Last updated on August 27, 2020

Successful on YouTube on a Budget

Video marketing is a more than $135 billion industry—and is going to continue to get bigger. Every year more people are watching more videos. Video marketing is an effective tool for any business.

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YouTube Thumbnails

Whatever search term you plug into YouTube, you’ll be shown hundreds and sometimes thousands of videos.

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Last updated on August 3, 2020

Video marketing is a more than $135 billion industry—and is going to continue to get bigger. Every year more people are watching more videos. Video marketing is an effective tool for any business.

This is also a fast-moving industry. Every day there are new tools, tricks, and tips for gaining attention. But, one fact about video marketing is not going to change anytime soon.

Although others such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter should not be ignored, YouTube is still the most important platform for video.


If you want to make money with video you need to learn how to succeed on YouTube. Many new video marketers get intimidated by the amount of competition on the platform.

The good news is, you can have a lot of success on YouTube without spending a lot of money.

You don’t need the best camera, an expensive green screen, or a private studio to make it big on YouTube. You can have success on YouTube on a budget if you follow and master a few basic principles.

Most Important Elements to YouTube Success

Success on YouTube is about attracting eyeballs to your content. The most successful content is rarely the videos with the highest production value.

Instead, the marketers that have the most success on YouTube focus on just three elements:

  1. Ranking Videos
  2. Subscribers and funneling viewers elsewhere
  3. Authenticity and Mindset

You can become an expert in all three of these areas without spending a lot of money.

Many successful marketers have made six-figures by mastering these elements and using their laptop webcam or the camera on their smartphone.

People are not watching YouTube for the special effects or the high production values. People are tuning into YouTube to get answers to a question or to be entertained.


That’s why learning these three elements is so critical to your success. Each element is about attracting eyeballs to your content and keeping them interested in watching your channel. 

Ranking Videos

YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine. It also happens to be owned by Google, the world’s largest search engine. If you want to be successful people have to be able to find your content. You have to be able to rank your videos.

This is where many people get scared. They think they can never make videos that are good enough to compete with the millions of videos on the site. But, ranking videos isn’t actually about quality.

It is all about SEO. A specific kind of SEO though, not what most folk would have you believe.

To rank in YouTube, you do not need:

  • An Authority Channel (though this helps in other ways)
  • Backlinks
  • Embeds
  • Social Signals such as Tweets or Facebook likes

So what do you need to do?

If you want to rank your videos and you have a limited budget, you need to focus on:

  • Channel and Video optimization (SEO)
  • Amount of Content
  • Click Through Rate (CTR)

Channel and Video SEO

You greatly improve your chances at being successful if you choose a niche and keywords with high demand and low competition Click To Tweet

Firstly, you want to make sure your content pops up when those keywords entered into the search bar.

You have to be able to optimize the metadata on your videos to help them popup in search engines.

Most important of all, you need each video you post to be keyword optimized. You don’t want to keyword stuff. That is not an effective tactic and it turns people off from watching your videos.

But, everything from individual video titles to the individual video tags need to have valuable keywords that make sense for your content and ideal audience.

If you can master YouTube SEO you will be miles ahead of most of the competition.

SEO though goes beyond just using the right keywords. 

You also want to get people to share your videos because the YouTube algorithm love videos that have external sources of traffic.

Note: Backlinks are needed to get your videos ranked on Google, but are not necessary for ranking on YouTube. 

Amount of Content

You cannot be successful on YouTube with just a handful of videos unless you have money to spend on paid advertising. This post is for those on a budget though.

Now, of course you can rank a video if it is the only video on a channel if you know what you are doing, but for overall success, you’ll want to be able to rank multiple videos. Many streams make a river.

People have short attention spans and a voracious appetite for new content. That means you have to constantly be posting new videos.

This does not mean everyday as that is simply unsustainable for most. but 2-3 times a week is a good amount to aim for.

Another reason the amount of content you have matters so much is that being a successful video marketer is a numbers game.

The more optimized content you have out there, the more chances there are for you to attract people ready and willing to watch your content and spend money.

The more videos you have the better your odds are at a few of them going viral.

If you look at the top ranked channels on YouTube you will see that they all have hundreds, if not thousands, of videos.

Top 10


Now, you aren’t really competing against these major players. But, they can give you an idea of the scale you need to be as successful as you want to be.

If you have a limited budget, you can still be extremely successful on YouTube, but you will have to put in the time.

Money is really a way to shortcut the time you have to spend. In the beginning, before you have begun to generate any money from your videos, you will need to put in the sweat equity to be successful.

Click Through Rate (CTR)

The main key to ranking your videos on YouTube is managing your click through rate. If people are finding and clicking on your videos more than your competition, then you will rank. Period.

The YouTube algorithm wants to match people with videos they are going to watch. Videos that have a higher CTR will get featured more prominently and will rank higher in searches.

Two things you can do to boost your click through rate are to write captivating titles and to make sure your video thumbnails pop.

Your video titles need to do more than just have the right keywords. They also need to evoke an emotional response in the person searching for information.

Think of the titles you see on the magazines in the grocery checkout aisle. Those headlines on the covers sell a lot of magazines. You can use that same technique to get people to click on your video.

A title like “7 Secrets to Rapid Weight Loss Hiding in Your Freezer” is more likely to get clicks than a title like “Rapid Weight Loss Ideas”. The keywords are the same, but the first one is sexier.

Video is powerful because it is visual. It is easier for people to absorb the information in a video than in simply reading text.

If you want to improve the click through rate on your videos, you also need to make the thumbnails interesting and appealing.

YouTube Thumbnail

The thumbnails are like small ads for your content.

Earlier we posted detailed instructions on how to get the right thumbnail for your YouTube videos. You can read it here.

You can also add meta data to your thumbnails prior to uploading.

Once you have SEO titles and thumbnails that are sexy, a healthy amount of content, and compelling thumbnails, you will see your video rankings improve dramatically.

But, this is only part of the success equation.


Subscribers are also critical to your success. One of the first rules of business is that it costs less to sell to existing customers than to attract new customers. When it comes to YouTube, subscribers are like your existing customers.

Subscribers will get alerts when you post new content and are more likely to watch your videos all the way through and to take action on your content.

Subscribers help you boost your video rankings by increasing your CTR and give you social proof that helps you attract more viewers.

It is a virtuous cycle. But, how do you grow your subscriber list in the first place?

You have to consciously make adding subscribers a goal. You can do this by:

  • Making Sure Every Video Provides Value
  • Give People a Reason to Come Back
  • Ask People to Subscribe

Auto Subscription Link

When asking people to subscribe, a special subscription link should be provided each and every time you want to promote your channel. This will allow people to auto subscribe.

How do you do this?

You need to add a modifier you add to the end of your channel URL to create a special link.

Here’s how that works:


  1. Go to your YouTube url/channel name. Here is an example:
  1. Copy and paste or type in the modifier ?sub_confirmation=1 at the end of your channel name to look like this:
  1. Now use this as a link for your audience to automatically subscribe to your YouTube channel.

You can use a link shortener if you’d prefer to make the link nicer. For WordPress users we recommend the free plugin Pretty Links.

Provide Value

Just about everyone online is afraid of commitment. Subscribing to a YouTube channel may not seem like a huge commitment, but for many people it is a big step.

They are committing to getting alerts about your content.

If you want people to make that commitment you have to be proving them with great value. Every video you post should solve a problem or at least get people one step closer to solving a problem.

Fluff content won’t get people to subscribe.

If you want people to be excited to hear from you, make sure every video over delivers on the information it provides.

Tease Upcoming Content

You need to give people a reason to come back to your channel. One way to increase subscribers is to tease the content you will be releasing soon.

You don’t need to create a movie trailer, but you should your videos by letting people know what you will be talking about next.

This will motivate them to subscribe so that they don’t miss your next useful video.

This tactic only works if your videos are actually delivering on the promises you made in the title, video description, and the last teaser.

Call to Action

The most important part of increasing your subscriber base is inviting people to subscribe. It sounds obvious, but many marketers forget to include a call to action to subscribe in their videos.

Call to action

People are busy. Most people watching your videos will be doing two or three different things while your video is on. You need to help them focus by delivering a clear call to action.

One of the most effective methods is to end the video with a recap of the value you provided, a tease of upcoming content, and a call to action to subscribe so they don’t miss valuable content from you in the near future.

Authenticity and Mindset

If you search for inspirational quotes about success you will find most of them focus on success being a journey or a process.

The truth is, if you are willing to put in the work and gradually improve over time, you can succeed at anything—YouTube is no different.

You need the right mindset to be successful. You also need to be authentic. There might be thousands of people in your niche, but there is only one you. Click To Tweet

Once you learn to tap into the power of your own story you will find YouTube to be more emotionally and financially rewarding.

Forget Being Perfect

Your first videos are going to suck. That’s okay. If you wait to get started on YouTube until you make the perfect video you will never get started.

If all you have is the camera on your phone, that’s enough to get started. With very video you shoot and post, you will gain more skills and more confidence.

In a year from now you will be a little embarrassed by your first videos. But, that will be because you have iterated and improved. If you can get a little better with every video, you will be unstoppable.

Remember, success on YouTube is, in part, a numbers game. Get started now and don’t stop posting and improving.

Connect Emotionally with Your Audience

Successful businesses in every industry and niche have one thing in common. They connect emotionally with their customers. This is true for cars and microchips.

You want to build trust and to show your audience you understand their fears and their problems.

If you have can connect emotionally with your audience, you can write your own check. People will be happy to do whatever you ask them to do.

But, if you seem fake, boring, or disinterested in them they will ignore you and move onto to something else.

Understand Your Why

You can succeed on YouTube with a limited budget. But, it is going to take work and focus. Not every day is going to be great. You need something that keeps you going when things are slow.

You need to have a powerful “why” behind you. Why are you on YouTube. You need something beyond just a desire to make money. That’s not powerful enough.

Video motivation

Maybe you want more time to spend with your family. Maybe you want an income stream that gives you the freedom to travel the world. Maybe you are passionate about helping as certain segment of people.

Whatever it is, you need to make sure you have good grasp on why you are doing what you are doing.

When things get tough, your why will give you the energy and motivation to keep pushing forward until you break through and achieve the success you were meant to have.

Video Creation

By following what we have spoken about so far, you have every chance your videos will be found. Especially if you pay attention to your titles and thumbnails. 

You will also come across as authentic.

But of course, you still need to have a way of creating your videos.

There are a ton of choices out there but if you are on a budget, what can you do?

Popular solutions like Camtasia, while recommended, aren’t exactly cheap.

And the mass of softwares released to a hungry market in the Make money online arena are almost never supported nor stand the test of time.

Luckily you do not need a ton of equipment.

Video equipment

But most of you reading this will have access to a smartphone. And many computers will have a built in webcam.

These two options will allow you to create a variety of videos:

  • Talking head
  • Screen recordings
  • Live events (doable from your smart phone with the YouTube App)

If your budget allows, you can splash out on a selfie stick or small tripod for stability should you want to up your game a little.

For lighting, use the best source available. The sun!

Either record outside or in a room with good sunlight.

For now, if money is tight, you’ll need to use the built in mic that you have. But once you have some spare coin, we do recommend investing in a sturdy mic such as the Blue Yeti.

How to make money from your videos on a budget?

The ultimate aim of all of this is to make some money.  Doing this will allow you to re-invest into tools and softwares to take your video marketing to another level and perhaps invest into paid advertising.

At first, the obvious choice is to go the Adsense route. Now, it can be difficult to make anything worthwhile unless you have a massive following, it is free to get started and you do not need any external tools.

The trouble with this method, is that it takes a long time and a lot of traffic to see any worthwhile results.

Adsense is great niches like Nursery Rhymes or areas related to children but for most it is not worth the effort.

So what else can you do?

Alternative List Building?

A great way to approach this if you are on a budget is to take advantage of other social media such as Facebook. And don’t worry, we are not going to be doing stuff on our personal profile.

Facebook groups (not pages) are a great way to build a list of sorts. Not the traditional list which will involve forking out on an autoresponder and landing page tools, but a list of people who you can funnel into a Facebook group.

Costs nothing by the way.

facebook groups

You can link out to your group and mention it in verbal calls to action. The more folk you can get to join your group the better. And, you’ll find that many folk are more active on Facebook than YouTube so you end up killing two birds with one stone.

The key to a successful Facebook group is showing up everyday. It can be tough at first when the only person liking your posts is you. But keep at it.

Facebook groups are free and simple to set up and you can now charge folk to join

Note: Not all niches are on Facebook. If your YouTube channel is about herpes, do not expect a big crowd on Facebook. In that case, the traditional email list would be the best way to go.

All that said, if you are on a budget and want to venture into video marketing, all is not lost. It’ll just take a bit more patience and dedication. 

Affiliate marketing

A final option is to link out to related affiliate offers in the description of your videos. To make the most of this opportunity you should:

  • Ensure the link is in the first two lines of the description
  • Works (test it)
  • Is not too long. Use a shortener service (helps to track clicks as well)
  • Ensure all your videos have an affiliate disclaimer. Set this up in the upload defaults as highlighted below:

upload defaults


So, in short you can be a success on YouTube on a budget if you follow our steps. It may just take you a bit longer than those who have some cash to spend to get the ball rolling.

PS…If you found value in this post, then we would appreciate it if you shared it on Facebook.


Last updated on February 27, 2021

Whatever search term you plug into YouTube, you’ll be shown hundreds and sometimes thousands of videos.

Naturally, we are inclined to watch the video that is ranked number one most of the time.

The fact that we do helps that video to stay at top spot. Why?

Well, one of, if the not THE most important factor when it comes to ranking, is the Click Through Ratio (CTR) of your video.

Put simply, if more folk are clicking on the video, then that is sending a message to YouTube that the video is of value. In turn, Youtube will reward this video with a ranking. Click To TweetCTR isn’t the only factor that aids in ranking though.

We also have watch time, retention rate (how long the person stays on your video) and engagement (likes, comments and subscribes).

Get all these down, at least more than your competitors, and you win.

Fail, and you lose. Simple!

Herein lies the problem though:

What Get’s the click?

When you enter a search term into Youtube and see the results, how do you decide what to watch?


If you are like 99.9% of other homo sapiens, then Titles and Thumbnails.

People are attracted to the image (thumbnail) and the title of the video. Get these two right and you have every chance of getting the desired result.

So as this post is all about YouTube thumbnails, let’s get cracking.

YouTube Thumbnails

Thumbnails play a huge role in what viewers decide to click on. 

Viewers click on thumbnails that feel relevant to their search as well as those that stand out from the crowd.

Standing out from the crowd

And as a content creator, you need to be constantly testing and tweaking various thumbnail designs in order to drive and compel viewers to click on your videos.

Your task, when it comes to creating YouTube thumbnails, is to make something that does this, while also maintaining your own unique style.


Let’s start from the beginning though.

What exactly is a Thumbnail?

YouTube thumbnails are the small clickable images that a viewer clicks on to look at videos.

A bit like these:

Now, from the above you can decide which one ‘you’ are more likely to click on.

Some thumbnails use text, others gross images for shock attention grabbing, and others different techniques.

The attractiveness of your thumbnail along with the title will be the main determining factor as to whether your video gets the click.

And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

A great thumbnail can make up for a lower ranking, and, over time, actually force your video up the search engine because it will ‘force’ more people to click on it.

In addition, it’s important to note that people have short attention spans. Speaking of short attention spans, here is a free gift for you. Grab your list of profitable Youtube niches by clicking the below image:

You still here? Good.

So, while people are supposedly watching a video, they may also be scrolling down the right hand side (suggested videos area).

If your video is there, and has an amazing thumbnail and title, you may well be able to ‘steal the click’.

A ton of Youtube’s  traffic comes from the suggested videos on the right hand side.

What happens if you do not make a Thumbnail?

If you are lazy and cannot be bothered to make a custom thumbnail, what happens?

Whenever you upload a video to Youtube, you will find that 3 still shots are chosen at random like in the image below (look to the right side of the image).


The three images in the above picture are all still shots from my video, but look plain and hardly rouse excitement.

If I were lazy, I could do nothing and one of those three images would be used as my thumbnail by default. This saves time but my video would not stand out from the crowd at all.

By adding a custom thumbnail, I am able to at least make the video appear better and potentially get more clicks (even with my anti-model looks).

How to Make a YouTube Thumbnail? Best YouTube Thumbnail Maker

If you want to make a Custom Thumbnail for your YouTube videos, then you’ll need a tool to proceed.

Now if you are competent with photoshop, all good, but it’s not always necessary to pay for a software in order to make a decent image.

One free tool that we recommend is

This is a web-based software that allows you to create images for all your social media needs, including YouTube thumbnails.

Here is a simple tutorial:

If you need royalty free photos for your thumbnail creation you can use the services at:

Canva does have a library of free (and paid) images that you can use but the aforementioned sites will give you more than enough to use. Simply upload them to Canva, then drag and drop to design your thumbnail.

You can of course just outsource the creation of your thumbnails to someone on a website like Fiverr.

If you do, make sure to choose someone wisely after reading the reviews and provide them with all the information they need to proceed.

For example, provide a few shots of yourself, your logo plus give guidelines of the video topic and the colouring required.

Once you find a good designer, you’ll be able to use them over and over again.

How to Upload a YouTube Thumbnail

When you upload a new video to YouTube, you will see a Custom thumbnail option under Video thumbnails after your upload is complete. 

Click on that and choose your thumbnail from your computer.

If you want to add a custom thumbnail to a video that has already been uploaded, that’s easy too.

  1. Go to your Video Manager in the Creator Studio.
  2. Find the video you want to change the thumbnail for and click Edit next to it.
  3. Click Custom thumbnail on the right of the preview screen.
  4. Upload your thumbnail and click Save changes.

YouTube Thumbnail Size

Regarding the image size, you’ll need to use a .JPG, .GIF, .BMP, or .PNG image with an aspect ratio of 16:9 and your file size has to be under 2MB.

YouTube recommends that thumbnail images have a resolution of 1289x720px, and you cannot upload an image with a width of less than 640 pixels.

Make sure that all of your thumbnails follow YouTube’s Community guidelines. In other words, use common sense.

Ninja tip: 

For a bit of added SEO, you can add your keywords to the Meta Data of your image prior to uploading.

10 Tips on How to Make Thumbnails That Get Clicks 

1. Show What Your Video Is About

Being clickbaity can get you views, but it can also be very annoying if the thumbnail is not congruent with the video. Even if you manage to get some clicks by being overly hyped, you’ll end up with a low retention rate as people will not actually watch much of the video once they realize what you pulled.

This will adversely affect your ranking so it’s not worth it.

Be honest in your thumbnails as well as catching the eye.  

If your video is a product review, show the product in the thumbnail and maybe even write ‘review’ on it. If your video is a teeth whitening video , show your before and after gnashers.  

2. Use a Consistent Layout

Where possible, really try to use similar fonts, colours, backgrounds etc. Especially if you are creating playlists (groups of videos that have a similar topic).

Let’s say you are in the weight loss niche.

You could have one similar set of thumbnails for your ‘weight loss for kids’ videos, another for your ‘weight loss for men over 40’ videos and so on.  

Creating repeated patterns in your thumbnail design helps as the human eye is drawn to patterns.

When you create a complete thumbnail design that you repeat over multiple thumbnails and those show up together in suggested videos or the search location on YouTube, they’re going to stand out.

So incorporate and leverage the same colors and fonts again and again.

Like these from the Cartoon Hangover channel:

3. Use Your Face

Even though you may be no supermodel, people are subscribing because of the value, education and/or entertainment value you bring.

Sure they may be keen on dog training or survival, but there are other channels they could be watching and they are subscribed to you for a reason.

They are attracted to your personality and your sense of humor. So do not be shy about putting yourself in the thumbnail.

Of course you do not have to do this, but it’s not something you need to avoid either.

Some of the best thumbnails include a close up of a face  (preferably yours if you are the brand). Face pulling is fine and we recommend a transparent .PNG image.

For the best results, we advocate close ups, and a variety of differing facial expressions. Some for fun, others more serious.

4. Your Text Should Be LARGE BABY

One tendency many folk have is to try and cram too much text onto the thumbnail. You have to remember that when your thumbnail is on Youtube, it’ll be much smaller than when you are creating it.

The text needs to be large, readable and make sense. You do not need the whole phrase. Viewers don’t ‘read’ thumbnails on YouTube.

Viewers comprehend. They ‘understand’ what the image is about. 

All the above videos are about the same topic, but the bottom two are too ‘text full’. There is a lot going on and potential viewers will not read the whole thing.

Text is good, just use it wisely.

5. Check Out The Competition

Type your video’s title or topic into the search engine on YouTube and look at the thumbnails for the videos that come up. These are your competition.

You want to make a thumbnail that is similar enough to what comes up that viewers know it’s on the same topic, but different enough that it stands out.

Generally, if most of the thumbnails have the same layout, you’ll not want to stray too far but still add your own unique personality.

6. Colours are King ( and Queen)

Avoid soft pastel colours and go for bright and saturated colours. Simple!

And if you can, avoid YouTube colours such as Red, white and black as these can often blend in and not stand out (just as it is not advisable to use Blue when advertising on Facebook).

Thumbnail colors

Green, Yellow, Brown are all great colours to use. So long as they are bright and stand out.

Even Youtube has said that a thumbnail that stands out will help you get a better click through ratio. So do just that!

7. Lines

Diagonal lines win over straight ones . If you look at some of the best thumbnails out there, few have basic square borders. The best ones incorporate a kind of diagonal line to separate the elements. 

If you have one,  add your logo to your thumbnails. This only adds to the consistency and that’s a good thing.

9. The Title is Vital

Look at the image below:

video titles

Look at the titles from video #1 and #3 from the above example. Number three is boring and bland. It may have the keyword in the title, but that’s all.

Number 1 has the keyword PLUS the phrase ‘3 soccer kicks you must know’. This invokes curiosity. What are these 3 kicks? Better watch the video to find out.


Use these things in your title to make them stand out:

  • Curiosity based phrases
  • [Brackets]
  • The Year (just keep your video title up to date by changing it each year)
  • Emojis (use sparingly)
  • Questions

So, that just about wraps up this Video Marketing Insider post on YouTube thumbnails.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it on Social Media and get to work creating eye-catching thumbnails to get better results with your videos. Thanks…