A Guide to YouTube Metrics and Why They Matter

Mar 02, 2020

Video content is top of mind for marketers this year. And an effective video strategy starts with YouTube. Check out the metrics to keep a pulse on to set your brand up for success on YouTube.



Investment in online video is forecasted to increase from $45 billion in 2019 to $61 billion by 2021. And it’s predicted that the average person will be watching 100 minutes of video a day by then.

83% of marketers believe that video is becoming increasingly important, and 57% of marketers say improving content and content engagement are primary strategies for generating higher quality leads.

Video is on the rise across marketing channels—and for good reason. Marketers report that video generates higher ROI and consumer sentiment towards video is stronger than ever. For brands looking to increase their use of video in 2020, understanding YouTube metrics is a must.

Engagement Metrics

Impressions: The number of times the video thumbnail was viewed.

Impressions matter because they are a crystal clear indication of whether or not your video is showing up in searches or as related content. They show if your video and the keywords associated are relevant to the topic you’re featuring. Impressions can include the same person seeing the thumbnail more than once, we’ll get to unique users soon.

Impressions Click-Through-Rate CTR: The percentage of people who saw the thumbnail who clicked through to watch the video.

CTR matters because it tells you how many people are compelled to click through and watch the video based on your thumbnail and title.

Views: The total number of times your video has been played.

Views matter because it’s essential to keep a pulse on how many users your video actually reaches, and how different videos perform on your channel. Your most viewed videos tell you what your audience is most engaged with and interested in watching when it comes to your channel.

Watch Time: The total amount of time viewers spend watching your videos.

Watch time matters because it is the top ranking metric and factor on YouTube. Arguably the metric to rule all other metrics. It governs how much visibility you’ll get relative to searches where your content appears.

Average View Duration and Percent Viewed: The total amount of watch time divided by total views, or the average amount of time people spent watching your videos.

Average view duration matters because it tells you how engaged your audience is with the videos you’re publishing on your channel.

Re-watches: The number of times viewers rewind and re-watch certain segments of a video.

Re-watches matter because they tell you which parts of your video were the most intriguing—so much so, that they went back to watch it again. Having this insight can be really helpful in planning future videos and decreasing drop off.

Likes and Dislikes: The number of viewers who like or dislike your video.

Likes and dislikes matter because it’s a stark look at how your content performs. Few other channels have a feature which will allow you to dislike something, so brace yourself. Looking at these metrics in a ratio format can give you a little more insight into how your content is performing.

Shares and Comments: The number of times your video has been shared using the share button, and the number of comments on the video.

A more valuable form of engagement. Shares and comments matter because they give you insight into which videos are being shared and talked about, and which videos aren’t. If sparking conversation is your aim, this metric will provide a useful benchmark to measure performance.

Card Click-Through-Rate: Cards are the calls-to-action that appear at any point during a video. They usually prompt a user to sign up, access a product, or subscribe. The Card CTR is the percentage of viewers that click through via the card.

Card CTR matters because it tells whether the cards you’re using are right and useful, or irrelevant to your viewers.

Playlist Starts: How many viewers start your playlist.

This matters because it tells you how many of your viewers want to watch more. It’s an indication of how engaging your content is, and the appetite your audience has for more.

Playlist Exits: How many viewers leave your playlist.

This is useful because it tells you where viewers are exiting your playlist. This will help you find the less engaging videos in your playlist, and can help you determine how to order your videos.



Subscriber Metrics

Subscriber Growth Rate: The rate at which you’re gaining new subscribers.

Subscriber growth rate matters because audience growth is key to increasing views, watch time and your YouTube ranking.

Subscription Status: How many of your viewers are subscribers.

This gives insight into what type of community you’ve cultivated on YouTube. If you have viewers but no subscribers, you’re effectively publishing to nobody, as users will have to search for your video, find it through the ‘Up Next’ panel, or via the recommended page. Turning viewers into subscribers means you’re growing your viewer base, your new content will be served to your subscribers via notifications, home page promotion, email, and so on.

Subscriber Source: This metric shows you exactly where on YouTube your viewers are clicking “Subscribe”.

This matters because it shows you where your strategy is and isn’t working. It will help you determine where you need to evaluate your CTAs and where to invest.

Traffic Source: Tells you how viewers are finding your videos. It shows you where your traffic is coming from, whether it be from YouTube search, channel, suggested videos or from elsewhere on the internet.

Traffic sources give you insight into where your audience is coming from. It tells you where your tactics directing your audience to YouTube from other channels is working and where it’s not. It also tells you how well your content is performing within YouTube in terms of search, and if your thumbnails and title are bringing new viewers in from recommendation pages.

Geography: Where your viewers are located in our wonderful world.

Geography matters to brands for a number of reasons. If you’re laser-focused on selling products in the U.S. and a significant chunk of your viewers are in Australia, that presents a problem. Knowing the locations of your viewers can tell you if you’re getting in front of the right people or not, and allows you to focus on key markets for your business.

Demographics: Insight into who your viewers are, including age and gender.

Similar to geography, demographics matter because they let you know if you’re reaching your target audience or not, and can help you understand what users you’re missing out on.

Device: What type of device people are using to watch your videos—tablet, mobile, desktop or TV?

When it comes to YouTube, devices matter. Each device is used in a different way. From screensize to setting (in or out of the home), devices have a range of requirements, and it’s important to understand which devices the majority of your audience is using to view your videos. TV, for example, lends itself to longer videos, while mobile might require subtitles.

Optimize Your Content in Motion

With so many metrics, it can be daunting to dig into performance, especially on a channel that requires a unique lense compared to other platforms. One piece of advice from us? Nail down your objectives. Plan like you’ve never planned before, and make sure you know what success means for your YouTube strategy. That will help you determine which metrics matter to your brand.


Header image: @ssense


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Elise Ngobi

Senior Brand Strategy Manager UK