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8 Tips to Help Marketers Conquer the YouTube Analytics Dashboard

8 Tips to Help Marketers Conquer the YouTube Analytics Dashboard
Image credit: Reuters | Eric Gaillard

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As a savvy online marketing expert, you know exactly how important YouTube is to your company’s relevance. Once the playground of giant brands with multi-million dollar TV budgets, video-based marketing is now a much more level playing field, allowing even the smallest companies to compete. But there’s still a bottom line and to prove that your company’s YouTube content is worth the investment, you need to be able to show real results.

Thankfully, YouTube has made your job easier by providing a powerful range of reporting and analysis tools for every channel. YouTube’s Analytics suite is arguably one of the best in the business, but it can also be overwhelming for newcomers. Not all the data on display is what it seems, and not all of it is relevant in a marketing context.

Related: How One of the Internet's Biggest Viral Stars Turned Her Moment Into Momentum

To help you make the most of this powerful tool, here are eight tips to help you keep your sanity as you learn the ropes.

1. Take the Overview data with a grain of salt. 

As the landing page for your channel’s analytics data, the Overview dashboard does a great job at providing a performance snapshot. By default, Overview will display a general report from the last 28 days, allowing you spot major trends in the number of views, subscribers, comments, likes and other performance data. While Overview data is generally accurate, it’s also subject to significant lag, meaning new and emerging trends may be underreported. At the same time, the data on the Overview is easy to misinterpret, particularly when content goes viral. As a dashboard, Overview is powerful, but you’ll always want to drill down to confirm your conclusions.

2. There’s more to Views than you may think. 

Many people make the mistake of assuming that the Views report is only useful for tracking changes in the number of overall channel views. While this is an important element of the report, it pays to dig deeper into the sub-reports. For instance, the “Date” sub-report can reveal clues about when your subscribers are most likely to watch new content, while “Geography” can identify regions where you have the strongest viewership. Most importantly, the per-video viewership breakdown can help you track videos with the best overall longevity.

3. Audience retention will tell you if your videos are too long, boring or unfocused. 

A sub-report in the Views section called Audience Retention breaks down videos by total views and average view duration. The resulting number, average percentage viewed, serves as the best available indicator of how viewers feel about your content. If a video has a huge number of views but only 20 percent of viewers make it through to the end, there’s a problem.

4. Don’t take YouTube’s Demographics reports too seriously. 

As the sole element of YouTube’s Analytics suite to rely on informed guesswork rather than hard data, the Demographics report is also the least trustworthy. YouTube infers gender and age data, and its methodology for doing so isn’t public knowledge. As a result, there’s no way to know how accurate this data is, where it comes from and even if the methodology has ever been validated. Don’t put too much weight on this, particularly if your channel has a relatively small viewership.

Related: Here Are the Best Months, Days and Times to Publish YouTube Videos

5. Watch Traffic sources and Device reports like a hawk. 

Do you know how viewers are finding your videos? Are they watching the videos through embedded players on traditional desktops, or are they finding your content through smartphone apps? Are they searching for the videos, or finding them through suggestions? Questions like these can be easily answered through the Traffic Sources and Device reports, providing clues about where your most effective online video marketing channels may lie.

6. Growing your Subscribers isn’t always a high priority. 

Some YouTube channels live or die by the number of subscribers they have. This is particularly true for entertainment-focused content, where creators rely on regular viewers for ad revenue. In a YouTube-based marketing context, however, subscribers aren’t as relevant as overall views over time. That kind of traffic is driven by keywords, social media shares, embeds and external links and rarely results in strong subscriber growth. While it’s always great to have a growing number of subscribers, it’s a very weak indicator of campaign effectiveness.

7. Likes and Dislikes only matter if the reaction is extreme. 

Even the most popular content on YouTube struggles to see a 10 percent like or dislike rating, and in many cases popular content will see reactions totaling less than 1 percent. As a result, the data in the Likes and Dislikes report will rarely be a statistically significant sampling of viewer sentiment. That said, it’s still worth checking this report to gain a general idea of overall sentiment towards your content and to track extreme reactions to specific videos. If there’s a noticeable increase in Dislikes on a specific video, it’s worth investigating the cause.

8. Invest in a social-media dashboard. 

While YouTube’s reports are valuable, they don’t exist in a vacuum. After all, most video campaign will be promoted via social media, meaning the most important trends from Twitter or Facebook won’t be visible if you only track performance through YouTube itself. To understand the trends, and to take advantage of them as they happen, you’ll need a more comprehensive dashboard option.

Related: As Online Video Explodes, a Look at 5 of the Industry's Biggest Trends (Infographic)