>>Not for advertising so much as gaining traffic back to my website
I have found the reverse to be true.
My youtube channel is rather small, under 3k subs and most videos get 30 views the first week, then take a year or more to reach 1k views. And while they do send SOME traffic to my site, in most cases, it's my site that sends traffic to my videos.
For example I have one video that'll cross 200k views soon.
Why? Most of my videos take months the reach 100 views, so why does this one have 200k ? Because it's embedded into 2 pages on my site, each of those 2 pages have more than 10 million lifetime views.
That video about the real Christine, the World's Most Haunted Car, a side show car that belongs to a group of carny Gypsies and that inspired Stephen King to write several books and movies based off of it, (Christine, Thinner, Maximum Overdrive, Trucks, Buik, etc) and the car and the Gypsy family that owns it (and is the same Gypsy family that is seen in the Thinner movie, because Thinner was filmed on the Gypsy farm) is the topic of both those pages and that video. But people looking to find information about the story behind the story, usually end up on my site first and find the video from finding the site.
Interestingly, this video gets a lot of views because of the movie Christine and people are generally there looking for info about the car itself. Though this video gets huge amounts of views, it rarely translates into subs or views to other videos, as people are their because they are looking for info about Stephen King, his books, and his movies, and there is no info about King, his books, or his movies on my channel. The channel is focused on Gypsies and Gypsy life, thus, why this car that is owned by Gypsies is featured in the video. Once people look around the channel and find it's about Gypsy life and not Stephen King, they leave, thus this video ends up being the oNLY video to get high rate of views.
But anyways my videos gain more traffic from my site, rather then my site gaining more traffic from my videos. But traffic does go both ways, so it does help my site to have it's url linked to in the description of the videos. I suppose if my channel were larger, it might drive traffic more substantially to my site, so perhaps it depends on channel size?
Then again, it could also be a matter of chanel topic as well. My own channel is very niche, the basic topic being "Gypsy Vlogs/Gypsy Interviews" and generally only of interest to anyone looking to find out more about Gypsy lifestyle, Gypsy culture, etc. As a general rule not a lot of people interested in finding out about Gypsies so over all, the channel does not gain much traction.
>>My question is... how important is creating custom thumbnails. Do they really make our videos stand out more?
I'm a daily vlogger and a part-time gamer on YouTube and I'm constantly switching things up to see if this works better than that. So, I've got about 400 videos that I made thumbnails for but 1000+ that just have whatever YouTube slapped there at random. And I haven't noticed that big of a difference in traffic between going with thumbnails to going without them.
What I have noticed though, is that the videos with the most traffic are always the ones with a large up close picture. Either my face (for the vlogs), my car (for my car videos), or the face of the character from the game I'm playing if it's a gaming video.
Brighter images get more views then darker ones.
When I do use a thumb, the ones that get more views, are the ones that have, very big, very bold, very simple, and VERY BRIGHT YELLOW text.
It'll be like 3 or 4 words, with a much smaller sized sentence undernederneath. Something like: "HEALTH UPDATE:" filling up the entire top, with something like "Hospital, Parkinson's, MRI, And Other Stuff That Happened" in small letters under it. The top line will be in 125pt Arial Bold, and the 2nd line will be in 48pt arial.
I've tried this same style with different colours, and after Yellow, Red is 2nd best for traffic, and Lt Blue 3rd. Orange, White, Pink, Green, and Purple, did not have any effect to change traffic.
Overall though, it didn't seem to me that there was that much of a difference with a thumbnail to without a thumbnail, so for the past 6 months or so, I don't bother with thumbnails at all anymore and now only add a thumbnail, if the random screenshot that YouTube slapped in there was blurry or weird for some reason.
I think we can embed videos in our posts? Let me try it and see. If I can get it to work, I'll show you what my videos look like so you can see what I mean.
Ah! Yes! That worked. Okay... I'll add more then, so you can see what I'm talking about.
Okay, here is an example of a thumbnail I made for part of a series where I answered reader questions about my novels. This one about a wizard who keeps sheep in his pockets, Thus has pictures of his sheep on the thumbnail.
Yet, here is my most trafficed video ever, (Meet The Real Christine aka The World's Most Haunted Car - The Car That Inspired Stephen King) (yes the same video I was just talking about that is about to cross 200k, here it is...) which is a slide show about my car, and doesn't have a thumbnail, instead just had the screenshot that YouTube slapped in there, which happens to be one of the photos of the car itself.
THAT is my top video. It has a crappy thumbnail, and ironically, was also a "test video" that I made when I was first trying to figure out how to use YouTube. It was not intended to go live and only went live so I could post it on my FaceBook and ask my friends to watch it and give me advice on how to make future videos better. And now today, this incredibly poor quality video that I literally tossed together in about 15 minutes, has gone on to be my top video. Go figure.
Okay, see here's the Thumbnail type like what I was talking about before. When I do use a thumbnail, this stye seems to be the most effective. You can see how I've done it slightly different on different videos, changing colours and fonts and stuff, but the same basic style:
The 2nd most effective thumbnail style I've found is the one with no image at all, and simple words on a coloured background, like this:
But then the bulk of my videos are without thumbs and like these here, are just whatever YouTube put there:
>>My question is... how important is creating custom thumbnails. Do they really make our videos stand out more? I did a youtube search on canning to see what top videos have and many are just the thumbnail that yt picks out.
Yep. That does seem to be the trend for the bulk of YouTube.
I know people are always saying to do the Thumbnail thing, but I've seen a lot of people put a lot of time into fancy thumbs and then it do nothing for their channel, and then I'll see people on the same topic with million+ subs, and they do no thumbs at all and just got with YouTube's choice.
I don't know. I'm on the fence about thumbs myself.
As you can see from my thumbs, I don't use thumbs that often.
I can tell you though, that one thing I have noticed on a site wide level (my SBI site) that may be useful to you.
I have noticed that when I embed a video on my site, if it DOES NOT have a thumb, it won't get many views ON MY SITE (as opposed to views it gets from YouTube's site directly).
On the other hand, if I embed the video on my site,, then give it a thumb with a "descriptive text". either te text over an image, or the text over a colour ground, when I do that, the video starts getting MORE views ON PAGE of my site, then it does directly from YouTube.
So, while, I've not seen much difference with videos watched ON YOUTUBE, I have seen a difference with videos watched ON MY SITE PAGE. If people are on YouTube searching, the title, not the thumb, seems to influence viewing. But when they are on my website, the thumb not the title, seems to be the influence. (Keep in mind here that this could be a niche thing, specific to my niche alone and not all youtube videos in general, though. I don't know.)
In the end, I just let YouTube pick the thumb, only changing it is what YouTube picked turns out to look funky for some reason. And then, if I embed the video into an article, I'll then made a thumb that reflects the article, and may seem out of place on YouTube itself, but makes sense for those on my page reading the article.
But like I said, all this could be just stuff that is specific to my own niche. I don't do a wide enough range of videos to know how other niches are effected by these things or not, so all this is just my own results and observations with my own videos and may or may not be useful to other videos with different niches.
>>I've been told that embedding you tube videos is good for seo because google owns you tube. So they look favorably to youtube videos on our sites rather than FB videos? Is that not what SBI has found?
I remember reading that as well. I don't think it was an SBI study... but I remember reading it somewhere, someone noticing a change in traffic because of embedding video. I remember at the time I read it I wasn't yet embedding videos, so I remember thinking: "I'll have to embed some videos and see what happens." Not on SBI, but rather on blogs and such I've seen several various SEO "gurus" claimed that if you embed videos, to NOT use FB or Vemo, etc, and instead use YouTube because of Google owning YouTube and favoring sites that helped promote YouTube. Don't know what studies they had behind them though.
I went and did my own "self test" to see. And I did find that every time I embedded a YouTube video on a page, that page would start ranking higher, and would quickly outrank my pages that did not have videos embedded. This could be because people were now staying on those pages long, because now in addition to reading the page, they then stayed 10 to 15 minutes to watch the embedded video, and I think Google counts page time when they consider rank don't they? So it's possibly in my case, seeing a boost in rank after embedding videos was not because of any SEO boost you get from videos, but rather just it changed how my readers interacted with my site in general? I don't know and I have no idea how to even find out.
So, I don't know, I don't have any wide sweeping research, just my own results on my own site, but from what I saw it did appear to be some truth to the advice to embed YouTube videos, to gain rank boost, but it may not be for the reasons they had said. No clue if embedding videos will have any long term SEO effects or not. What I did find out though was that my own readers, were more likely to visit my SBI site then my YouTube channel and so, the videos I embed on my site ended up with more views then the ones just free floating on my channel. I asked my FB followers about it, and a lot of them replied back to say they were more likely to look to my website for updates, and watch my videos there. Most of them seemed to think of YouTube as "for kids/teens" and were not in the habit of going to YouTube (most of my readers are in the 50+ age group).
In the end is wasn't an SEO incentive, but rather just asking my readers what they prefered, that resulted in my decision to start embedding videos on my site. Which is why I've since started making a vlog to match each of my pages on my site. Sooner or later every page on my site will end up with it's own matching YouTube video. That's the current goal at least. Don't know how long it'll take me to achieve it.
But perhaps, you could ask your own readers/viewers about it? You mention live streaming on FB, so maybe, do a question and answer livestream to get their feedback on what specifically they want to see you do?
I know for me, when I'm given the choice of doing what is seen as "recommended for SEO" vs what my own readers have told me they would like to see me do, I chuck the SEO advice out the window and do what makes my own readers happy.
I look at it this way: Sure, my youtube channel is small and my site readers are likewise not a big crowd, but they are already here and I've more incentive to keep them here, then I do to bring in more. So rather then trying to please the masses, I focus on the loyal people who are already here.
That's why you'll see me make weird site changes like when I removed my nava bar last month and replaced it instead with large font text links instead. This was a result of asking my FB followers about site changes, and being told by one of my 98 year old male readers, that he couldn't grasp how to use a nava bar. He tried to click, and it'd drop down a menus, then he'd move the mouse to read the drop down and it'd vanish. He was very frustrated by this. Then a few women in their 70s chimed in to agree, stating they too avoided site that used the drop down style nava bars for the same reason.
Now, sure if I was aiming at teens and young adults, maybe removing the nanabar would have been site suicide, but, the bulk of my site visitors are readers of my novels and I write Monster Porn and the bulk of Monster Porn readers are women 65 or older. I've meet many of my fans in person, even been on some of their 50+ Group bus trips with them. So, I know for a fact that a lot of my readers are 70s, 80s, and 90s. and they are not computer savy like the 20 somethings. They are not cruising youTube search, they are not quickly zipping the mouse around. They struggle with basic site maneuvering. So the navabar went bye-bye, and a list of great big giant bold text links replaced it. And now they are much happier, said they can move around my site better now and are glad that someone took the time to actually listen to their concerns and do something o to fix issues that were frustrating them.
So, yeah, a bit off topic from videos, but, you can see my point, right? What is good for SEO, may not always be what is good for your site's target audience. So while doing things to improve SEO is always good, it's far better to know your audience and get their feedback instead. It's possible that doing a thing that improves SEO, might make their user experience not so good, and in the end, SEO don't mean squat if it hampers your target audience's ability to enjoy what you are offering.
It's like how Ken keeps telling us not to be numbers bound with keywords, and saying to focus on the people not the robots. I think it applies to everything in our sites, not just keywords. And so, in the end, I keep hearing how embedding videos is good for SEO, but, at the same time, I've also asked my long time readers, what they wanted, and in the end, it became not a choice of: "Do I embed video to make Google happy?" but instead "Do I embed videos to make my readers happy?"