Money talks, but data has more to say, and the two make a fine tandem as long as you're listening. The problem with YouTube is that it speaks a foreign language! For those of us without a master's degree in linguistics and a six-week immersion in marketing speak, the otherwise helpful metrics of the world's largest video site can be darn difficult to decipher.
But therein lies the issue: if there's gold, we must dig. The YouTube Analytics platform provides a multitude of insights that can guide content creation and publication efforts. By reading the tea leaves and keeping our pocket translator handy, we can decrypt the code and unlock the treasure within. Trust us, you'll feel like a digital Indiana Jones by the time this article is over.
Stats, Stats, Stats
Opening the YouTube "Analytics" tab immediately pelts curious corneas with a bevy of line-charts. Riveting. We'll ignore this mess for now and take a look at each category in turn to try to unearth some wisdom.
The views section hardly takes a degree in mathematics to understand: the more eyes ingesting your media, the better. In addition to raw viewing totals, this section breaks down views by video, including percentage of total views, estimated minutes watch, and average view duration. These columns will look familiar across all sections, so we'll explain them later in the column. For now, just know that they're there, sometimes they're insightful, and sometimes they are not.
Under the demographics section, we get a bird’s eye view of the characteristics attributed to our faithful viewers. Playback locations gives us an idea of where the video was viewed, and traffic sources tell us where people heard about our video. Rounding out this stable of statistical stallions, devices and audience retention lend insight into viewing platforms and the degree to which our videos kept people around, while each engagement report provides its own actionable information.
But What Does it All Mean?!
We'll start with the views reports. Knowing the winners and losers of your content is essential to crafting success. Pay attention to trends in content, length, or tone of popular videos and tailor future content to these standards. That's not to suggest that you should abandon diversity entirely, but understanding what your audience likes and derides can go a long way in improving your channel.
"Demographics" is good ol' fashioned marketing jargon for the identifying characteristics of people. While this view can't tell you how many Dick Van Dyke references to include, it can at least provide you with a foundation of knowledge so that you can craft your content appropriately. Look for age and gender trends based on individual videos and make sure that your video fits these profiles.
Playback locations and devices reports may not mean much if you're a casual user, but to businesses looking to make their content as friendly as possible, these views speak volumes. Are people catching your content on the subway? Make sure your stuff is mobile ready. Does your audience respond better to embedded videos or native YouTube content? Put your vids in the right places!
If it wasn't Confucius who said that unshared content exists in a vacuum, then it was probably his estranged cousin. If your videos don't gain any traction, then they might as well have been published on a local public access TV channel as the lead in to Bill's Gardening Jamboree. In addition to quality and viewership, your content has to dazzle, and that means generating activity.
Likes and dislikes may be pretty decorations, but your primary focus should be on three areas: comments, subscriptions, and annotations. Subscriptions are extremely valuable as they guarantee a continuing stream of content in the inboxes of users who have expressed an explicit interest in your content, in addition to bolstering your channel ranking.
Annotations work as calls-to action, encouraging social media activity and prompting subscriptions. When viewing the annotation report, pay close attention to click-through and user-closed annotations. These represent the glorious success of a fulfilled request, and the crushing defeat of a door in the face.
Finally, comments are demonstrably more valuable than likes. Expressing interest or approval in a video are validating, to be sure, but discussion constitutes a far more profound connection and processing of content. Furthermore, healthy conversation can give you an idea of what your viewers are interested in/talking about. You'll get your fair share of Internet trolls, but sifting the wheat from the chaff will yield some encouraging results.
Creating the world's greatest cat video is a feat in its own rite, but turning the top-hat clad feline into money will make the victory even sweeter. Leverage viewer reports in order to discern the success of individual videos. Peruse engagement reports to figure out which vids are causing a stir and use all of this information to tailor your channel to favorable ends. With a little knowledge, your next video could supplant Tay Zonday for the dubious honor of "most viewed". Just be sure to lean away from the mic so that you can breathe in.