How to Create Actionable Insights From YouTube Search Data

  |  May 20, 2013   |  Comments

It's time to talk about video analytics, key performance indicators (KPIs), and how to measure, optimize, and direct video content.

In my previous two columns I discussed how to optimize your brand's videos for maximum visibility on YouTube and blended search.

Now that your audience is able to discover your videos with relative ease, what's next? It's time to talk about video analytics, key performance indicators (KPIs), and how to measure, optimize, and direct video content.

There is a ton of useful insights through YouTube Analytics and I encourage you to dive deep into the data to explore them all. These data help marketers assess their channel's performance and direct content or strategies based on findings, which we'll review in a later post. Taken individually or as a whole, the analytics are very powerful tools for your brand marketing.

Key Performance Indicators for Video

Depending on your YouTube/channel strategy and your marketing goals, the KPIs you glean from YouTube Analytics will vary. Due to the vast amount of possible strategies and goals, this column will cover the five basic KPIs:

  • Visibility. The video's share of shelf inside YouTube.
  • Connections. How many consumers watched the video?
  • Performance. The view duration or percentage
  • Shareability. Was your video shared? Is it engaging?
  • Engagement. Did the video trigger a reaction (comment or like)?

All of these metrics are interrelated - more visible videos get more views, highly engaging content spurs more shares, video interaction, and higher performance, and so on.

1. Visibility. The easiest way to think about video content visibility is rankings or impressions. Traditionally, I like to report on visibility in terms of rankings in the following way: against all target key phrase searches, how often was my video content seen after a search was done? Simply put, how many of my keywords are my videos ranking for?

However, visibility is not always so straightforward. If we assume that YouTube's search results pages are similar to Google's, based on recent data, only three videos will appear above the fold. This means that those three videos will receive the most share of shelf/visibility. Therefore, "visibility" may even be limited to these first three positions depending on your goals.

The easiest way to get YouTube ranking data is to use the YouTube API's search functionality. Just execute a search against your target keyword or key phrase and it will return the top 60 videos. If you do not have any development resources on your team, a manual search will work as well.

In my last column I covered a range of SEO tactics for YouTube, all rich with search terms, from strong structured data and relevant video tags to annotations, playlists, and full transcripts. All of these optimizations are focused on returning high rankings for your videos, so review and implement these steps to boost your video's YouTube ranking.

2. Connections/views. This is one of the most straightforward YouTube measurements. This simple metric uses the Views reports, which tell you who watched your video, where they come from, when they watched, and a lot more. But don't stay on the surface; drill down into the data and you'll get total lifetime views for your YouTube channel, how your videos are trending over time, demographics reports, and view durations - to name a few measurable criteria.


In Views and Discovery, the wealth of information yields insight into when the video was shared on other sites by showing the first referral. It allows you to see when the video started ranking on particular key phrases in the same way. You can also track a video's lifecycle and tailor content based on how your previous videos performed.

Under Audience, you can get a rough idea of a particular video's demographics, and ascertain if you are reaching the target consumer or see potentially non-traditional demographics that you may not have considered.

3. Performance. This data is reported in the Audience Retention metric; it's my favorite KPI and my number one source of insight for content strategy, annotation placement, and strategic guidelines.

There are two primary metrics related to Audience Retention: average time viewed and average percentage viewed. When looking at the overall channel, source, or keyword-level data, I feel "percentage viewed" is usually a better indicator. That's because average view duration of one minute doesn't tell you much when you have a one-minute video and a 10-minute video (same time viewed). Percentage viewed is a much better indicator of performance.

For example, as illustrated in the screenshot below, a large percentage of the audience drops off (in yellow) while being shown a summary slide; as soon as the video transitions off the static summary screen the retention increases again (green).


This gives me insights that produce two action plans:

  • Add an annotation to each summary slide containing a "click here" link such as: view similar videos, skip the summary, or view it in action. These annotations would give users a new navigational path if the content doesn't meet their needs anymore. Historically, I have had great success adding annotations with gateway links to all drop-off points.
  • My second insight would be communicated to the video content creation team: please make shorter summaries or try to skip them entirely.

4. Shareability. This is also a relatively simple metric, clearly revealed in the Sharing report under the YouTube Analytics Engagement Reports.


This metric shows the number of times your YouTube video was shared via the Share button as well as the social sites your viewers use to share your videos. It's a measure of engagement but distinct from content interaction.

Knowing where your content is shared and among which social channels will inform where your brand needs to create a video presence. This information can also provide some great insights about your audience.

  • Different sharing services have differing demographic profiles, types of content, and audiences.
  • If you are targeting a specific audience, you can learn from past videos what works best for a sharing service that is most popular with your target.
  • A social strategy that boosts sharing and liking will create strong inbound links that in turn will create more visibility and virality.

5. Engagement. Comments, likes, favorites - we can't get enough of them (especially when comments are favorable, of course). It's crucial to produce compelling video content that users will want to interact with, view longer, share more, and watch again - rather than flag, which will cause the video to lose all of its value. Look for these reports in the Engagement section of the analytics: Subscribers, Favorites, Likes and Dislikes, and Comments.

So what kind of content makes that amazing, likable asset your audience will actively engage with? It's content that expresses an idea or emotion and creates value in some way. It's emotionally appealing; people usually like stories that create an emotional bond with them based on familiarity. And emotional bonding is a brand's best friend.

People are more likely to share content that makes them feel happy, angry, shocked, or well-informed. Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions shows eight basic emotions and illustrates how these amplify to stronger emotional responses by moving closer to the center of the wheel. Think of this tool when conceiving your video content and its message; get your viewers to feel something strong enough to engage with it.


In subsequent posts we will explore how to interpret and apply YouTube Analytics results along these five KPIs to build your brand through video. In the meantime, start downloading those reports!


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Benjamin Spiegel

Benjamin Spiegel is the managing partner, vice president of innovation at Catalyst, a GroupM agency. He is a digital advertising veteran with more than 14 years of experience in media, data, and technology. For the past three years, he led the search practice across the GroupM Network; today, Ben leads the innovation practice at Catalyst providing thought leadership and innovations for its Fortune 500 client brands.

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