This article on online video metrics was updated in July 2021.
Are your videos successful?
This seemingly simple question often vexes marketers. The problem isn’t a dearth of data—brands now have access to more dashboards than they know what to do with; it’s uncertainty about how to use the information available to evaluate performance.
With so many metrics being tracked, it can be daunting to figure out what they all mean and how to use them to improve your digital video efforts.
Video Metrics 101
To help understand which data points truly matter when crafting a measurement strategy, we’ve pulled together these five key things every marketer needs to know about online video metrics:
1. Views are nice but aren’t everything
Often video measurement for brands begins and ends with a single metric: views.
This is understandable. Views is the easiest metric to see since it is usually displayed publicly and/or at the top of analytics dashboards. Moreover, thanks to the constant coverage of viral videos, getting more views has become shorthand for success.
Views is also a popular metric because it is simple to comprehend. While there are some nuances — such as the fact that many platforms don’t count a view until after a few seconds of watching — the metric is clear and takes no explanation.
All of that makes views useful and a good starting point. The problem is that the metric is not enough on its own.
Why? Because views gives you a superficial look at quantity — how many people started your video — but provides little insight into what happened next and what the quality of the interactions was.
2. Duration and watch time matter more
To truly understand whether your videos are resonating it’s necessary to look at metrics such as duration and watch time.
Duration is the average length of time that viewers watched a video. This is important because it is an effective way to see if audiences are engaged by the content. A shorter duration means people are quickly losing interest and a longer duration means they are finding the piece compelling enough to stick around.
Views multiplied by average duration is equals watch time. It’s a valuable metric for two reasons: First, it’s a hybrid of a quantity metric and quality metric, so it’s a good way to get a sense of if a piece is succeeding in both breadth and depth. Second, it’s a key input that platforms such as YouTube use to determine which videos are surfaced to audiences.
The combination of duration and watch time is a potent one. Together these metrics will give you a sense of both the size of your audience and how deeply engaged it is.
3. Engagement metrics can help gauge reactions
As video becomes more and more central to social networks, data points such as likes and comments are becoming increasingly important to evaluating performance.
Just as marketers use these engagement metrics to gauge reactions to their text and image posts, they can also use them to gauge reactions to their videos. These insights are especially valuable because they are emotionally nuanced. Through things like comments, upvotes/downvotes, and hearts it’s possible to find out if a video is eliciting specific reactions such as surprise, joy and anger.
Moreover, as with watch time, engagement metrics matter because they are used by social platforms to help determine which videos are presented to audiences.
They key with engagement metrics is to evaluate in aggregate. A few harsh (or enthusiastic) comments shouldn’t alter your strategy; what matters is if a critical mass of people feel the same.
4. Don’t forget about action
Your brand isn’t creating videos simply for the sake of it. That’s why metrics such as click-through rates are so important.
While these sorts of measurements are more commonly associated with digital offerings such as web pages and emails, they are applicable to videos as well. In fact, it is possible to track a wide range of video-related actions, such as interactions with YouTube ads, clicks on links in descriptions, and visits to URLs showcased in pieces.
The secret to success here is planning. Unlike metrics such as duration which show up immediately in dashboards, accessing action metrics sometimes requires taking steps such as linking accounts and creating tracking codes.
While this may feel daunting, the effort is worth it. Looking at measurements such as click-through rate is essential to determining the business value of your video efforts.
5. Metrics aren’t just for looking back
Finally, marketers often think of video measurement as a retroactive exercise that provides insight into what went right or wrong. In truth, metrics such as retention can help you improve your video strategy in real time.
Retention provides a second-by-second look at what share of viewers are sticking with a video. Each graph always starts at 100% (everyone begins watching) and declines as audience members lose interest.
Keep in mind that it’s normal for retention to decline since there are always going to be some people who the content isn’t a good fit for, who get called away to do something else, etc. What you’re looking for are significant drops at certain points. For example, if retention plummets within a few seconds, then your video introduction might be too long. Identifying these dips allows you to make on-the-fly adjustments and better engage viewers. This will then boost other metrics such as watch time and duration.
That’s an important thing to note: All of these core metrics are intertwined. Each impacts the other and each gives some insight into whether audiences find your pieces compelling. Ultimately, taken together they can help you truly understand whether your strategy is successful and provide a roadmap for how to make your videos better.
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