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YouTube is launching a thumbnail test and compare feature

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  • 3 min read

YouTube has announced a new feature dubbed “Thumbnail Test & Compare” that allows creators to test up to three thumbnails on a video to see which one performs the best. Also known as A/B testing, the new feature evenly divides the thumbnails between the video’s audience, reporting back which thumbnail generated the most watch time. It’ll be available when uploading a new video or while updating an older piece of content.

The feature will currently only be available on YouTube Studio on PCs and should be accessible to all creators with access to advanced features over the coming weeks, according to an announcement posted on the YouTube Help website. There are several other requirements for the feature as well. Currently, “Thumbnail Test & Compare” can only be used on public long-form videos, live stream archives saved as videos, or podcast episodes. Additionally, thumbnails can’t be tested on videos made for kids, mature audiences, or on private videos.

A sample report generated by Thumbail Test & Compare. | Source: YouTube

As mentioned before, the feature will divide your uploaded thumbnails evenly among the video’s audience, suggesting a winner based on the watch time generated by each thumbnail. However, YouTube warns that this data can take a few days to a couple of weeks to generate. The amount of time it takes to generate results is affected by several factors, including the number of impressions the videos get and the visual differences in the thumbnails.

Regardless of the time taken to generate results, YouTube will show a ‘running’ status on any video where the feature is active and hasn’t finished experimenting yet. Once the test is complete, a report with the following labels will be generated.

  • Winner: this label means that one thumbnail outperformed the other two and that YouTube is sure that the results are “statistically significant” based on viewer data. The platform automatically updates the video’s thumbnail to show the winner by default.
  • Preferred: this label means that the thumbnail ‘likely’ outperformed the others but YouTube isn’t as sure of the thumbnail’s success to label it a winner.

The first uploaded thumbnail will be shown by default if there’s no clear winner in the platform’s experimentation. Regardless, users can always go back and manually choose the thumbnail they prefer.

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Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here: