Are you diving into YouTube analytics to optimize your online video content on an ongoing basis? If you answered “no” (and be honest!) then you’re probably with majority of marketers who do not frequently analyze their YouTube video marketing performance.

I call this the “set it and forget it” mind trap, typically diligent and empirically driven marketers don’t treat video analytics in the same manner as they would web analytics and conversion metrics. There is irony in this, so let’s dig into fixing that right away.

This post is part of a series designed to help you successfully execute on a video marketing strategy using YouTube. Today’s topic: understanding 4 critical video analytics metrics.

To review, we’re concerned with following the critical path required to successfully execute our video marketing strategy. Our steps include: defining your content strategy based on Narrowcasting principles, building your video marketing studio, creating “teaser” content videos which leverages YouTube to drive new leads to your website and conversion point.

Other Posts In this series:

Discover gold with these 4 metrics to optimize your visibility on YouTube

So you’ve got your teaser videos for use on YouTube and they’re driving new traffic through to your complete slate of videos hosted on your website. The obvious next question we want to ask is: what reports and analytics will help us achieve the goal of increased visibility and discovery on YouTube?

The most four most important metrics that relate directly to optimizing our visibility on YouTube are:

  1. Watch Time
  2. Subscribers
  3. Engagement
  4. Audience Retention

1. Watch Time

Recently, YouTube re-iterated the importance of “watch time” as a scoring metric for video ranking and display. As marketers, it’s critical for us to understand the core principles behind watch time.

In the not so recent past, YouTube rewarded videos that were successful at attracting clicks or the single “play” action, rather than the videos that actually kept viewers engaged for the entire duration of the video. Times have changed, and now watch time is King of the Hill. Watch time estimates how long viewers are engaged with your video. YouTube will now feature videos in related sections and search with the highest watch times rather than the most views. This makes watch time a critical metric for your video marketing efforts.

The key take-away: Watch time is your key metric rather than video views. Keep them watching for longer periods of time and you’ll rewarded with more visibility in YouTube discovery and search.

Minutes Watched

2. Subscribers

Subscribers is an obvious core metric that will also help us support our ultimate goal of increasing total “minutes watched”. When a fan subscribes to our channel, it sets them up for automatic updates whenever we upload a new video, it will also ensure new content is featured on their YouTube homepage.

The key to using this information for our video marketing efforts lies in YouTube’s Engagement report under the Subscriber tab.

Swearnet Subscriber Session Time

The Subscribers report contains details about how you’ve gained and lost subscribers across different content, geographic locations and dates. This section of YouTube analytics also give you information on individual videos. When reading subscriber reports, it is very important to utilize the “compare metric” function to add Subscribers lost to the graph.

By doing this, we’ll be able to identify which videos in particular helped us gain subscribers and by contrast, which content drove subscribers away. With respect to watch time, subscribers tend to have a higher minutes watched than an average user. Therefore, to increase your session times it is important to attract, acquire and maintain subscribers.

The key take-away: The subscriber metric may be the most familiar key performance indicator for those new to video marketing. Similar to RSS, Facebook, or email newsletter subscribers, YouTube subscriptions are critical to our success and a metric to key a close eye upon throughout our efforts. Always be building your subscriber base: subscribers are your most loyal fans and will be notified of new videos and playlists to watch.

3. Engagement Metrics

Engagement should be a common metric familiar to the modern marketer, quite often in format of the ubiquitous: Like, Comment and Share. These actions also flow back into “Minutes watched” and give us a strong indication of the quality of our video content.

As modern marketers one of the most important things we can do to be successful in our efforts is to make videos that people want to watch. Simple, isn’t it? Sadly, that’s easier said than done. So keeping a close eye on engagement metrics in the same manner you would look at your Facebook engagement metrics is key to our ongoing success.

Engagement flows from loyalty and familiarity with your message, brand and channel. So, expect your engagement to be lowest when you are just starting and to build as you build your audience and your following.


Each section under the Engagement portion of YouTube analytics shows a different type of viewer action. These actions are listed both by overall daily values as well as for each individual video. This will enable you to see which of your videos have the highest engagement.

The key take-away: Involve the audience in your videos. Encourage comments and interact with your viewers as part of the content, that simple investment will pay big dividends!

4. Audience Retention

Audience retention is an overall measure of our video’s ability to retain its audience. View counts are a good indicator but, in reality, this only tells you how many people have clicked the play button (Note: thus the diminishing importance of views as a discovery metric). When we look at retention metrics there are two types to consider: absolute and relative retention.

Absolute retention considers the number of viewers of your video over time in relation to the total number of viewers of that same video.

Relative retention considers your video in the context of all videos on YouTube of the same length.

By tracking our absolute audience retention and learning along the way, we will gain empirical evidence that can lead us to an increase in “minutes watched”. As illustrated in the screen capture below, the channel has been increasing it’s viewer retention over the past month, with the exception of 11/03/2013, where the average view duration dropped to 38 seconds. The ability to see that change makes all of the difference when we’re looking to video metrics to help us optimize our content marketing plan.

Audience Retention 1

So let’s dig into that anomaly on 11/03/2013, let’s look into the video that was posted that day and see what changed in comparison to previous videos. This can be accomplished in the second level of audience retention analytics: individual video reports.

For each video, we’re able to play back and view exactly where viewers dropped off. Note: to be enable this feature of your retention graph, embedding must be enabled. In this level of analytics, pay close attention to the first 15 seconds of every video. That is when your viewers are most likely to lose interest and leave the video. If you are able to keep people watching past the 15 second mark, that is very powerful.

Audience Retention 2

Now that we’re here, we’re able to playback our video and see where the audience stops viewing using both absolute and relative audience retention.

Dips in the data tells us when the audience has decided to stop watching our video and move on. Zeroing in on the exact moment of trending exits will help us identify what not to do. This is all part of the optimization process; we have to be able to clearly identify what the audience best interacts with, and continue to use those tactics throughout our video content eliminating the exit moments.

The key take-away: Absolute and relative retention are extremely powerful metrics by which we measure our video content. You should be looking at this data on a regular basis, using the data to identify “exit moments” and minimize them.

Special note to the “first 15 seconds”: keep an eye on that information, if you can retain your audience past the first 15 seconds you’ll likely keep them for the duration of your video.


By leveraging these four critical video marketing metrics, we have the intelligence to optimize our teaser video content and more importantly, increase overall watch time. This will give our teaser videos higher visibility on YouTube, leading to a greater opportunity to funnel those viewers back to our website and into our conversion funnel.

Good luck and happy converting!

Dan Nedelko