How to Track Your Video With YouTube Insight Analytics: The YouTube Creator Playbook

How to Track Your Video With YouTube Insight Analytics: The YouTube Creator Playbook

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In almost every section of YouTube Creator Playbook, they have provided a tip on using the audience tracking tool, YouTube Insight (YouTube Analytics).  Insight is YouTube’s massive test audience, everyone who uses YouTube is represented in these statistics.  You can figure out the basic age of your audience, the reactions of your audience via likes, favorites, and shares, how people have come to watch your video, and even the places in your video where people are rewinding to watch certain parts again or where they’re completely leaving your video to go on to something else.

This is probably the most underestimated part of YouTube usage and success.  The people behind the most popular channels, even the ones you hate, are doing some incredible work behind the scenes in order to increase and maintain an audience.  There is no denying that content will always be king, but what kind of content is making your videos work, or not work?  You might have had 8 million views for one video and then dropped to 1 million the next.  What did you do in that more successful video that you didn’t do in the second?  What might have happened in the first video that might have made people not want to see your second video?  Tracking these things are all possible through Insight.  Here’s their overview:

Strategy: Use Insight and other data to improve programming decisions and strategy.

Why It Works: Gain understanding of what’s working and what’s not for your channel and content.  Build on a repeat the successes and avoid what led to low-performing videos.

How To Do It: Gain fluency in Insight tools.  Routinely assess channel’s performance and make changes to content or strategies based on analytics.

Basic Audience Tracking Using YouTube’s Analytics – Insight

The most basic metric is the number of views your videos are getting.  Over time, your audience might fluctuate, and this is a function of how people are reacting to your different content video-by-video.  You might have certain segments that people like better than others, and you might have some segments that aren’t working at all.  This should shape your future videos: keep what works, and subtract what doesn’t.  And when you start changing things, you should keep track of when you made that change, so that you can see how it affects the number of views you are getting.

In a future section of the Playbook, there will be a discussion of metadata.  These are the tags you give your videos that help with search engine optimization.  These are titles, tags, keywords, and descriptions.  Where some users make mistakes in metadata is not describing the video properly, or not coming up with a compelling title or description.  The theme that YouTube tends to pound into your brain while you’re looking at metadata is that the words you use to describe the video should be accurate and relevant.  In this day and age, search engines have become smarter and they might disregard you if you decide to put tags on a video that don’t match up to the content.

We will get deeper into metadata later, but know that the reason why people might not find your video is that they can’t find it in search, and search generally rules how people get connected to your video.

After you have come out with enough content to see what’s working and what isn’t, you can make a hit list of videos and use them not only to find out what works with an audience, but you can use them in promotion of the new videos.  Since your popular videos are ones that tend to stay popular over time and get multiple views from people who like the video and from newcomers just hearing about your channel, you can use annotations to advertise the new videos and increase traffic that way.

Reviewing Analytics & Hotspots: Investigate “Peaks And Valleys”

YouTube offers an array of tools that can help inform your programming and production decisions.  Knowing how to use them to improve your show, build audience, and increase engagement is important for every creator.  Investigating the “peaks and valleys” of your analytics and stat tracking will inform your programming decisions, topic choices, branding strategy, and show structure.

There are some basic metrics that you can track on a recurring basis to monitor the overall health of your channel.  Tracking the top-level metrics that are important for audience development will identify any trends or patterns that may be emerging around your content organically, without any actions or optimizations that you’ve put in place.

Track Top-Level Metrics: Total Views, Subscribers, and Channel Views.  Tracked on daily, weekly, monthly timescales.

“Peaks” Of Success:

  • Identify the videos that have been most successful for you, whether in terms of revenue, views, engagement, or promotion.  Learn what made these videos a success.  Build on it.  Re-use and apply the successful elements to future videos.

“Valleys” Needing Improvement:

  • Identify the videos that were least successful and understand what made the videos perform poorly.
  • Know what areas can be improved such as discovery or engagement.  Are you not getting any views from search–can you write better metadata or include keywords to improve views from search?

% Of Views:

  • Examine your catalogue’s viewership composition.  Track which video’s account for the largest (and smallest) % of total views.
  • What videos account for large percentages month over month?

Tip: Use your archive.  Your top 10 performing videos can be put into playlists and annotated to promote newly released videos.

Interpreting The Data From YouTube Insight: The Metrics

A couple of weeks ago, YouTube released this video:

This takes you step-by-step in understanding the metrics that are involved in Insight.  The first, which we just covered above, is views.  That tells you the basic volume of viewers, but it doesn’t tell you why your video is succeeding or failing.  Underneath the views are four other metrics, beginning with:


How are people finding your video?  It could be as simple as search, which is probably the most important one.  But the other way that people find them is through embeds.  This is where the blogs and other sites come in to helping your video boost viewers, and stresses the importance of sharing your video with those who might want to increase the value of their blog/site through your video’s content.  Remember always, YouTube is a social site and you get the most response by being active, rather than hoping the just right someone finds your video and shares it with others.  You have some basic control in how your video gets seen, so you should be the one sharing it.


Who is watching your video?  Knowing your audience is extremely important.  If you make content that is basically being responded to by men ages 18-34, then your content should reflect that group.  If you take a look at any of Annoying Orange’s videos, you’ll notice that the majority age group is both boys and girls aged 13-17, and the second most comes from men 18-24.  It’s important for The Annoying Orange to basically keep that age group interested, and it’s no surprise given that the humor is juvenile, yet has the slightest edge to it, it appeals to those groups.  It would be unwise for The Annoying Orange to become more sophisticated for any reason.


This is where you learn how your videos are being rated.  You can see the frequency in which people like, favorite, share, and comment on your video.  There are some very specific things you can see by looking at the comments data, like what words people most use (hopefully it’s not some sort of epithet).  The reactions your video gets will give you a good idea of what people like and dislike.

Hot Spots

Probably one of the most useful tools on YouTube, Hot Spots tells you exactly where people are watching your video over and over, and where they are turning your video off.  This is an exact timeline, like a “pulse,” directly wired to a viewer’s heart.  You can see at the exact moment where people are rewinding the video, and where they leave.  Maybe they left your video because you said something really stupid, or you started to wander a bit and the video got boring.  It’s important for you to realize where it is people lose/gain interest so that you can repeat the good and cut the bad.

Reviewing The Playbook: How-To Steps

Gain Fluency In All Insight Tools

  • Explore YouTube Insight and read through documentation to understand each resource and metric.

Maintain Ongoing Tracking

  • Use the downloadable reports, Insight, and your own spreadsheets to monitor your channel performance on a regular and recurring basis.

Mark Dates And Details Of Strategy And Optimization Implementation

  • Keep a record of when you implement new optimizations or change your strategy.  It’s important to denote when changes are made, so you can track the results days and weeks later.

Make Programming Or Creative Decisions Based On Your Data Assessment

  • When you have assessed your channel performance using Insight, decide what actions to take based on your findings.
  • Find way to build on your channel’s “peaks of success.”  Understand why certain videos performed well and make programming and creative decisions to build on that previous success.
  • Understand why certain videos performed poorly and adjust your future strategy to avoid whatever elements you find caused the low performance.

Track Results Of Implemented Changes

  • When you make changes based on previous data, be sure to track changes to relevant metrics to see if those changes are causing the desired result.

Insight Tracking Tip

  • Track the peaks and valleys of all metrics carefully and set goals for each.  Use Insight, and downloadable reports to keep an ongoing record of your channel’s performance with notes on when the new strategies or optimizations were implemented.

Continuing Coverage of the Playbook

This concludes the first section of the Playbook, which covers all the actions you can take to make your videos not only succeed, but connect, and keep an audience.  The prevalent theme of the first section is that content is the most important thing, but you have to take steps in order to make sure that content gets to as many people as possible, and that you have control over the promotion of your videos.  Get out there and share your video with everyone relevant.  You’ll get rejected for sure, but the ones who accept are an important part of building your audience.

The next section of the Playbook will discuss publishing and optimization, some of the secret keys to having your video discovered through search engines.

Here are some links to the previous articles in this series:

Cross-Promotions & Video Collaborations to Increase Viewers

Tent-Pole Programming

Publishing Content Frequently and Regularly


The First 15 Seconds


Video Industry

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