Test and Compare: What Is YouTube ABC Testing for Thumbnails – And Why Should You Use It?

  • Esteban Ramos
    (Author)

    Esteban Ramos is a full-time YouTube Channel Manager at Tasty Edits. He has worked with dozens of high-profile and up-and-coming content creators and businesses to grow their channels with strategic YouTube SEO and personalized recommendations. He is a seasoned pro at finding video ideas, boosting YouTube audience engagement, and diving deep into YouTube channel analytics. Videography and cinema are also his personal passions: In his free time, he hosts a Spanish-language movie podcast.

    View all posts
  • Alex Lefkowitz
    (Author)

    Alex Lefkowitz is the founder and CEO of Tasty Edits. He holds a BA in Entrepreneurship and is an experienced video editor, having edited hundreds of videos for dozens of creators before starting his own video editing company. Since launching Tasty Edits, he has directly managed thousands of video and thumbnail orders. Now, he draws on his experience working with professional creators to write about video editing, the creator economy, and video marketing. You can also read his work on Hackernoon and Medium. Plus, he's contributed several expert opinions in interviews and articles as a guest on platforms like Jotform.

    View all posts
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Custom thumbnails are a fantastic way to increase your content’s click-through rate (CTR) and captivate viewers.

However, not all thumbnails are created equal. There are dozens of different styles out there, and big YouTubers frequently have signature thumbnail designs.

Finding one that best suits your video and channel can be tricky.

The good news? YouTube now offers a new Test and Compare tool for ABC thumbnail testing. Here’s what it is – and why you should use it.

Quick Facts

  • YouTube’s Test and Compare lets you upload three thumbnail versions for a video.
  • The thumbnail with the highest share of watch time wins
  • YouTube ABC testing helps you to experiment with new ideas for thumbnails and to revitalize old content.

Keep reading for the full scoop!

Contents

What Is YouTube ABC Testing?

ABC testing means launching several versions of the same design element at the same time. You then observe their performance for a little while, before deciding which one to stick with.

The “ABC” part refers to the three versions (“A”, “B”, and “C”) used for this. More generally, this is also called A/B testing.

On YouTube, you can now use the Test and Compare feature to try out three thumbnail versions for the same video at the same time. Formerly, you’d have to manually switch out the thumbnail for a certain time to see how it impacts your content’s performance.

Plus, YouTube will automatically identify the winner of a thumbnail comparison, based on the share of total watch time for the video that each one inspired. 

youtube abc testing report for thumbnails, with three options, the last of which is marked as the winner
In the long run, a 4% difference has a big impact on your watch time and revenue.

 Why watch time and not CTR? Over the years, watch time has become a hugely important factor for the YouTube algorithm.

In the eyes of YouTube, a thumbnail that inspires a high CTR but low watch time is misleading. And it’s not just a clickbait issue: People may simply expect one thing when they click and end up disappointed if the video doesn’t match that. 

Say you have a very sleek, serious-looking thumbnail, but your video’s tone is actually fun and goofy. Your video will be watched by the wrong audience, which then won’t stick around for long.

In contrast, the more watch time a thumbnail inspires, the better it is. For both the algorithm and your YouTube monetization.

Here’s YouTube’s own launch video for the feature.

🥳 Get more subscribers

And earn more money with great video editing💰

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What Are the Benefits of ABC Testing Your Thumbnails?

So why should you be using YouTube’s new Test and Compare feature for thumbnails? 

First and foremost, you can fine-tune your thumbnail design to reach the maximum number of viewers. And capture their attention.

Secondly, you can experiment with ideas for thumbnails without having to compromise the performance of an entire video. 

Plus, thumbnail ABC testing on YouTube can also benefit your older, potentially underperforming content. You can test revamped thumbnails and generate renewed interest.

According to the experience of our channel managers here at Tasty Edits, older videos that have ABC tested thumbnails actually get picked up again by the algorithm.

graph of day two of abc thumbnail testing with 39000 views
Day 1 of testing.
graph of day one of abc thumbnail testing with 25150 views
Day 2 of testing.

Finally, another reason to systematically ABC test your thumbnails is that it’s just what professional creators do. Instead of relying on their gut when it comes to which thumbnails are best, they look at the numbers. In fact, MrBeast had early access to this tool and loved it. 

A report on two thumbnails, with the first winning more than 75% of the watch time. It lacks the bright orange text of the second one.
Real audience data is key. The orange text may catch more attention - but the less flashy thumbnail wins this one.

How to Use Test and Compare for YouTube Thumbnails?

That said, how do you actually use the Test and Compare feature for YouTube ABC testing? 

There are two ways to use it, depending on whether you upload a new video or whether you want to ABC test on existing content. 

For a new video, it’s easy. All you need to do is click on “Test and Compare” in the thumbnail section during the upload process. 

For existing content, you need to go to YouTube Studio and navigate to the Content tab in the sidebar on the left. Then, click on the video you want to ABC test. Scroll to the thumbnail section and click on the three-dots menu of the thumbnail preview, where you can then select Test and Compare. 👇

screenshot showing the thumbnail preview of an existing video in YouTube Studio. the thumbnail abc test tool is hidden in the options menu in the corner

Either way, you can now pick your three thumbnails and launch your test.

The Bottom Line: YouTube ABC Testing Is a Great Opportunity

Overall, YouTube thumbnail ABC testing is a fantastic way of pinpointing the style that best fits your channel. And of boosting your overall watch time and YouTube monetization. 

It’s an easy-to use tool that automatically highlights the thumbnail that’s best for your content. Even major creators swear by it. Time to leverage it for your channel as well! 

FAQs

Yes! YouTube has introduced a Test and Compare feature for video thumbnails.

On YouTube, you can ABC test video thumbnails using the platform’s Test and Compare feature. It allows you to upload three versions of the thumbnail for a video and see which one performs best.

AB testing means you compare two versions of the same design element to see which one gets better results. YouTube actually allows ABC testing for video thumbnails. Using its Test and Compare feature, you can try out three thumbnail versions before deciding which one to stick with.

To use YouTube’s Test and Compare feature while you upload a new video, select it from the thumbnail menu. For existing content, go to YouTube Studio. In the Content section, go to the video you want to test, and use the meatballs menu on the preview thumbnail.

Watch time share is used to decide which thumbnail performs best in ABC testing because it shows not just how attractive the thumbnail is overall, but also whether it accurately reflects the content of a video.

Authors

  • Esteban Ramos

    Esteban Ramos is a full-time YouTube Channel Manager at Tasty Edits. He has worked with dozens of high-profile and up-and-coming content creators and businesses to grow their channels with strategic YouTube SEO and personalized recommendations. He is a seasoned pro at finding video ideas, boosting YouTube audience engagement, and diving deep into YouTube channel analytics. Videography and cinema are also his personal passions: In his free time, he hosts a Spanish-language movie podcast.

    View all posts
  • Alex Lefkowitz

    Alex Lefkowitz is the founder and CEO of Tasty Edits. He holds a BA in Entrepreneurship and is an experienced video editor, having edited hundreds of videos for dozens of creators before starting his own video editing company. Since launching Tasty Edits, he has directly managed thousands of video and thumbnail orders. Now, he draws on his experience working with professional creators to write about video editing, the creator economy, and video marketing. You can also read his work on Hackernoon and Medium. Plus, he's contributed several expert opinions in interviews and articles as a guest on platforms like Jotform.

    View all posts