Apart from basic, easily visible responses to your videos, such as views and subscriber count, there are plenty of other ways to see how your channel is doing. YouTube’s new Creator Studio and analytics might be a bit confusing to navigate at first glance, let alone interpret in concrete ways, so let’s go over some of the numbers and what they mean for you.
Where to go
First things first, let’s get on the same page here. To find your YouTube analytics, you can either go to your channel page and click the blue “Creator’s Studio” button, or you can click on your channel icon in the top right corner on any YouTube page and select “Creator’s Studio” from the drop-down list. This will bring you to your Channel Dashboard.
The first thing you’ll see is your most recent upload accompanied by its basic stats. This will include this video’s rank compared to your other recent uploads, its watch time, views and average view duration. We’ll get into each of those in more detail later.
On the right is a box labeled Channel Analytics. This is a very concise overview displaying your subscriber count, your total watch time and views, and how each of those have increased or decreased over a select period of time. Below that are your top videos and their recent view counts.
Alright, now that we’re on the main page, let’s dive in. On the left of the screen is a vertical sidebar with different categories. Each is essential in understanding your channel, but we’ll be focusing on the analytics tab — the icon looks like a bar graph. Once you click on it, a graph will take up the center of the screen, with several tabs on top.
Each tab will have a box of your Top Videos. These may be different depending on which tab you’re in. For instance, one video may have more views, but another has more watch time. The graphs will automatically show data for the past 28 days, but you can change the time period using the drop-down list in the top right corner. Now, there’s a lot of information that’ll show up all at once, so let’s break it down piece by piece.
This tab shows “Impressions” — that is, how many times your videos have been shown across YouTube in sub boxes, recommended on other videos, and on people’s home pages. The sub-tab “Impressions click-through rate” shows the percentage of people who clicked on those videos out of the total number of Impressions.
The next two tabs, “Views” and “Unique viewers,” tell you the total number of views for the selected time period, followed by the estimated number of viewers. In other words, if one viewer watches multiple videos, all their views are represented in the Views tab, while they’ll only show up as one person under Unique viewers.
If your view count is far higher than your unique viewers, that means you’re engaging you viewers enough for them to watch more than one video, but it can also mean you’re not drawing in a lot of new viewers. If your view count is in close proximity to your unique viewer count, it’s likely the majority of people coming to your channel leave after one video. It’s a delicate balance between creating content your subscribers will enjoy and content that will bring in new people.
Beneath the graph on the left is a series of boxes with information about where people encounter your videos. “Traffic source types” and “Traffic source: External” give you the percentage of viewers who come to your video from each particular source, as well as a breakdown of the external (off-YouTube) locations where viewers found your video. This helps you find out where your content is being shown and why — it’s a great way to see not only what others think, but also what other content is related to your own.
Farther down is “Traffic source: Suggested videos,” where you’ll see the videos that suggest yours in the recommended section. Under that is a box showing the playlists through which people have found your content.
To the right is yet another box labeled “Traffic source: Youtube,” which lists the most common YouTube searches that have led people to your channel. These will often be similar to keywords and phrases you’ve put in your titles, tags, and descriptions. Side note: always use tags and descriptions! These are vital to your videos showing up in more search results.
Looking through this data can tell you how viewers are finding your content and where it gets the most shares. Digging in a bit deeper, you can make a hypothesis about why and how viewers are engaging with your videos. Are they being discussed? Critiqued? Used as sources? If your video is shared on Reddit, for instance, go see what people are saying about it. Whether positive or negative, the reactions and discussions provide extremely helpful feedback.
This section shows exactly what it sounds like: how interested your viewers are in your content. The two main elements of this tab are watch time and view duration.
The watch time graph shows how much time, in minutes, your videos have gotten total over the period of time you selected. The aggregate amount will show up beneath the “Watch time (minutes)” tab at the top. Move your mouse along the graph to highlight certain days and see the estimated number of minutes your channel has gotten total across all your videos and views for that day. This is an essential metric to keep track of, especially if you want to become or remain monetized. 4,000 hours of total watch time over the past year is now required in order for your channel to remain monetized, as of January 2018.
Similar to watch time, your average view duration shows how long each individual viewer spends watching one of your videos. This tells the algorithm whether your videos are clickbait and clicked off of quickly, or if they retain interest for longer amounts of time. It also tells you which of your videos are entertaining enough that people will stick around to watch the whole thing, and which ones lose the viewer’s interest. By searching for view duration for specific videos, you can also see which points in time during the video people tend to click off. If there’s a nosedive in watch time halfway through, go re-watch that video and see if there is an obvious reason people left at that part in particular.
Build an audience
This tab is all about demographics. In other words, this section shows you the kind of person most likely to be watching your videos. Here you’ll find: your channel’s watch time by subscribed vs unsubscribed viewers, the top countries from which your videos are being watched, the subtitles used, languages spoken by viewers, the most common age of your viewers and viewers’ genders.
While good information to look over, it’s not always reliable. For example, people on YouTube often watch from others’ accounts, aren’t logged in at all, or have an inaccurate age or location. Also, the gender metric is unreliable and binary, and not all viewers’ demographics are shown or enabled. Even so, being aware of these approximations can help you understand your audience a little better.
Outside of the YouTube analytics page, YouTube Studio offers plenty more information about your channel’s health. Clicking on the “Videos” tab on the sidebar will show you stats for each of your videos individually.
The “Comments” tab on the sidebar shows all the comments on your channel, which you can sort through by video. This is probably the best way to analyze and understand direct feedback from the viewers themselves rather than raw numbers. The relationship between your number of views, likes, and comments says a lot about viewer engagement, and engagement is one of the most important aspects of building a successful and fulfilling channel with a loyal audience.
It’s best to leave comments and likes enabled for all your videos, and you should also keep your sub count public. It’s been shown to make viewers feel more directly involved and aware of the other people watching. Fostering a healthy, supportive community is the best way to gain feedback and learn how to improve as a creator.
Are your view counts much higher than your comments? Think about how you can make your content more interactive and start a conversation.
Likes and Dislikes
YouTube also lets you see your like-to-dislike ratio for each video, which can tell you a lot about how that video was received. Compare your likes and views. How engaged is your audience? If you have way more views than likes or comments, it could indicate that the video is offering people something the rest of your channel isn’t.
Do you have a lot of dislikes but the comments are mostly positive? It’s likely viewers got a bad impression from the start of your video, disliked it, and left, while those who watched more enjoyed it more. Find ways to include your message and hook earlier on.
Card and endscreen stats can give you an idea of which of your links are being clicked, how often, and where they lead. Check out the Community Tab if you make posts there — it may have comments or simply show your text posts and polls.
Don’t neglect the Shares either! These’ll tell you where your content is being shared, which can lead you to external sites full of reactions to your videos you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I had one of my videos shared to a site specifically for videos of people getting slapped with various objects, so… you never know what you may find!
Making sense of the numbers
There you have it! That should be enough to help you wade through the murky waters of YouTube analytics to find out how your channel’s doing. With most of these categories, there is a “see more” option that will give you more detail, but these are the basics needed in order to navigate the numbers.
Keeping track of these stats periodically and being aware of how they can change over time will do wonders in helping you understand your channel and your audience.