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The 8 YouTube metrics that matter for your channel’s success

Wondering how to ramp up your YouTube stats? Get this guide that walks you through the only 8 YouTube metrics you need to track for your channel’s success.

September 25, 2020 by Cyn Meyer

YouTube analytics can take you in one hundred different directions. 

Only about eight of those YouTube metrics actually matter for creating video content that keeps your YouTube channel growing and thriving.

Today, we explain what each YouTube metric means and why those metrics matter. We even categorize the important metrics into one of three categories for you:

  • Viewing metrics
  • Audience and reach metrics
  • Interaction metrics

Let’s hop right into the details, so you can get straight to your YouTube channel’s tracking and boost your video performance. 

Viewing YouTube metrics

#1. Watch time

The first, and likely most important, metric to keep tabs on is your watch time. 

As the name suggests, your watch time is the total accumulated minutes your audience spends watching your video content. You can find it by heading to the “overview” tab under “analytics” in your YouTube Studio.

Why is this an important metric, if not the most important YouTube metric? 

Your watch time basically tells YouTube’s algorithm how valuable your individual video is. 

And, of course, the more valuable your video content, the more recommended and highly ranked your video becomes. 

In fact, according to YouTube Creator Academy, “Channels and videos with higher watch times are likely to show up higher in search results and recommendations.” 

And according to a Briggsby study, there’s an undeniable correlation between your watch time and rankings in a YouTube search.

Given that YouTube is the second largest search engine (trailing only Google), and processes over 3 billion monthly searches, YouTube’s algorithm is no joke. 

So, it’s best to focus your YouTube strategy on building your watch time as a way to lift your YouTube SEO.

To do that, check out the next key metrics, which bolster your watch time.

#2. Views and views per unique viewer

Since they go hand in hand, this YouTube metric is more of a two-fer -- your total views and views per unique viewer. 

Let’s start with the core YouTube metric. 

Total views count the number of times your video content is watched. A view is counted if someone watches your video content for 30 seconds or more.

To check out your total views, you don’t even have to log into your YouTube analytics dashboard. 

It displays directly below your published video content, like underneath this Impact Theory episode of Tom Bilyeau interviewing Dr. Joe Dispenza, which scored an astounding 5.2 million video views as of this writing.

As obvious as it is, it’s still worth calling out -- the higher your view count, the higher the demand for your Youtube video topic. 

Digging slightly deeper into what your audience wants is the other viewing metric. Your total views per unique viewers are the number of times your average viewer watches your YouTube video. 

Basically, this YouTube metric tells you if people are rewatching your video. And if they are, kudos to you -- that means it’s among one of your better videos and your audience wants more of it. 

To locate your total views per unique viewers, just head to the “reach” or “audience” tabs in your YouTube analytics dashboard of YouTube Studio, and check out the card for “unique viewers”.

All in all, pay attention to the number of views and total views per unique viewer to find out which YouTube videos and video content topics are resonating the most among your audience. 

There’s no surer form of audience research than the research that comes straight from, you guessed it, your audience.

As far as gauging how popular your delivery is for that topic, look to our next YouTube metric.

#3. Average percentage viewed (a.k.a., audience retention)

Another key metric is your audience retention, which is a time report that measures how much of your YouTube video your audience watches. 

More specifically, the average percentage viewed YouTube metric is the average percentage of a video that your audience watches in a view.

To translate this average view duration into practical terms, let’s put some numbers to it. 

Let’s say your video content is 10 minutes long, and the average amount of time your viewers watch is about three minutes. That puts you at a 30% audience retention rate. 

If you’re wondering where to align your averages benchmark, a good average percentage viewed is considered above 60%

You can find your average percentage viewed tab within your audience retention report. 

It goes without saying, the higher your audience retention, the more your YouTube content is hitting home. If it’s a bit lower than the 60% audience retention mark, take that as a signal to improve your video content delivery to keep your audience engaged.

Speaking of keeping your audience engaged, one of the best ways to do that is to learn more about them, which brings us to our next category of key metrics -- audience and reach.

Audience and reach YouTube metrics

#4. Traffic sources

When it comes to understanding who’s watching your YouTube videos, it’s worth checking out your traffic sources.

You can find these by selecting “analytics” in the left menu of your YouTube Studio, and then selecting “reach” and clicking on “traffic source types”.

Your traffic source types report shows you the people who come from various groups, like your existing fans who are browsing or viewers that come from suggested YouTube videos.

When analyzing your traffic sources, make note of any big spikes and drop-offs in traffic sources, so you can better understand where the big crowds come from and strive to repeat that success. 

Check out this traffic sources report that tells you whether your audience comes from external sites or watch pages and YouTube channels inside the social media platform.

These insights are super helpful for guiding your YouTube video promotion and marketing strategy.

But OK. That covers where your YouTube channel’s audience comes from. Now for who your audience is.

#5. Demographics

Your demographic report tells you what your YouTube channel’s audience looks like in terms of, naturally, demographics.

For instance, this demographic report shows that the YouTube audience is mainly made up of females between 18-24 years old.

The audience report is super handy for matching your ideal customer, or buyer persona, with your YouTube channel’s viewers.

In case you’re unfamiliar, a buyer persona is a snapshot of your ideal customer and their daily life and decision-making process. You can use tools like Xtensio to create persona templates, which help you guide your business to your target audience.

To follow our above example, if you know that your target audience is female aged 18-24, then you know you’re reaching the right people on your YouTube channel. 

If not, then it’s an audience mismatch, and your video content needs to be more relevant.

Alternatively, if you’re just starting out with building your YouTube audience before creating your online business ideas, you can use the demographic report to define a target audience and buyer persona. 

From there, you can create products specifically for your YouTube channel’s demographic. 

Either way, it’s hugely important to understand your target audience and tailor both your YouTube content and any offerings to your specific demographic and buyer persona. 

Once you have a good handle on who makes up your YouTube channel’s viewership, you can focus on growing it. Read the next important metric for more on growth.

Interaction YouTube metrics

#6. Subscriber count

The subscriber count is another key YouTube metric to track. And it’s not just a vanity metric. 

To see your subscribers report, just hop over to your “overview” tab in your YouTube analytics dashboard, and click the “subscribers” tab.

If you’re wondering what the big deal is about getting people to subscribe to your YouTube channel -- as opposed to simply watching your videos -- it has to do with frequency and upping your chances of getting your videos in front of the same person. 

Channel subscribers are known to watch twice as much of your video content as non-subscribers who are just walking through your YouTube channel. 

Needless to say, the more your YouTube channel viewers watch your video content, the more likely they’ll become fans of your brand, and, ultimately, loyal customers. 

After all, it takes an average of seven interactions with your brand before someone makes a purchase. It’s the same concept with the frequency of your video content. 

The main takeaway is to keep tabs on your subscriber count to make sure your YouTube channel’s audience is growing at a healthy rate.

Beyond subscribing to your YouTube channel, there are a couple more important metrics to track to make sure people are engaging with your video content.

#7. Likes and dislikes

It’s important to make note of your likes and dislikes because these key metrics are a strong indicator of whether or not your video content is (yep) liked or disliked. 

Also beyond a vanity metric, you can glance at this YouTube metric almost as a gut check to find out if you’re producing video content that resonates with your audience. 

The likes and dislikes report displays in your YouTube analytics dashboard, under the “engagement” tab, after selecting a specific video.

Not unexpectedly, you can’t grow much of a fanship, or business, if you have tons of traffic and engagement on your YouTube channel, but it’s all for a bad rap.

Sidenote: this next example won’t do much harm to YouTube’s brand, considering the social media platform has rapidly grown from zero to over 2 billion users in 15 short years -- and its success remains unscathed -- so, I’ll go out on a limb and use it as an iconic example. 

The YouTube Rewind 2018 video, for instance, saw a healthy share of over 206 million total views, but attracted a record-breaking 86.34% dislikes.

While this burn won’t mess up too much of YouTube's bottom line, that’s likely not the case for a smaller creator’s reputation and entrepreneurial endeavor.   

Now for a final important metric that helps gauge your reputation among your audience.

#8. Comments 

Last but not least, it’s vital to track your comments as a key metric. 

At a quick glance, you can see how many comments individual videos receive by looking below your published video and description on your channel, like in this engaging ASMR to Make You Feel Good YouTube video by Gibi ASMR that received an impressive 2,599 comments. 

Of course, the YouTube videos that receive the most comments are worth analyzing, to find out what your audience prefers to see more of. 

If you want to see your YouTube channel’s comments in one fell swoop, you can log into your YouTube Studio and head to “comments” in the left menu bar.

There, you’ll find all your YouTube channel comments and tabs that organize them into “published,” “held for review,” and “likely spam”.

Not only is it important to know how many comments your YouTube videos receive, but it’s also important to scope out the comments themselves. 

While this won’t be in an organized report form, combing through individual video comments, and even replying to as many as you can, works wonders for informing your new videos and future YouTube content.

In fact, the comment section below your video content is a goldmine for digging up insightful customer research. You can engage in a dialogue with your audience, find out which topics resonate the most with your viewers, and discover what future videos they want to see more of. 

Even the less-than-pleasant comments are an opportunity for you. Turning negative comments on social media into positive opportunities is as much an art as it is a science, and it can be just as potent as leveraging your most glowing fans. 

Here’s the gist:

By reviewing and showing up to reply to new video comments on your YouTube channel, you’re bound to understand your audience better, protect your brand, and create better videos that help grow your business. 

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Regularly track these 8 key YouTube metrics

There’s a streamlined way to analyze your YouTube metrics without having to go deep into tracking all of them to make your video strategy a success. 

Let’s recap the 8 YouTube metrics that really matter for you:

  • #1. Watch time -- Build up your watch time to rank higher in the platform’s search results. 
  • #2. Views and views per unique viewer -- Track your number of views to gauge which topics resonate with your audience. 
  • #3. Average percentage viewed -- Shoot for an average percentage viewed over 60% to maintain a healthy retention that captivates your audience.
  • #4. Traffic sources -- Learn where your viewers come from and double down on the largest sources. 
  • #5. Demographics -- Match your buyer persona to your YouTube audience demographics.
  • #6. Subscriber count -- Increase your subscriber count to strengthen your fanship base and increase the frequency people watch your videos. 
  • #7. Likes and dislikes -- Make sure your likes strongly outweigh your dislikes to maintain your reputation.
  • #8. Comments -- Pay extra attention to the videos with the most comments. Also, interacting with your audience through your video comments is an ideal way to engage with your viewers, provide feedback, and build rapport. 

Now get to analyzing your YouTube channel and important metrics, so you can publish better videos and grow your business. 

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