YouTube metrics that matter
Which new metrics for engagement and brand awareness are most essential to bring into creative and goal-setting processes?
Metrics for YouTube success
Every marketing campaign has its own success metrics. Maybe you’re normally interested in click-through rates, conversions, lead generation, or cost-per-lead. This lesson covers which metrics matter most on YouTube — the ones you’ll want to add into your mix and set goals around — and another number that isn’t as significant as most people believe.
In the past, views drove a video’s discovery and rank: that’s the total number of times anyone clicked “play” on a video.
But views only show the number of times a video player loaded, and not whether someone actually wanted to see it, or bothered watching. YouTube recognized that not all views were equal, and adjusted our ranking algorithm to better account for user engagement.
In fact, we’ve removed the views report entirely from YouTube Analytics, and replaced it with watch time.
- How to Identify the Right KPIs for Online Video
- Why Consumer Intent Is More Powerful Than Demographics
See it in action
“We’re not TV”: Reinventing the sports showJustin Ching of FOX Sports’ “The Buzzer” provides a quick overview of how he and his team use YouTube data to guide programming, plus shares insights for determining optimal video length.
Tracking channel performance leads to better performanceVideo game company Activision is the #7 brand on YouTube. Their VP of global brand marketing discusses the metrics he counts on, and the direct attribution path from views to sales.
Why watch time matters
Watch time measures how engaged viewers are with what they’re watching. Why is this metric so important? Your content benefits when it leads viewers to spend more time watching videos — not just on your channel, but anywhere on YouTube.
Watch time is measured in cumulative minutes watched, and each video uploaded — as well as every channel on YouTube — is “ranked” by watch time. Channels and videos with higher watch times are likely to show up higher in search results and recommendations.
What does this mean for your content? Well, we know the 15- and 30-second TV spot is over. Brands should be free to deliver messages with the best possible creative, and tell their brand’s story regardless of constraints. YouTube’s emphasis on watch time doesn’t mean “make longer ads”: a 20-second video that gets watched from beginning to end ranks better than a ten-minute video that people only watch for a minute or two.
And YouTube ads? They don’t count towards your watch time, but their watch time is important.
Courting longer watch times boosts your presence on the platform, but helps in more ways than just that: as time people spend watching your content goes up, so can brand consideration and favorability, purchase intent, and even measurable sales. This is especially true for videos that run as ads.
Viewers respond positively to long-form content from brands. In fact, the average length of the top ads that made YouTube’s 2015 year-end leaderboard was about 3 minutes.
Watch time benefits don’t evaporate when viewers stop watching your content. The total amount of time a viewer spends on YouTube in a single visit is called a watch session. If a video on your brand’s channel drives them to watch more videos, the channel earns some watch time credits for the cumulative minutes accrued.
Watch time by the numbers
- Watch time across YouTube is up 60% year over year.
- The average length of mobile viewing sessions is 40 minutes, up more than 50% year over year.
- The number of hours people spend watching YouTube is up 100% year over year.
- Find more numbers here!
See it in action
A monolithic content risk pays offThis 14-minute long video, intended to put the brand in front of a younger audience, had a 69% view through rate (the average viewer watched for nearly ten minutes), and led to a 66% uptick in subscribers to Mercedes Benz’s YouTube channel. The entire campaign included over 25 hours of content.
Long-form storytelling can inspire and engageNestle’s Maggi brand leveraged YouTube’s high viewership in the Middle East and North Africa to share stories of four inspiring women through 16 webisodes. The results: 12+ million views, a tenfold increase in subscriptions to the channel, and an accrued 30 years of watch time.
Extra-long-form content can win attentionVirgin America’s viral “Blah Airlines” spot is a nearly 6-hour video documenting the experience of flying from the East Coast to the West Coast of the US — on other airlines. "Just trying to watch the video is downright painful—and that's the point,” says Virgin. “If you wouldn't sit through the entire film, why would you pay money to experience it in real life?"
The impact of subscribers
People who watch videos casually tend to be fairly passive in consuming content, more like TV viewers. People who subscribe to channels — to any YouTube channel — are more engaged: they seek out content, comment on and share videos, and contribute to channel communities.
People who subscribe to your channel are making a public declaration of allegiance and alignment to your messages and values. They commit to stay connected to your brand, and they are the first people to receive notifications when you update your channel with fresh content. Your subscribers are your brand evangelists.
How can you convert casual viewers to channel subscribers? In much the same way that solo creators build their followings:
- Leverage a creation story. Share your (brand’s) humble beginnings to make your message more relatable.
- Develop a creed. What is your point-of-view? How might your viewers’ beliefs overlap what your organization stands for?
- Demonstrate leadership. Use a consistent voice; most people subscribe to personalities they like. How can your brand showcase authority or leadership?
- Connect with rituals. Can you include some repeated element in your videos for fans to look forward to?
- Create a language. This goes beyond being conversational; special coded words or “lingo” can help viewers feel like insiders.
When your brand’s message is part of someone’s day-to-day experience, they’re more likely to promote your product, services, or mission. In 2015, two-thirds of all brand videos’ social shares happened within the first week of upload. Your subscribers are the very first people to be notified of new uploads to your organization’s channel, the first to see your video content, and the most likely viewers to share your videos.
See it in action
What subscribers do for your channelRob Nixon, from Nicko’s Kitchen, discusses strategies to attract viewers and subscribers, and why both are so critical to success on YouTube.
Learn about your subscribersHazel from the channel Chewing Sand explains which metrics matter most to her, and shares best practices for engaging on the platform. People will talk about your brand on YouTube, so be there to guide the conversation.
Build a communityRachel Lightfoot from YouTube discusses strategies for building a healthy community, and how this can lead to a bigger audience and long-term growth.