How to measure the effectiveness of online video

How do you measure the performance of online video? Top 5 tips to help demonstrate the value of your online videos.

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There is a lot of hype surrounding video content.

A lot of this hype is justified as it is a perfect medium for engaging content online. YouTube is massive. Really massive. A few notable stats straight from the horse’s mouth include:

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults aged 18-34 than any cable network

Impressive stats and there is no doubt that the potential of online video is enormous.

We recently published a video that I have been meaning to do for about 5 years (cobbler’s shoes etc.) and I wanted to use it as an example to share some of the metrics that I believe are useful when looking at the performance of online video as I don’t believe that many publishers really go beyond the number of views when analysing video performance.

An immediate caveat – this video is new and has not (yet) been seen by millions, so the numbers are small, but I hope that it gives you some ideas about how to track engagement and analyse the value of any investment that you make in online video. I should also apologise to Vimeo lovers – this example is based on YouTube but I am not ruling out Vimeo (or others) as a platform to host video.

My Top 5 Tips To Measure The Performance Of Your Online Video:

1] Views

The most obvious metric to use is the number of times a video has been viewed, which is conveniently displayed below the video (unless you choose to prevent this being displayed to the public):

YouTube video views

This number may appear to be lower than you would expect, especially if you have embedded the video on your site and are tracking views using another method (see below).

Importantly, this number will NOT include ‘autoplay views’. i.e. if you have elected to play a video automatically when it is embedded on your site, that view will not be counted in this total. YouTube is counting what they call ‘active views’, which seems fair to me.

In February 2014, Google went public about plans to cut back on artificially increasing view counts, so you can expect this number to be lower than you may expect. Interestingly, views from TrueView ads do appear to count towards this total, so there are still ways to buy your way to more exposure and views….

2] Engagement

Whilst the exposure of any video is a natural starting point when assessing the value of any video that you create, as it demonstrates reach and brand exposure, I would also encourage people to assess the quality of that traffic. This is true for any online traffic, but I don’t think that many people really look beyond the number of views. Thankfully, YouTube has a really nice report called ‘Audience Retention’ that helps give feedback on what users think of your videos.

The first graph in this report is called ‘abolute audience retention’ shows the views of every moment of the video as a percentage of the number of video views. Conveniently, this is displayed above the video itself, so you can watch and see where people are leaving:

absolute audience retention

Most people tend to give up in the first 15 seconds if they don’t like what they see, but this graph helps you to identify points in the video that are causing people to lose interest, which is very useful.

The second chart is called ‘relative audience retention’ and it shows your video’s ability to retain viewers during playback and compares performance against all YouTube videos of similar length. Again, the graph is shown above a live version of the video, so it becomes very easy to spot problem areas in the video itself. 

relative audience retention

As I mentioned earlier, our video is new and really hasn’t been pushed so the view count is inevitably lower than we would hope (please feel free to watch it here and like it!) but this audience retention report is encouraging and demonstrates that it has managed to out-perform the average so far.

Remember – (online) marketing should be about quality rather than quantity

3] Traffic source

Not all YouTube videos will be watched on YouTube itself, and there are several different ways for a user to find a video on YouTube. The ‘traffic source’ report gives a nice breakdown of how people are finding your video and, crucially, helps indicate the quality of the various sources:

YouTube traffic sources

This particular example is a bit thin on data, but you can see a quick comparison of the quality of each source by looking at the ‘average view duration’. For me, it is encouraging to see that people watching the video on our site (using the embedded player) are generally watching the whole video, as it is only a minute long.

From this reoprt, you can drill down into each source to find more detail.

4] Playback locations

Slightly counter intuitively, in my humble opinion, clicking on the ’embedded player’ traffic source shows you a geographic breakdown of viewers rather than a list of where the video was embedded. Thankfully, you can see this information in the ‘playback locations’ report:

YouTube playback locations

Again, you can drill down for further information so the ’embedded player on other websites’ will give you a list of all sites that have embedded your video and you can quickly see which sites tend to have the most valuable visitors, based on the ‘average view duration’ metric.  This can be very helpful in understanding where your ‘good’ audience is and you may want to think about building a closer relationship with those sites…

5] Events

All the reports above are provided by YouTube and are readily available by clicking on the ‘analytics’ button when you are logged in to the platform. Whilst the data is great (albeit often delayed) and provided at no cost, I would also encourage you to consider other techniques to track video views, espeically when you have opted to use autoplay when embedding video on your site.

An easy way to do this is to use event tracking to show all video views in Google Analytics. We track various user actions on our site and this produces a convenient summary of particular events:

Google Analytics event tracking

This reports shows me that, within the date range being examined, 79 people clicked on the video links that are splattered around our site.

In our case, we have different links that I wanted to track so that we can see which banners are most successful in attracting attention, so we give them different labels. By drilling into the ‘video’ category, we can therefore see which particular links are being clicked on:

Google Analytics event tracking detail

This report shows that the small banners on individual blog posts are doing the best job at attracting attention. This is no great surprise as most of our web traffic is to blog posts, but it is encouraging to see that the link on the homepage has actually been clicked on (it is not immediately apparent!) and that users who have just submitted an enquiry are interested in watching the introductory video.

Whilst you could theoretically track specific clicks via Google Analytics ‘In-Page Analytics’ report, I always find that to be hit and miss and find event tracking much better at providing useful summary reports.

What do you think?

So there you have it, my top 5 tips for analysing performance. There are, of course, more metrics that you can look at to measure success so I would be interested to know what you do. Do you go beyond the number of views?  Which of the other reports do you think should have been in my top 5?

And if you have enjoyed this post and like our video, don’t be shy – please feel free to like it!

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