How to Understand YouTube Analytics & Gauge Your Videos’ Value

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "YouTube Secrets" by Sean Cannell and Benji Travis. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How do you know your videos are really delivering the value you intended? Do YouTube analytics overwhelm you?

If you want to have a successful YouTube channel, you need to understand the metrics for your videos. In YouTube Secrets, prominent YouTubers Benji Travis and Sean Cannell help you decipher YouTube’s algorithms and leverage them for ranking.

Keep reading to learn how to understand YouTube analytics and make use of their insights.

How to Understand YouTube Analytics

In addition to keeping an eye on the subjective feedback you get from your viewers, Travis and Cannell say you need to know how to understand YouTube analytics. They identify a few key metrics that can help you assess how viewers are reacting to your videos and channel. (You can access these metrics from the “Analytics” tab of your channel’s “Studio” page.) They assert that these metrics are also the ones that most affect how YouTube’s algorithms will rank your videos in search results and recommendations, so you want these metrics to be as high as possible.

CTR stands for “click-through rate.” It represents how often users click on your video when they see the video thumbnail. To maximize this, make sure your video title and thumbnail image clearly identify the value viewers can expect to get from the video.

AVD stands for “average view duration.” It’s the average amount of time viewers spend watching a given video before browsing to something else. The time that a viewer is willing to spend on a given video is a good measure of how engaging they find that video. Following the authors’ advice on how to make videos should help to make your videos engaging.

APV stands for “average percentage viewed.” This is the same as average view duration, except that it’s expressed as a percentage of the video’s length instead of the amount of time spent watching it.

AVPV stands for “average views per viewer.” It’s the average number of videos on your channel that someone watches in a row before going to another channel. How many of your videos people watch in a row provides a measure of how well your channel is engaging your audience, and how much they’re likely to want more of your content when they discover you. Maximizing this metric is one of the reasons the authors recommend ending each of your videos by recommending another video, as we discussed earlier.

Choosing Good Metrics

The metrics that Travis and Cannell recommend using represent another specific application of more general business principles. In The Lean Startup, Ries discusses how to choose the right metrics for your company. His discussion helps explain why the four quantities that Travis and Cannell selected are good metrics for a YouTube business.

Ries’s first rule for choosing good metrics is to avoid “vanity metrics” that inevitably go up over time and don’t really tell you much about how well your business is performing. In the case of a YouTube channel, the total number of videos you’ve posted or the total number of views your channel has gotten are examples of vanity metrics.

Ries’s second rule is to use “cohort metrics” rather than aggregate metrics when possible. Cohort metrics divide up users into groups based on when they became users and track the behavior of each group to give you a more accurate picture of how people are reacting to your product. For example, suppose a lot of people sign up for your service because you’ve got good marketing, but then leave shortly thereafter because you’re not delivering on your marketing promises. Cohort metrics would make this trend obvious, alerting you to the problem. But if you just track your total number of users over time, that might hide the trend, because new people joining would make up for the ones leaving, creating an illusion of slow, steady growth.

The metrics that Travis and Cannell recommend work a lot like cohort metrics. They track individual users and individual instances instead of groups and time periods, but they give you real-time information about how your viewers are reacting throughout the user-experience journey: CTR measures how well you’re attracting people to click on your videos, AVD and APV measure how long the ones who click stay engaged on a particular video, and AVPV measures how long they engage with your channel. So they give you the same kind of information that cohort metrics would.
How to Understand YouTube Analytics & Gauge Your Videos’ Value

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Here's what you'll find in our full YouTube Secrets summary:

  • A guide to developing a successful YouTube business model
  • How to produce videos and grow your audience
  • How to find and implement the most effective revenue streams

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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