Royalty-Free Images
With everything else you have going on, the last thing you need to deal with is a copyright suit! Always use royalty-free images.
You can find these images on popular sites like Unsplash, Pixabay, Pexels, and more. Or, if you have a photographer at your disposal, create original branded images for your articles.
Provide Image Credit Where Necessary
If you can’t find a royalty-free image that suits your needs and don’t have the budget to hire a photographer, you can look for other images online that work better.
However, you must ask for permission to use these images and provide the proper credit!
Failing to do this will come back to bite you, especially as your content begins to gain popularity and authority.
Skip Google Images
I know, it’s tempting to grab pictures and illustrations off Google Images. Aside from it being an unethical marketing practice, it also results in poor quality. These images often have a low resolution, leading to pixelated and grainy imagery.
This is why you should…
Always Use High-Resolution Images
Using high-resolution images allows you to showcase your brand’s quality through a dazzling picture. Additionally, high-resolution images provide you with the ability to edit it without sacrificing quality.
Watermark Your Thumbnail Image
When designing your thumbnail image, always include a small logo or watermark. This discourages individuals from copying and using your image without your permission.
Add Copy Carefully
Many marketers like to add captions or copy to their thumbnail images. While this practice does have its place, it can take up too much space and backfire. Instead, let the image speak for itself.
Find Images to Repurpose
For content efficiency, look for images you can repurpose for content pieces. On top of saving time, this provides an opportunity to link or refer back to the original piece of content in which it was used.
For many marketers, the thumbnail is an afterthought for both videos and articles. In reality, it’s quite possibly the most important piece of marketing real estate.
Before you go, remember:
About Joel Goobich
Joel Goobich is Head of Marketing at Vestorly Inc and an accomplished marketing professional with extensive experience in all facets of B2B marketing. He is a published author, blogger, veteran podcaster, and contributing writer to Forbes, Martech Outlook, Business2Community and other online publications. He writes and speaks extensively about content marketing, video marketing, business growth and innovation. His latest book - HyperLeverage: Do More With What You Have For Exceptional Results provides a comprehensive and systematic methodology to uncovering, unleashing, and leveraging the additional potential that lies dormant in our business resources.
Vestorly is on a mission to empower companies to make content work throughout their organizations by delivering with the right content to the right person at the right time. Vestorly’s AI-driven Content Management Engine (CME) uses machine learning and natural language processing to surface and curate original, third-party and licensed content. Vestorly’s API creates new content inventory and revenue streams for channel partners through white label or direct integrations into existing Martech platforms. The content engine does three things exceptionally well; content discovery, content filtering and content personalization to deliver product engagement, lead generation, and brand awareness for major brands and publishers
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