This is Why People Put Arrows on YouTube Thumbnails

This is Why People Put Arrows on YouTube Thumbnails

Whether you’re simply a lover of YouTube and enjoy sifting through countless videos day in and day out or you’re planning on becoming a YouTuber yourself, one thing that may have caught your eye is the infamous YouTube thumbnail with an arrow on it. What do these arrows mean, though? Is there a reason for this pointer, or is it a scam?

Why do YouTube Thumbnails Have Arrows? Some people will place arrows strategically in YouTube video thumbnails to get more views. And while it may work temporarily, these arrows are often used for ‘clickbait’ and will do more harm than good in the long run.

Consider using a YouTube Thumbnail Maker to make eye-catching thumbnails without relying on arrows or clickbait.

If you have ever wondered why there are arrows plastered all over some people’s videos, you have come to the right place. There is a lot that goes into these arrows. Whether they are needed or warranted or not, well, that will come down to the creator. As the consumer, you will be able to understand the infamous arrow and perhaps why you should avoid it.

» MORE: How To Make a Custom YouTube Thumbnail [YouTube Tutorial]

What is a YouTube Thumbnail?

Well, before we can dip into the world of arrows, it is important to know what a thumbnail is first. Basically, when you finish uploading a video to YouTube, you will need to create a thumbnail of your video. This thumbnail is essentially what is going to make viewers want to click.

For instance, if you created a video about making cool Superman cupcakes, then your thumbnail might be a segment of your video that shows the end result and maybe you holding up the cupcake or some other cool things.

Now, there are a few ways to go about making your intriguing thumbnail. Some people will let YouTube decide when they are done creating their video, they will settle for the pre-selected thumbnail. Others will want to select which portion of their video to feature in the thumbnail.

On the other hand, some YouTubers will create an entirely new picture for their thumbnail. These will likely be strewn with lots of gimmicks, bright colors, words, and -you guessed it- arrows. These customized thumbnails are designed to draw the attention of the viewer to get more views on the video.

» MORE: How Long Does It Take YouTube To Change A Thumbnail?

Why do YouTube Thumbnails Have Arrows?

Now that you know what a thumbnail is and the different ways to create them, you are probably wondering why the arrow? What does that do for the viewer, and how does it benefit the YouTuber who created the video?

Well, let’s think about it this way: if you were going to the mall, and you were walking around and all of the sudden a store had a big display out front with arrows pointing to a 50% discount on all store items, you’re likely going to be drawn in. The same works for arrows on a YouTube thumbnail.

Arrows are placed on YouTube thumbnails to draw people’s attention. The arrows are likely going to be accompanied by some other attention-grabbing things, such as bright and flashy colors, some crazy and intriguing wording, and different types of emoticons and emojis that make people want to click.

The problem with arrows on YouTube thumbnails is that almost all the time, arrows are used for clickbait- and people hate clickbait.

» MORE: Blurry Thumbnails on YouTube Videos: What is the Deal?

Is an Arrow Clickbait?

Arrows on a YouTube thumbnail are almost always associated with clickbait, which is essentially just false advertising. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, people use a thumbnail that has nothing to do with their video.

For instance, someone trying to put together their Superman cupcake video might use something entirely different. Instead of being honest, they might use wording on their thumbnail like ‘Lady Gaga secretly loves these – here’s why.’ This will likely be surrounded by arrows, shocked faces, and maybe a little Superman cupcake in the corner, hidden away.

The problem with clickbait is that viewers are being lied to. They want to know what Lady Gaga secretly loves, but instead, they are watching you pour eggs, flour, and sugar into a bowl for 6 minutes. Did your views go up a lot? You bet. Did you maybe gain a few followers that love baking? Sure. Did you piss a lot of people off? Definitely.

» MORE: Are All YouTube Thumbnails Copyrighted?

Using Arrows for Good and Evil

While arrows are almost always associated with being a part of clickbait, it does not mean they have to be. After all, you have the option of using arrows in your videos in an honest manner. If you want to showcase your Superman cupcake and make it the main focus by surrounding it with arrows, then do it. You’re not lying- you are just trying to get more attention.

However, if you are using arrows as clickbait, it is definitely a short-term solution. The arrows will draw in a lot of attention right off the bat. Eventually, people will get mad and refuse to look at your other videos. That is the opposite of what you want to accomplish.

So, consider following these simple rules when using arrows in your thumbnail:

  • Avoid using clickbait to get attention with arrows. Remember, you are going to do a lot more harm than good if you’re lying to your viewers just to get views and likes. You may end up with a lot more negative reviews than positive- is it really worth it?
  • If you opt for clickbait, make it short-term. You want to gather some attention, but not enough so that you start being one of ‘those YouTubers’ who rely on gimmicks and scams to get more views for cash.
  • Use arrows for good. A few arrows are alright- as long as you are not lying to the viewers. Be real and use your arrows for good. Don’t overdo it, either. This is unprofessional. And, even if you are legit, you might still look like you are another clickbait YouTuber.
  • Rely on your content. Sure, arrows can be great when you are starting out. But the end goal is to bring views because people like your content. So it’s fine to have an eye-catching thumbnail, but don’t make it look like you’re trying to charm people into clicking.

Does YouTube Allow Clickbait?

Lying to viewers can feel like you are doing something wrong- and, well, you kind of are. But it is not ‘illegal’ or against the terms of use from YouTube. While they do not support clickbait, there are no penalties against doing it. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that using clickbait is going to disappoint, annoy, and anger viewers, so it’s best to avoid it.

The unfortunate truth, though, is that most YouTubers use clickbait in order to enhance their rank in the YouTube platform. That can make it easy to want to follow suit. But you, being the professional user with top-notch content, should know you do not have to rely on clickbait.

Instead, use arrows sparingly and do not settle for dishonesty when it comes to your thumbnail. Being catchy and fun in your thumbnail is one thing, but straight up lying is an entirely different thing- don’t be that person.


Arrows in a YouTube thumbnail are typically used with other types of clickbait. Sometimes, clickbait can be created as a downright lie to gather more views. However, you can use arrows as attention-grabbing tools in the YouTube lineup. The goal is to not lie with your arrows. Use them sparingly to maintain a professional appearance.

Rather than relying on clickbait, consider creating eye-catching, original, thumbnails using a graphic design tool like Placeit. You’ll be able to create custom mockups, unique designs, and then craft YouTube thumbnails from their plug-and-play YouTube Thumbnail Maker.

ps. Placeit also has free templates you can use anytime!

Creating genuinely awesome thumbnails will yield far better results, both in the short term and the long run.