How To Do YouTube Thumbnail AB Testing To Hack 2X Traffic

How To Do YouTube Thumbnail AB Testing

✅ Is your YouTube video traffic sucks?

✅ Are you not sure how well your videos thumbnail performing?

✅ Are you not getting enough views though having great content?

If your answer is YES to the above questions then you should run YouTube thumbnail AB testing on your YouTube videos to find out which thumbnail is performing well.


If you have the best thumbnail you can easily improve video views and hack traffic.

Table of Contents

What Is AB Testing?

AB testing is the process of finding the best performance of two variants(A and B) by running one variant each day for consecutive days(let’s say 10 or 20 or 30 days) and finding the best performance from the detailed analytics report generated at the end of testing.

What Is YouTube Thumbnail AB Testing?

In YouTube thumbnail AB testing, variants are thumbnail images. We display the first thumbnail(A) on day 1 and the second thumbnail(B) on day 2, repeat the test for 15-30 consecutive days and find the best performing thumbnail from Click through rate, watch time per impression, number of clicks, and other metrics at the end of thumbnail testing.

Why You Should Run YouTube Thumbnail AB Testing?

YouTube thumbnail is the very first impression of your channel when viewers see your video listed on YouTube search results or recommendations section. Most of the viewers do click and watch your video only if they are convinced with your video thumbnail. 


If you convince them to make a click then you’re letting the viewers enter into the top of the video watch-time funnel.


If you look at the below image, the Click-through rate(CTR) second from the top is highly influenced by YouTube video thumbnail and title. 


But YouTube thumbnail is responsible for 80% of video CTR %.

video watch time funnel

We are not going to discuss the video title in this post, in fact, I’ve written a detailed blog post on how to write a compelling YouTube video title.


In other words, if you don’t have a great YouTube thumbnail your click-through rate sucks and you hardly get traffic.


If you are very serious about your video traffic then performing the YouTube thumbnail AB test on your video helps to increase the traffic. 


Especially if you are promoting a product through YouTube, this AB testing helps to find the best thumbnail that drives more sales.

Before Kick-off YouTube Thumbnail AB Testing

Here are the few questions you need to address by looking at your YouTube video analytics section before moving on to YouTube thumbnail AB testing.

Keep The Video Info Ready

Firstly, identify the video that you want to run AB testing. Go to YouTube studio, click on the Videos tab. Scroll down to the video that you want to run the test. Click on the analytics icon to launch the video analytics page so it’s easy to pull the metrics that we need later.

Do You Have Great Content?

I strongly believe that content is the king. Even if you have fantasy and clickable thumbnails and your video content is not great then there is no purpose of doing YouTube thumbnail AB testing. 


Watch your video once again and ask yourself whether your content is great?

How Are Viewers Responding to That Video?

 Look at the likes count and dislikes count. It plays a major role in measuring the quality of the video content. Ensure that like to dislike ratio should always be greater than 85%.  

What Did Viewers Tell About Your Video?

 YouTube comments are the second important metric in measuring content quality. Are you getting positive comments like “Great! Thanks!”, “Awesome”, “Your video helps a lot”? Or something like “Not working”, “waste of time”, “disagree”, “useless content”?


If you have 75% positive comments then your video content is really doing well.

Design the Second Variant Thumbnail

To perform thumbnail test, you need two thumbnails Orignal and variant. Original will be the one you uploaded when publishing video and you need the second one ready.

 Here are the few tips for the second thumbnail

  • Design the second one completely color contrast to the original
  • If the first one contains more of text element then keep the second one with more visual elements
  • Alter the fonts and size.
  • Flip the images or text from left to right and top to bottom
  • Use Snappa for thumbnail design

How Long Did People Watch Your Video?

You can pull these metrics from the Video analytics under the overview tab.  It tells you how much % of viewers drop off at the given time. The average audience-retention rate on YouTube is ~25%. 

Make sure that your video audience-retention rate is greater than 25%. Higher the rate the better the video content.

youtube audience retention rate

If your video satisfies all the above metrics then you’re eligible to run YouTube thumbnail AB testing.


Unfortunately, YouTube doesn’t have this thumbnail testing feature yet so you need to rely on a YouTube tool called TubeBuddy to perform AB test YouTube thumbnail.


P:S TubeBuddy is a complete YouTube channel management and growth hacking tool for YouTubers.


Before moving further, install TubeBuddy on your chrome browser and follow the below steps.

How To Run YouTube Thumbnail AB Testing With TubeBuddy?

 Follow the below step by step guide to run the thumbnail A/B test.

Step #1: Go To YouTube Studio

  Go to the YouTube studio and click on the Videos tab. Scroll down to the video that you want to run YouTube thumbnail AB testing. When you hover over the video, you can find the TB icon as shown below

youtube studio for ab test

Step #2: Select AB Test

Click on the TB icon, you can see a bunch of features in the Tools section. Under the “Video SEO” section, you can find an option “A/B Test” as shown below

youtube thumbnail ab testing option

Step #3: Run Thumbnail CTR Test

Click on the A/B test and it’ll take you to the new thumbnail A/B test page. You can see two options: “Thumbnail CTR test” and “Metadata test”. As we focus only on YouTube thumbnail AB testing in this post, select the option “Thumbnail CTR test”.

youtube thumbnail ctr test

Step #4: Enter # Of Days To Run Thumbnail AB Test

You’ll be prompted to enter the number of days that you want to run the thumbnail AB test. The recommended # is 14 days. Anything less than 14 days is not advisable. But you can run for more than 14 days if you wish.


Enter the number of days in the textbox and hit the “Select” button.

youtube thumbnail ab test days

Step #5: Specify When Do You Want To Run Thumbnail AB Test

 After clicking on the “Select” button, You can see two options to start the thumbnail AB test. 


  1. Start test ASAP
  2. Schedule start date

Specify when do you want to start the thumbnail test by selecting either of the above two options and click on “Continue

Step #6: Upload Second Variant Thumbnail

  It automatically picks your original thumbnail as A and you need to upload the second variant test thumbnail by clicking on the “Choose file” option. 

You can upload it from your local computer or use the in-built TubeBuddy thumbnail generator below the file upload to create a second thumbnail.

thumbnail ab test variant upload

Step #7: Start YouTube Thumbnail AB Testing

Click on the “Start Test” button to start the thumbnail AB test. That’s it you are done with the setup. It’s time to relax for the next 14 days and wait for the thumbnail AB test report.

Step #8: Pick the Best Performing Thumbnail

Once your thumbnail AB test report is ready, you’ll get an email notification. You can go to the TubeBuddy Home page, Click the AB test, and see the report and metrics.


It tells you which version of the thumbnail is performed well either original or variant.


From the below image, you can see that my variant thumbnail outperformed the original thumbnail by 23.29%. That’s insane!

Step #9: Analyze the Metrics

 You can find the below metrics between original thumbnail vs variant thumbnail


Click-through rate

Impression and Number of clicks

Watch time per impression

Daily impression count

Daily Clicks

Total views

Average view duration

Estimated total minutes watches

Daily views

Traffic sources

Subscribers gained

Number of likes

Number of dislikes

Number of comments

youtube thumbnail metrics

That’s it. You learned how to do YouTube thumbnail AB testing. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What license do you need for the Youtube Thumbnail A/B testing?

You need a TubeBuddy legend level license to avail this feature.

What is a better time to run the YouTube thumbnail AB test?

I suggest running after 5 days of publishing your video. Because the first 5 days, your video views are highly influenced by your subscribers so don’t mix it with thumbnail AB test.

How many thumbnail AB testing can I run on my channel?

 You can run up to 10 thumbnail AB tests per month concurrently.

You can take 30 days free trial of Legend license by clicking below

Please let me know if you have any questions. If you find this post useful please do share it!

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Hey 👋 ,

This is Thannusheya - Founder of Utubebliss.

I’m a YouTuber for the past few years and have multiple YouTube channels up and running.

I personally trained budding YouTubers and improved their channel traffic and subscribers

Here I’m sharing how to improve video traffic, gain views and increase subscribers organically with white-hat SEO techniques.

I love to share all my founding, case-study, YouTube SEO, traffic tips on Utubebliss.

So stay tuned!

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