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YouTube Analytics Guide

Max Freedman
Max Freedman

YouTube Analytics can help you keep tabs on your channel and your target audience's engagement. Here's how to use it.

Some of today's most popular public figures got their start on YouTube, and your business can also harness the platform's power for growth. To help with this, you can use YouTube Analytics to determine how your company's videos are succeeding and how they could improve. Let's walk through the basics of YouTube Analytics and discuss its most important metrics.

What is YouTube Analytics?

YouTube Analytics is a tool through which you can access data that details the kinds of people watching your videos, what kinds of content your viewers like best, how your audience is engaging with your content, and which of your videos might earn your company the most profit. In its Creator Academy, YouTube describes its analytics tool as "your channel's pulse."

What types of data does YouTube Analytics show?

Through YouTube Analytics, you can see these data metrics:

Revenue

If your channel has at least 1,000 subscribers and has gotten at least 4,000 hours of watch time within the past year, you're eligible to monetize your videos through ads. Through the YouTube Analytics revenue tool, you can see your earnings from others' ads on your YouTube videos, your ads on others' videos, and other sources such as YouTube Super Chat.

Watch time

Through the YouTube Analytics watch time tool, you can learn the length of time people spend watching your videos, how people are discovering your videos, and whether people are watching on desktop or mobile devices. What you see can inform your strategy for future videos.

Interaction reports

With the YouTube Analytics interaction reports, you can learn all about your audience. See who's watching, how many of your likes and dislikes are coming from your usual audience, and how many comments and shares your videos typically get. If you see an especially large amount of interaction on one of your videos, keep taking the approaches you used for that video.

We'll discuss each of these tools in greater depth soon.

How to access YouTube Analytics

Follow these steps to access YouTube Analytics:

  1. Log in to your YouTube account. If you have a separate YouTube account for business, log in to that account rather than your personal one.
  2. Go to the YouTube homepage and click your account picture in the top right corner. Then, in the dropdown menu, click "YouTube Studio."
  3. You'll now see a new dashboard. On the left-hand side, click "Analytics."
  4. You'll now see a summary of your videos' recent views, watch time and subscribers. You can change the period for which your analytics are displayed on the right-hand side under "advanced mode," and you can toggle between overview, reach, engagement and audience analytics under the "channel analytics" header.

YouTube Analytics features breakdown

As we previously discussed, YouTube Analytics data comprises three categories: revenue, watch time and interaction reports. Each of these data sets includes several useful features.

Revenue analytics

Estimated revenue

With the estimated revenue tool, you can approximate how much money your company makes from all its Google-sold ads. You'll see a graph detailing your earnings, and below that, you'll see which of your videos are bringing in the most money. You can change the time period that you're analyzing with the dropdown menu at the top right of the graph.

Using the information you see, you can determine earning patterns to harness for future profits. For example, if you see that your videos earn more revenue in the evening than in the afternoon, publish future videos in the evening. If your videos earn more money during the summer than the spring (such as if you run a seasonal business), publish more content in the summer.

Estimated ad revenue

Estimated ad revenue is similar to estimated revenue, but it provides data pertaining solely to Google AdSense and DoubleClick ads. As with the estimated revenue tool, you can use the data to inform your future publishing habits.

Watch time analytics

Watch time

Your watch time is the total number of hours that all your viewers spent watching your videos during the designated period. This metric can be more valuable than your total number of views, as all that a view tells you is that someone watched your video for longer than 30 seconds – you don't know quite how long they stuck around.

You can use your watch time and views data to determine an important related metric: your average view duration. This is your watch time divided by your total number of views, and you can calculate it for one video or all your videos. The higher this number, the more likely the YouTube algorithm is to rank your videos highly in searches. Higher average view durations can also lead to more placements in YouTube's Suggested and Recommended lists.

Audience retention

Your audience retention rate compares your average view duration to your video's length. For example, if your average view duration is three minutes and your video is 10 minutes long, your audience retention rate is three-tenths, or 30%.

YouTube Analytics further divides audience retention into two metrics:

  • Absolute audience retention: With this metric and the corresponding graph, you can determine both the most-watched moments in your videos and the moments when your viewers stop watching. This metric tells you what does and doesn't engage your audience, and you can use this information to shape your future videos. 
  • Relative audience retention: This metric compares your audience retention rate to that of all other YouTube videos in the same length range as yours. It doesn't point to trends in your own content, but it does give you an idea of how your audience's behavior compares to that of other channels' audiences.

Demographics

Use the YouTube Analytics demographics tool to find out the age, gender and location of the people watching your videos. You might see certain trends, such as 25-to-34-year-old women from the West Coast watching your videos about one topic and 18-to-24-year-old men from the East Coast watching your videos about something else.

With the information you find, you can either shift your approach to better suit the audience you've grown or appeal more strongly to the demographics you'd like to target. As you do so, you might find your viewers more engaged and thus more likely to subscribe to your channel, and that's important: Subscribers often watch up to twice as much video as nonsubscribers. For more about the importance of demographics, read our sister site Business News Daily's guide to demographic marketing.

Playback locations

While the demographics tool shows you where your viewers are located, the playback locations tool shows you where on the internet your viewers encounter your content. This doesn't just mean clicks within YouTube; it also means clicks on embedded videos, shares on other social networks and more. To find this information, check the "Embedded in external websites and apps" box in the list below the main graph that you see when using the playback locations tool.

Knowing how much of your viewership comes from outside YouTube can help you develop an ad spending strategy. If you identify a location outside YouTube responsible for a large portion of your views, spend your ad budget there. You can also pitch websites that regularly direct traffic to your videos on marketing partnerships.

Traffic sources

Not everybody finds your video in the same way. That's why the traffic sources tool exists. You can use it to see whether people are discovering your video through YouTube searches, advertising, playlists or sources outside YouTube. You can look at data from as many 13 different sources, many of which have question mark buttons you can hover over for more information about the source.

Traffic source data can reveal search terms, other YouTube channels, suggested video inclusions, and other routes through which people are directed to your videos. With these metrics, you can estimate your reach. How much of your audience comes from other channels playlisting your content? Which search terms interest your audience? What kinds of videos lead to your content being included in the viewer's Suggested section? Base your future videos on the answers to these questions.

Devices

Use the devices tool to see how your audience is watching your content. You'll see your viewership broken down by desktop, tablet, mobile, gaming console and smart TV. Chances are that you'll see some viewership from each of these device types, but currently, smart TV YouTube viewership's growth rate is outpacing that of the other device types.

You can guess what your viewers want from videos based on their device choices. For example, if most of your audience is watching you on mobile, you can assume that your content is appropriately short for their on-the-go viewing. If your audience is largely desktop-based, you can attempt to sell products with your videos, as desktop users are more likely to buy items.

Livestreaming

When you livestream video for your YouTube account, you can get both real-time metrics and, later, post-live analytics. Real-time analytics include your live dashboard, from which you can monitor fluctuations in audience size and live chat messages. When you see these changes, you can take immediate livestream actions to better engage your audience, such as changing the subject or asking your viewers to answer a question in the chat box.

While real-time analytics are useful during a livestream, post-live analytics may better inform your overall video strategy. They become available 48 to 72 hours after your stream ends. They can reveal your post-stream subscriber growth, the moments of highest viewership during your livestream, the number of viewers who watched the whole stream, and the demographics of your live audience. From this information, you can infer the most compelling moments and aspects of your stream and adjust your future content accordingly.

Translations

When you're creating content, it's easy to forget that people who speak other languages might be watching your videos. With the YouTube Analytics translations tool, you can see how many of your viewers translated your videos' descriptions, subtitles or audio into other languages.

While YouTube's automatic translation capabilities have grown vastly in recent years, you may want to invest in professional translation services if many of your viewers are translating your videos into the same language. Automatic translation, though often highly accurate, is typically not as precise as translation by an actual person. Videos with better translation may more deeply engage viewers who speak the translated language, potentially leading to longer view times and more subscribers.

Interaction reports

Subscribers

In all marketing efforts, a major goal is to build an audience that trusts your brand and regularly engages with it. Your YouTube subscribers are exactly that audience. Use YouTube's subscribers tool to see exactly who's in your audience, how your audience is changing, and which of your videos has most directly affected your audience size.

You have three options for assessing your audience makeup in a given period:

  1. Subscribers – how many subscribers you gained who remained subscribed
  2. Subscribers gained – how many subscribers you gained, regardless of whether they unsubscribed
  3. Subscribers lost – the total number of subscribers who unsubscribed

Each of these options generates a graph. Below this graph, you can use the "source" tool to generate a list that ranks each of your videos by how much it increases or decreases your number of subscribers.

Of major importance with the subscribers tool is that it never shows real-time information. That's because YouTube aims to prevent accounts from gaming the system to display more subscribers than they actually have. Since subscribership is such a strong marker of authority, it's not unheard of for users to try to artificially increase their numbers. As such, the subscriber information that YouTube Analytics provides could be over 48 hours old.

Likes and dislikes

Monitor your likes and dislikes to determine how well you're satisfying your audience. If you notice that larger numbers of dislikes correlate to certain topics, adjust your content.

You shouldn't always take dislikes as bad, especially if your company deals with divisive topics. In that case, dislikes mean you're engaging all sides of the conversation, as your videos' comments can show (more on that soon).

Videos in playlists

This interaction metric details how often your videos have been added to or removed from YouTube user playlists, including the basic "Watch later" and "Favorites" playlists. Compare the kinds of videos added to playlists with their playlist addition or subtraction rates to identify topics that resonate best with your audience, and then produce more content in line with your findings.

Comments

The YouTube Analytics comments tool tallies the number of comments your videos receive. Notably, it doesn't show your videos' comments. Instead, you should supplement the comments tool by looking at what people are actually saying about your most-discussed videos. Their responses can inform your future content strategy.

Comments also offer great opportunities to interact with your audience. You can respond to any comments you'd like, building brand loyalty through meaningful engagement. At the same time, watch out for spam or abusive comments and report them to YouTube.

Sharing

For all the tricks and tips you'll see regarding YouTube Analytics, your ultimate goal should be high share rates. The more people share your content, the more people see it and the larger your audience grows. Through the YouTube Analytics sharing tool, you can see the platforms, devices and dates on which (and locations from which) people are sharing your content. When you know who's sharing your content and how, you can optimize your content strategy.

The sharing tool only tracks shares from YouTube's own "share" button. If someone copies your video's URL from their address bar and sends your video by email, you won't get any information about that. However, use of the share button contributes more to YouTube SEO than do other types of shares.

Cards

For years, YouTube users could add annotations to their videos. Recently, YouTube has discontinued this function and replaced it with a new tool called Cards, which you can use to add calls to action, text and images to your videos. With YouTube Analytics, you can see the click rates, open rates and display rates for your cards and their teasers.

If you're stuffing your videos with calls to action and seeing minimal engagement with them, you can try modifying your calls to action. This could mean changing your call to action's copy or your cards' placement and format – what you see in YouTube Analytics should guide your strategy.

End screens

Fittingly, the final metric on this list is also the final thing your users see when they watch your videos. Unless your viewer has enabled autoplay, they'll see an end screen of 12 videos they might want to watch next. In many cases, the videos displayed are your own, so you may want to know how often your viewers are clicking them. That's what the "end screen element clicks" metric shows. A similar metric called "end screen elements shown" indicates which of your videos are appearing on end screens.

Using your end screens data, you can determine how well your channel is retaining viewers after they watch one of your videos. You can also see which of your videos appears most exciting to viewers when they hit the end screen. With this information, you can set up an inbound marketing chain: An invitation to watch one of your most popular videos after finishing another video reels your viewers further into your company's universe. And that right there is the point of YouTube Analytics: harnessing your content to build – and sustain – your audience.

Image Credit: bunditinay / Getty Images
Max Freedman
Max Freedman
business.com Contributing Writer
Max Freedman is a content writer who has written hundreds of articles about small business strategy and operations, with a focus on finance and HR topics. He's also published articles on payroll, small business funding, and content marketing. In addition to covering these business fundamentals, Max also writes about improving company culture, optimizing business social media pages, and choosing appropriate organizational structures for small businesses.