How to measure video content: understanding video metrics

If content is king, then video content is next in line for the throne. (Unless, of course, it’s already ascended). According to the predictions of a report from Cisco, 80 percent of the world’s internet consumption will be dominated by video by 2019. Think Netflix, YouTube, Facebook videos, movies, brand video marketing, ads. And then whatever you are thinking, think bigger. Yeah, video’s going to be a behemoth.

But exactly how do we measure how big a specific video is going to be? How do we measure success now and what to shoot for later? It’s the question on everyone’s minds. Everyone wants a viral video, but what does that mean anymore? Are we measuring it solely by views? Play rates? Who’s watching the video? These are the questions any good data scientist or content marketer should be asking.

Of course, video analytics is still a relatively nascent field of study, especially for content marketers who came up through written content. Understanding how to measure video content is a different beast. That’s why we’re creating our new series—“How to measure video content”—for data and video newbies, brands and content marketers who’d like to explore video analytics more. We’ll dive deep to understand video metrics, the nuances of YouTube Analytics and Facebook Insights for videos, as well as how to craft insights and strategy from video analytics. By series end, you’ll have a better grasp on understanding what your analytics are telling you so you can measure the impact and effectiveness of your next video.

Which video metrics measure which goals?

You posted your first video. Yay! As you watch the views rack up counts, you must be feeling good about your video strategy. Until you realize views have nothing to do with fulfilling your goal of keeping people on the site longer. It’s understandable to be mesmerized by vanity metrics, but there’s a reason why we call them vanity metrics: they tend to stroke your ego. If your video has 10,000 views, something must be working, right? Not necessarily.

Content marketers know that content marketing only works if you:

  • Define business goals.
  • Define target audience(s).
  • Define metrics to reach that goal and target audience.

But before you can begin strategizing and executing those strategies, it’s important to understand which metrics you should focus on to reach that goal and target audience. Metrics are individual measurements of activity that empower you to evolve and adapt your video strategy. But they only work if you understand which video metrics measure which goals. Here’s a laydown of industry terms and metrics that measure certain goals.

Which Video Metrics Measure Which Goals?

By Emily E. Steck

  • View Count

    By Emily E. Steck

    For surface level goals, you can do no better than measuring your content by view counts. Views skim the surface of how well your video content is performing, but it’s a great indicator of impressions and reach. Marketers often experiment amplifying reach by using paid promotion methods and good old fashioned organic sharing with influencers and your audience. However, view count is just a starting metric that should be paired with other ones and is often best used when your content is crawling, not running. Aka, when you’re just starting out.

  • Play Rate

    By Emily E. Steck

    According to YouTube and Google, play rate is “a ratio that calculates the number of plays your video ad receives divided by its impressions (the number of times your video ad is shown).” In simpler terms, play rate is the percent of visitors who clicked play and actually started watching. Play rate and web page design go hand in hand; plenty of marketers experiment with the placement of a video on a web page, the size of the player and the thumbnail image it projects to A/B test the video.

  • Watch Rate & Engagement Rate

    By Emily E. Steck

    Clicking play is one thing—staying with a video until it’s ended is another. Watch rate or engagement rate is the percentage of a video a viewer actually watched. Compared to view count, watch rate informs marketers of two things. One, the quality of your views. Did 800,000 visitors click on the video, but only 30,000 visitors stayed to the end? Watch rate helps marketers understand where their viewers drop off at so they can make adjustments in future strategies. The closest comparison to written content is to think of a watch rate as “session duration”—a favourite industry metric. The second would be engagement. If a person is staying until the end to watch a video, that indicates a higher level of engagement than someone who watched for 40% of the video.

  • Social Shares

    By Emily E. Steck

    How many people found your video worth sharing? That’s what social shares track: the number of times your video is shared on any given social network. It’s the internet equivalent of good word-of-mouth and recommendations; a video with thousands of shares roughly translates to two thumbs up. Social sharing can also help marketers identify the best platforms people are sharing video on.

  • Community Comments

    By Emily E. Steck

    Anyone who’s ever read a YouTube comments page knows toxicity can come with posting anything on the internet. The community of a brand’s video network helps marketers further understand their audience’s reaction. Marketers use comments and the community platform to measure not only positive or negative impressions, but how strongly the content resonated with someone to post. Measuring positive and negative comments might not always be the most effective metric since the internet is very polarizing. However, measuring how many viewers felt compelled to comment is a good indicator that the content inspired some reaction. Comments are inevitable. It may not be fun to read the bad ones, but just the fact that they exist is a metric worth having.

  • Conversions

    By Emily E. Steck

    Conversions refer to the percentage of people that complete an intended call-to-action; this can be subscribing to a channel, submitting info request forms or even purchasing something from the site (the ultimate goal, really).

  • Site Metrics

    By Emily E. Steck

    Here’s a wild guess: if you’re doing content marketing right, you’ll see (in time) improvements to a site’s overall website metrics. If that’s the goal (which it most likely is, especially for brands starting out), then marketers need to use website metrics to leverage their video content. That means keeping an eye on two things. First, Bounce rate, aka the number of viewers who enter your site and then leave without viewing other pages. A high bounce rate is bad; a decreased bounce rate is good. Google Analytics sometimes [mistakes bounce rate for visitors who leave immediately.]( Two, session duration, aka how long someone stays on your web page. Visitors can’t skim over a video, so they either leave the video or page early. But videos on your website should increase time on site by nature. Session duration tells marketers if people stayed after the video too.

Benchmarks and learning curves

Choosing the right metrics often feels like a game of trial-and-error. It doesn’t have to if you understand your goals and the metrics, but even then remember that video marketing—like all marketing—comes with a learning curve. Benchmarking numbers will come from industry averages and standards, and require patience and practice.

For more information about video marketing, check out the other articles in this series.

Image: Marta Longas/Pexels

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