YouTube Analytics: A Brief How-To and Overview

If your brand has a YouTube channel, there’s no doubt that you’ve invested countless hours into making videos, uploading videos and optimizing those videos (or having an agency, like Catalyst, optimize them for you). Wouldn’t it be great to know how your channel and your videos are performing? You can! You don’t have to look any further than YouTube’s built-in Analytics.

Where to Find YouTube Analytics

The YouTube Analytics button is conveniently placed at the top of the page when you’re logged in and viewing your YouTube Channel.

YouTube Analytics button

While not quite as robust as Google Analytics, YouTube Analytics will allow you to look at metrics such as views, audience retention, traffic sources and internal and external keywords. So, let’s jump in and see how this all works!

Basic Functionality

Upon entering YouTube Analytics, you’ll notice a bunch of options in the column on the left side of the page. We’ll delve into each of these more in a moment, but I just wanted to point out what the options look like.

YouTube Analytics Options

The basic functionality of YouTube Analytics works roughly the same way as Google Analytics does. You can filter data based on a time period as well as geographic location. For example, you could filter to visitors in the US over the past 90 days. Or, if you want to get really granular, you can also filter down to just a single video. Once you’ve done that, your dashboard will provide you with an overview of your channel’s performance, as well as the top 10 videos for that time period.

YouTube Analytics Dashboard

Views Reports:

One of the most important things you’ll want to get out of your YouTube channel is viewership. You want your viewers to not only get to your videos, but actually watch them.


This basic report provides some very high-level information. You’ll use this report to see the total views for your channel during a time period, estimated total minutes watched for that time period top watched videos, and each video’s individual views, estimated minutes watched and average view duration. Clicking on a video title allows you to see the geographic locations where that particular video was watched, as well as how many times and for how long the video was watched from that location.

YouTube Analytics Views


This report does exactly what it sounds like it would – it allows you to see the demographic information for your viewership, so you can compare and see how well it aligns with the demographic you’re trying to target.

YouTube Analytics Demographics

Playback Locations

The Playback Locations report is a pretty useful one. It allows you to see where people are watching your videos the most. Are they watching on YouTube? On Mobile Devices? On Embedded Players (and if so, which off-site locations are generating the most views)? This will tell you if people are taking your videos on the go or using them on their own websites and sharing them on their social profiles.

YouTube Analytics Playbook Locations

Traffic Sources:

As someone who deals with organic SEO on a daily basis, I find the traffic sources report extremely valuable.  At a glance, it tells you how people found your channel – for example, if they came through YouTube advertising or YouTube Search, or perhaps they found it through Google search or something else. You’ll also get the visits from that source and estimated minutes watched from that source.

What I think is the most useful about this report is that you can click on one of the search-related traffic sources (YouTube Search or Google Search) to get a report of the keywords used to find your channel. For example, the screenshot below shows the individual keywords that someone used to find my client’s YouTube channel on Google Search (keywords redacted for client confidentiality, but use your imagination).

What can you take away from the Traffic Sources report? You can see if your YouTube Paid campaigns are working, if your social efforts are working or if your video and channel optimizations are working to drive organic search, both within YouTube and from Google. You can also see if the keyword that you’re trying to target is paying off for you or additional work needs to be done.

YouTube Analytics Keyword Listings

Audience Retention

The metric within the Views Reports section that I find most useful, however, is the Audience Retention report.  You’ll be able to see your channel’s average view duration, as well as the viewing duration for your top videos. Below is an example, with channel name redacted for confidentiality.

YouTube Analytics Audience Retention

What can you do with this? In the example above, you can see that for the top video, the average visitor is only watching just over half of the video. Maybe it’s time to add something to it to increase engagement – an annotation halfway through that says “Look for XYZ at the end of the video”. Or maybe the video itself is too long. Or maybe the viewer’s question is answered early on in the video. There are a variety of learnings you can take away for each video based on that video’s individual attributes.

Also, as you can see above, this particular channel’s average view duration is 1:27 minutes and a typical viewer watches about 89% of a video. So, an example of the key takeaway could be that you should try producing videos of 1:27 minutes in length to accommodate your viewers’ attention span.

Engagement Reports

The YouTube Analytics engagement reports are an excellent supplement to the Views Reports because they give you a bigger picture of who your audience is, where you’re attracting them as well as where exactly you’re losing their attention. Let’s take a look at what these reports have to offer.

Subscribers Report

This report tells you where your subscribers are coming from. It can answer questions such as, “Which videos are earning the most subscribers?” “Is my channel itself helping us gain subscribers?” and “How many subscribers are being lost during each video, or due to account closures?”

YouTube Analytics Subscribers

Likes and Dislikes

This report does exactly what it sounds like it would do – it reports on the number of likes and dislikes on your channel as a whole, as well as for individual videos. It also gives you an idea of that video’s overall engagement in terms of likes, dislikes, adds to favorites, shares and other engagement metrics.

YouTube Analytics Likes and Dislikes


The Favorites report tells you which videos are the most “favorited” by viewers, as well as that video’s measure of engagement, calculated the same way as it was for the Likes and Dislikes report.

YouTube Analytics Favorites


Similar to the first two engagement reports, the Comments report shows you which videos are commented on the most frequently as well as the total engagement for that particular video. You can also click on a video and see a word cloud showing the words most commonly used in comments on that video as well as what geographic location is generating the most comments.

YouTube Analytics Comments


The Sharing report shows which videos are shared the most frequently, as well what platform the video is shared on (Facebook, Twitter, or Google+) and the total engagement for that particular video.

YouTube Analytics Shares


If you’re using Annotations on your videos, the Annotations report will let you know how those annotations are performing. If you want to know how many clicks an Annotation is generating, or how many times an Annotation is closed by the viewer, this is the report you’d need to look at. From there, you can evaluate the click through rate of an annotation, or evaluate whether its placement is intrusive and making viewers close it.

YouTube Analytics Annotations

Other Functionality

Comparing Metrics

All of the YouTube Analytics reports (with the exception of Demographics, Playback Locations, Traffic Sources and Audience Retention reports), allow you to compare two metrics against each other to analyze any correlation between the two. For example, this Favorites report has the Favorites compared to Views:

YouTube Analytics Comparing Metrics

Date Slider

Want to change your date range on the fly, without having to go up to the top and adjust the date range there? You can simply slide the slider bar under the chart on a report page to adjust the date range.

YouTube Analytics Data Slider

Subscriber Views

Another thing I think is really useful is the Subscriber Views option. You can access this on the Views report by clicking on “Compare metric” and then “More metrics.”

YouTube Analytics Subscribers Views

This report allows you to look at the views from just your existing subscribers as well as looking at how long they’re watching. This lets you know how well your brand is leveraging its current viewership.

Video-Specific Search Terms

YouTube Analytics also offers a great way to see what terms are driving traffic to an individual video on YouTube. To do this, you’ll go to “Traffic Sources”, then click either “Google search” or “YouTube search”, depending on which traffic source you’re most interested in, and then at the top of the page, select an individual video. From there, you can see which terms drove traffic to that individual video.

YouTube Analytics Specific Search Terms


And there you have it – YouTube Analytics in a nutshell! As you can see, this useful tool can really help you get the most out of your YouTube channel. If you’re a numbers nerd like I am, you’ll really enjoy digging into the reports and seeing how your hard work is paying off. I hope you can try some of these reports out. Let me know if you have any additional thoughts or questions in the comments section below.

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