How to Measure Video Content: A Guide to YouTube Analytics (Part 2)

If you’re jumping into bed with video, it makes sense that you’d use YouTube and YouTube Analytics. Founded in 2005 by former Paypal employees and then sold to Google a year later for over a billion dollars, YouTube has become the gold standard as a video-sharing site. As of March 2016, YouTube claims that the site:

  • Has more than 1 billion active users—almost one-third of all people on the internet
  • Reaches more 18–34 and 18–49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S.
  • Has an average viewing session of more than 40 minutes
  • Receives at least 50% of its views from mobile

So YouTube is a pretty smart platform to distribute your videos. Once you’ve created a strategy, executed and distributed it, you’ll want to see how it’s done. And luckily, YouTube offers comprehensive analytics tools and reports for you to measure your video marketing efforts. Here’s a simple guide to YouTube Analytics.

Integrating YouTube with Google Analytics

Sign into your YouTube account and click on “My Channel”, then click on Creator Studio. You are now in the Creator Studio, your headquarters for all the features and tools to manage videos, organize channels and, for the purpose of this post, check out YouTube’s Analytics, which you can click on the left panel.

Before we start clicking away, it’s important to remember that YouTube is owned by Google, which means your YouTube Analytics will integrate easily with other Google-owned products like Google Analytics, AdWords and so on. So you need to add YouTube to the rest of the family by adding your Google Analytics tracking code to all your Channel level pages.

Head over to Google Analytics. Click on the Admin tab at the top of the page. In the middle column of that page, you’ll see a button for Property Settings; click on that. This is where you’ll find your Tracking ID: UA-XXXXXXXX-X. Copy the Tracking ID and head back to YouTube’s Creator Studio.

In the left panel, click on Channel > Advanced. At the bottom of the Advanced page, paste the Tracking ID and click save. (You can also link your AdWords account above).

youtube analytics

Once you’ve saved, you are all set up. Your YouTube Channel will now be tracked as if it’s part of your website, though you may want to make adjustments in Google Analytics so that your YouTube data is separate from your website data.

Navigating YouTube Analytics

Once you’ve clicked on the Analytics page, you’ll see a complex system of metrics, charts and settings. Knowing these video metrics inside and out is essential for mastering this analytics software.

There are two types of reports that you should familiarize yourself with. The first is called Realtime, which gives you a current, real-time overview of your video views in the last 48 hours and is updated every 10 seconds. Reviewing this report helps you see how your videos are performing that day.

As far as big picture analytics go, you can’t get more big picture than the Overview report, which is the second report. It provides summaries of all available reports with options to get into specific reports to learn more. For marketers, the Overview report is the best starting point.

If you’re familiar with Google Analytics, the Overview report page will feel awfully familiar. Use the filters at the top to narrow the data you are looking at. These filters include, but are not limited to:

  • Content, which allows you to search for and set specific videos
  • Geography or location, which allows you to search for and set specific regions, countries or worldwide
  • Date or time frame, which allows you to chart data over various periods of time i.e. this week, last week, this month, last month, custom time zone
  • All uploaded video content or just playlists, which allows you to filter between the two
  • Subscribed or not subscribed, which allows you to filter between the two

There are several ways to segment the data here. One of YouTube Analytics’ best tools is the Comparison view, which allows you to add secondary filters to, well, compare. So you can compare data from March with data from February, or nonsubscriber views vs. subscriber views and so on. The Comparison tool makes it easy to see whether changes you’ve made to your content strategy, execution and distribution have made an impact.

It’s also worth noting that whenever you click on data, it will take you to that report page. Here, you can change the way to view that data to either a line chart, multi-line chart, stacked area, bar chart, pie chart or interactive map.

Watch Time

In the analytics panel, access Overview > Watch Time. Watch Time reports offer two main metrics for you to view: watch time and views. If you recall from Part 1, watch time, in video metrics speak, is the estimated total minutes of viewing time your audience spends on each of your videos. Views count more as impressions for the selected date range, region and other filters. You can also select the more metrics button to narrow the results even further.

youtube analytics

Below the visualized data, you can segment the Watch Time report by Video, Geography, Date, Subscription Status and Subtitles and Closed Captioning. So now you can see which videos had the most watch time or where people watched your videos the most or whatever else you are tracking.

youtube analytics

The Watch Time report is essential for monitoring session duration and impressions.

Audience Retention

Do you want to know if your audience is “hitting and quitting” your video content? Then study the Audience Retention Report (Overview > Audience Retention), which shows how much of your video your viewers watched before abandoning it. The average view duration and the average percentage of a video your audience watches are great starting tools.

However, if you want to dive deeper to pinpoint where exactly your audience is dropping off, you’ll want to focus on the “absolute audience retention” metric, a curve which shows the number of views for every moment of a video. Use the content filter at the top to isolate a video.

youtube analytics

This helps you see how often each moment of your video is being watched as a percentage of total views. According to YouTube, rewinding and rewatching can result in values higher than 100%, which can skew this percentage.

You can also filter by relative audience retention, which compares your data with the YouTube average for similar videos worldwide (even if you’ve selected data for a specific location). A graph that is lower/higher than the average indicates how many more viewers left/kept watching your video.

youtube analytics

Viewers are most likely to drop off within the first 15 seconds of a video, so pay attention to that time frame. Consider creating shorter videos or content with a strong hook to keep viewers interested.


For a more in-depth look at who your audience is, head over to Overview > Demographics. This report breaks down your audience by gender, age, and country location (and then breaks down gender and age demos by location).

youtube analytics

Local businesses should pay special attention to the Geographic information as you’ll want to monitor if local people are viewing your video.

Using the filters and Comparison tool at the top, you can isolate who’s watching which video and your audience demographics, which will inform if you need to include messaging for a younger or older demographic.

Playback Location

Did your video go viral? Was it embedded into other sites and you want to see how well it performed? Then you head here (Overview > Playback Location).

youtube analytics

The data breaks down the page of the site the video was viewed on, either the YouTube watch page, YouTube apps or websites and apps (including your own) that embed your videos. Note that before June 1, 2015, this data excluded video embedding on phone or tablet apps.

Playback Location reports help marketers determine who’s watching on their website vs. other websites, which can inform how they devise CTAs at the end of videos, for example.

Traffic Sources

For a marketer, where traffic is coming from is a pretty important question to ask and answer. With Traffic Sources (Overview > Traffic Sources), you can view the various means through which the viewer found your video. Think Google search, YouTube search, Playlists, etc. If you click on the source traffic results, you’ll get a further breakdown of geography, demographics, date, etc.

There’s no “right” place for where you are getting referral traffic, but it helps to understand where you are performing best and how you can amplify that, through advertising money, stronger social sharing and more. To make your videos searchable, make sure you refine titles, keywords and thumbnails so you can improve the likelihood of someone clicking on the video.


Knowing whether people are viewing your videos on the computer or mobile devices is important for all content, but especially video.

youtube analytics

Not only does this inform your content creation but your content strategy. The length and style of your videos that you create should reflect your brand. B2B tutorials, for example, might be viewed on the computer more than a short and snappy cooking tutorial that might be better viewed on-the-go. Think about who’s viewing this and from what device.


By now, you should be comfortable moving around YouTube Analytics major reports. There is one more general type, and that is YouTube’s Engagement reports.

How engagement is measured changes from software to software. YouTube’s definition of “total engagement” measures engagement via subscribes and unsubscribes; likes and dislikes; favourites added; and removed, shares and comments. You can find reports for each of these in Analytics > Engagement. Here’s a general overview.

  • Subscribers report is the best way to see how many people have subscribed and unsubscribed over time. Filter date ranges, regions and the source of where an individual has subscribed (i.e. recommended channel, subscribe page, video YouTube captions/CTAs) to see the net change in total subscribers over time.
  • Likes and Dislikes report is a summary of how many people liked and disliked your videos over time. Use the Comparison tool to compare the total number of likes/dislikes to either other videos or other metrics. If you only want to see the last 48 hours, head over to Realtime reports (Overview > Realtime).
  • Videos in playlist report allows you to see how many times your videos were added to or removed from a viewer’s playlist, like “Watch Later” or “Favorites.” It’s an interesting way to measure how much someone liked your content, but should be a secondary metric at best.
  • Comments report summarizes how many people are commenting on your video. You can view this overall and on each video, but you cannot view the comments on the page. Determining whether it’s a positive or negative engagement becomes trickier then.
  • Sharing report shows how many times your content has been shared through the Share button on YouTube, and what sites viewers are using to share your videos such as Facebook, Tumblr and beyond. If you click the sharing service button underneath the Line Chart/Map, you can view detailed information about those sites.
  • Annotations report provides information on the performance of video annotations and gives engagement information such as click-through rate and close rate for annotations on videos. Think YouTube actions, CTAs and beyond. They also take a closer look at several different types of impressions.
  • Cards report summarizes how viewers interact with cards on your videos. Annotations and cards are a great way to get video viewers back to your landing page or website.

Those are the reports YouTube offers for engagement. The site also has a YouTube Creator Academy where users can learn all about community.

As far as analytics software go, YouTube takes a page from the Google playbook in being 1) comprehensive 2) insightful and 3) customizable. There’s not much you can’t not do with YouTube Analytics, and it’s a sure-fire way to measure your video marketing.

Check the rest of our series out and stay tuned for more.

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