YouTube Analytics: 10 Key Metrics to Track and Improve Video Performance

youtube analytics

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world after Google. And if video is part of your marketing strategy, then you’ve probably already invested time, effort, and creativity into videos for your own YouTube channel.

In other posts, we've provided a comprehensive guide to starting a YouTube channel for your business and reasons why ecommerce product videos will increase sales.

But in order to make the most of YouTube as a platform to engage your customers, you can also mine YouTube Analytics (click here to visit your dashboard) for a treasure trove of insights to improve the performance of your videos.

Here are 10 metrics worth tracking and how to analyze them to achieve long term success with your YouTube channel.

1. Understand Watch Time

youtube analytics what is watch time

There’s no denying that Views are an important metric for determining the success of a YouTube video.

But while they’re one indicator of performance, Views alone won’t give you enough information to make significant improvements to your YouTube videos, nor does YouTube put a lot of stock in them given the prevalence of clickbait tactics that often inflate View count.

Instead, views should be analyzed alongside a more important metric that’s key to getting on the good side of YouTube’s algorithm: Watch Time.

From Youtube’s perspective, Watch Time, or the estimated total minutes spent viewing your content, is more important than a raw view. The updated Analytics dashboard makes this clear by dedicating an entire section to this new, more telling metric of video performance.

Both Watch Time and Views, however, are really only useful indicators when analyzed alongside other data that can help you improve the discoverability and quality of your content, as we’ll explore further down in this post.

2. Keep an Eye on Your Real-Time Report

youtube analytics real time report

YouTube verifies View count to remove spammy and low quality views from the total. There’s often a 2-day lag in the number of views that YouTube displays both publicly and in your dashboard.

That’s why the Real-Time report for your channel is essential for measuring the reach of your videos early on. This report gives you the estimated number of views from the last 48 hours and the last 60 minutes, across your channel or for specific videos.

YouTube’s Real Time report isn’t just exciting to watch each time you upload a new video or promote it through one of your owned or paid channels. Keeping an eye on this tab in the Analytics dashboard can also help you discover spikes in views that suggest someone has shared your video with a new audience, say, on Reddit or another social network.

These moments present good opportunities to stoke the fire and garner more traction for your video by engaging with the poster,thread, or publication before things go cold.

If you notice a spike in your real-time report, you can use the following Google search query to try to identify where your videos have been shared outside of YouTube and find an opportunity to engage:

YOUTUBE-ID (e.g. ImRJ76klNTc

3. Identify Your Traffic Sources

When analyzing your video's reach, it's important to figure out precisely where your viewers are coming from.

In your YouTube Analytics panel, on the Traffic Sources page, you’re presented with another graph displaying various sources of traffic, along with the total amount per source. This reveals how your viewers are finding your videos.

Here's what it looks like:

youtube analytics traffic sources report

This report allows you to determine which source of traffic is most beneficial to you across your entire channel and for each individual video you create. Don’t just look at the number of views they’re generating—not all sources will give you the same quality of traffic.

For example, if your video is attracting high quality views via YouTube search, you can begin to implement ways to further optimize your video or future content to show up for the keywords people might use to discover your content.

Use this view to determine which traffic sources are important to your video promotion strategy, and which sources need to be worked on.

4. Determine Your Audience Demographics

To get a better understanding of your audience, head over to the Demographics page of your YouTube analytics.

These interactive graphs allow you to visualise who is consuming your videos, using dimensions like age, gender, geography, device, and more.

youtube analytics demographics

Ecommerce product videos will almost certainly reach a portion of customers who were unreachable to you via conventional search engines. Reviewing the age and gender of your video audience may offer new information to build your future product videos upon.

In the 'Demographics' page, you can also discover where in the world your viewers are watching. Simply go to the “More” tab and look for “Geography”.

youtube analytics geography

Many industries are not particularly bothered by the geographical variations in their video audience. A viewer is a viewer. However, as an ecommerce business, the location of your potential customers could be of great interest to you if you plan to reach them with targeted ads or content.

To delve further into the geographic statistics, you can select each individual country, displaying a new age and gender graph for that particular country. Using this information, you can create location-specific videos in the future if you notice any geographic trends.

5. Pay Attention To Playback Locations

Determining where your videos are being viewed can help you understand how your audience is discovering your content. Are they searching and finding it through YouTube itself or via external websites?

The Playback Locations page presents your total views based on where the video was played. Your views will be divided between YouTube Channel page, YouTube Watch Page, Embedded Video and Mobile Devices.

By reviewing which location is serving you best, you can determine both your video's popularity on and off YouTube. This will give you an indication as to whether you need to spend more time on YouTube optimization, or whether the real opportunities is getting your videos embedded on external websites and blogs.

6. Analyse Audience Retention

Monitoring your views over time is important, but evaluating the quality of your views is paramount to success.

By opening up your Audience Retention page, you'll be able to uncover the exact times in your video when people stopped watching. Using this information, you can figure out where you lost your viewers’ attention and what may have caused them to leave, which helps you prevent similar mistakes in the future.

Take a look at the Audience Retention graph below.

youtube analytics audience retention report

We can see that the average view duration is 1:13 which is about 84% of the entire video. This might seem great, but it’s also a short video by YouTube’s standards. You’ll inevitably see a more significant drop-off in longer videos.

You get two main views in this report, which you can switch between using the tabs above the graph:

  • Absolute audience retention: This graph shows you what specific parts in your video are the most popular by looking at the number of views for that moment as a percentage of the total number of video views. Through this, you can identify certain viewer behaviors, such as skimming past the introduction.
  • Relative audience retention: This report lets you compare your video against other YouTube videos of a similar length to see whether yours is below or above average in terms of how it keeps a viewer’s attention throughout.

If you can pinpoint a particular time in your video where you suddenly lose a large percentage of viewership. You can then determine what your video is conveying at that time to trigger such a negative response, or incorporate a call to action before that point to capture viewers before you lose them.

The audience retention page only allows you to see the analytics for one video at a time, not for your channel as a whole. It’s a good idea to assess a number of your videos to discover patterns of issues that can be addressed or if you need to shake up your video format entirely.

7. Track Your Subscriber Rate

YouTube Subscribers in an ecommerce context can be potential or existing customers with an interest in your products or niche of content.

So it is also important to monitor the fluctuations of your subscriber base. This will allow you to understand the overall reach of your YouTube content as a whole, as opposed to a single video and how each video contributes to gaining or losing subscribers.

Under the Subscribers report you can view the amount of subscribers you lost or gained on a video-by-video basis.

youtube analytics subscriber rate

This one's pretty obvious: The more subscribers you have, the more people there are to potentially see your channel’s video content through the Subscriptions stream on the YouTube homepage. Thus, the more exposure your products and brand will get.

Using calls to action in the form of YouTube cards or a pitch that you record as part of your video can go a long way towards gaining subscribers.

Aside from your Subscriber rate, you can also calculate your Subscriber ratio for a video by dividing the number of views by the net subscriber gain. If you’ve a video that performs particularly well in terms of generating subscribers, consider investing more time (or money) in promoting it.

8. Study Social Shares

Social media can play a big role in promoting your videos. So it’s smart to to take note of who is sharing your content and how.

When you click on the Sharing page in YouTube Analytics, you can view the number of shares you have received over time and on a variety of platforms, from social networks to messaging apps.

youtube analytics sharing report

In the report above, you can see this example video is being shared mostly through private messaging apps, something that you might not expect or otherwise be able to track.

Take steps to incorporate your video content into your social media strategy to boost the effectiveness of sharing, especially where your audience is already sharing your videos.

9. Monitor Comments

Comments are a key component of audience engagement. Keeping tabs on who is commenting and what they’re saying can help you convert viewers into customers or at the very least increase engagement for that video or other content.

By clicking on the Comments tab of the YouTube Analytics section, you'll see the frequency and dates of your comments, as well as a section dedicated to displaying your total amount of comments on each video.

While these numbers are interesting, the Community section is also useful for acting on opportunities to engage with your audience and getting qualitative feedback.

youtube analytics comments

Look for chances to:

  • Delight your viewers with insight or an amusing remark.
  • Highlight any products or services you sell.
  • Direct viewers to other related content or resources you’ve created.

It’s important to portray your brand as an approachable and engaging one. Try to respond to comments on your video in a helpful fashion. This will also help increase your total comments, a good indicator to viewers of an engaging video.

You can even pin one of your comments to the top to direct your audience to relevant parts of your website.

10. Check Your Likes and Dislikes

Likes and dislikes exemplify viewer feedback on your videos.

By clicking on the Likes and Dislikes page, you can analyze viewer reactions over time. While it is important to pay attention to your dislikes, as you obviously want to minimize them, dislikes are inevitable and should be viewed relative to the number of likes you’ve gotten.

youtube analytics likes and dislikes report

If your videos are getting a lot of Dislikes, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did your video fail to deliver on what was promised in the title?
  • Are you reaching the wrong audience?
  • Do you need to improve your production quality or delivery?
  • Are people simply disagreeing with what you’re saying?

You can often find the reason for a disproportionate number of dislikes in the comments so you’ll know what changes you can make in the future.

Additional YouTube Analytics Tools

Of course, your built-in YouTube Analytics dashboard isn’t the only source of data you have at your disposal.

There are other third party websites and tools that can help you understand YouTube:

  • Social Blade: If you’ve ever wondered about your competitors, potential partners, or role models on YouTube, you can use Social Blade to gain some insight into how other channels are performing and compare them to your own.
  • VidIQ: This Chrome extension displays a score card next to the video you’re watching on YouTube, offering in-depth insights at a glance to help you understand what works in YouTube as you go about using the platform.
  • Google Trends (YouTube filter): Google Trends let you analyze search volume trends to find opportunities to create content around trending topics. Now with its new YouTube filter, you can analyze search trends specifically on YouTube.

As a creator or a marketer, data is a gift that you shouldn’t ignore. Otherwise you’re shooting in the dark every time, unaware of whether you’re getting closer to or further away from your target.

Do you have another YouTube Analytics strategy that you use to measure your performance? What have you found that works for creating and promoting your YouTube content? Share your tips and ideas in the comments section below. 😀

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness to reflect changes to the YouTube platform.