YouTube is an incredibly powerful platform for marketers. However, if you want to get the most from your channel, it’s essential to have a strategy for assessing its performance. Fortunately, YouTube Analytics presents an opportunity to gain actionable data and insight.

In this post, we’ll discuss the benefits of tracking analytics on YouTube.

We’ll also explain which metrics matter most, what they mean, and where to find them. Let’s get started!

An overview of YouTube Analytics (and why you should use them)

YouTube is the second most visited site in the world. So it’s a useful platform to use if you want to expand your reach and capture new audiences. However, considering that approximately 62 percent of businesses use YouTube, standing out can be challenging at best.

To establish a strong presence on YouTube and ensure that your videos align with your marketing goals, you need a way to measure your content’s performance. For that, YouTube Analytics will be your go-to source.

Learning your way around the various metrics and reports on offer makes it easier to maximize the value of your videos, monitor your progress, and improve your overall strategy. YouTube analytics offer meaningful insights, enabling you to learn:

  • Who is watching your videos
  • Where they’re watching them from
  • How users find your videos
  • How long they watch for
  • When people stop watching your videos
  • And much more

Before we get into which metrics matter most, let’s start by demonstrating where to find the analytics page of your YouTube channel. First, log in to your account. Click on your profile picture in the top right-hand corner of the page, and then go to YouTube Studio (it may also be called Creator Studio, depending on which version you’re using).

This will bring you to your channel dashboard. There, you can get a high-level overview of your channel activity and analytics:

YouTube Studio dashboard.

In the left navigation menu, you’ll want to select Analytics. There’s also an option to the right side of the dashboard page that will take you to the same place.

Understanding your YouTube analytics reports

When you click on Analytics, it will bring you to the Channel Analytics dashboard. This contains a handful of key metrics that can offer valuable information about your YouTube channel and videos:

The dashboard of the YouTube Channel Analytics page.

The metrics are divided into four main tabs:

  • Overview: Shows your channel’s Watch time, Views, and Subscribers. There are also reports for Top videos and Realtime Activity.
  • Reach: Displays information for Impressions, Impressions Click-Through Rate (CTR), and Traffic source types.
  • Engagement: Contains data on Watch time (hours) and Average View Duration.
  • Audience: Includes metrics for Unique Viewers, Subscribers, and audience demographics.

Depending on your account, you may also have a tab under Analytics for Revenue reports. However, this information will only be available on YouTube channels that are eligible for monetization. For that, you need to meet certain criteria, including at least 1,000 subscribers and a minimum 4,000 hours of accrued watch time.

It’s also important to note that the Analytics tab gives you a snapshot of your channel analytics. However, for other important metrics, including some of the ones we’ll be discussing below, you’ll need to navigate to the Videos tab from the dashboard, and then select the actual video you want to see analytics for. The Video Analytics dashboard is similar to the channel dashboard but focuses on a singular piece of content.

Five key metrics to track with YouTube Analytics

Now that you have a basic understanding of how to locate and navigate the YouTube Analytics dashboard, it’s time to go a bit deeper. Before we do, however, it’s worth noting the difference between vanity metrics and actionable data.

Vanity metrics are those that can make you look good, such as the number of viewers you have. However, they don’t necessarily provide any meaningful information that helps to inform your strategy. Actionable data, on the other hand, actually enables you to make better decisions.

For example, the Watch time metric on your YouTube Analytics dashboard tells you the total minutes people spent watching your videos. However, this doesn’t give you a breakdown per video. Similarly, Views may tell you how many people clicked on a link, but not whether they watched the entire video.

This isn’t to say that these metrics aren’t useful, though. In our following list of five key metrics to track with YouTube Analytics, we’ll weave in examples of how you can derive actionable data from vanity metrics as well.

1. Watch time and Views

As we just mentioned, Watch time refers to the total time users spent watching your videos. This can be broken down by hour, as well as by Average view duration (which refers to the average for all of your videos):

YouTube Channel analytics watch time metric.

Views refers to how many times your video has been watched. This can be useful in gauging a video’s popularity. However, the viewer count may not be updated in real-time. To further understand this metric, we recommend checking out YouTube’s own explanation of how it counts valid, quality views.

You can view the individual Watch time and View stats for specific videos by going to the Videos tab from your YouTube channel dashboard. Then click on the individual video you want to track those metrics for, and go to Analytics.

As for Average view duration, this can be a helpful metric when it comes to assessing viewer retention. User engagement is something YouTube counts toward its ranking factors, so the longer your content retains viewers for, the better.

2. Traffic sources and Playback locations

Next up, Traffic sources shows you how people found your video and helps make it clear which sources are most effective for promoting your content. For example, it can tell you whether more traffic is coming from embeds on social media apps and external websites, or from the YouTube watch page and other YouTube channels.

Traffic source metrics are useful because they can help you refine your YouTube SEO strategy. Google owns YouTube, so it’s safe to say that the two platforms have similar ranking algorithms. For example, inbound links are likely taken into consideration when ranking videos.

You can locate this information by going to Reach, and clicking on See More under the Traffic source types section:

Traffic source type settings.

Learning about your channel’s traffic sources can help give you more insight into its reach and the effectiveness of your strategy. You can also determine which traffic sources are producing the most results.

3. Audience retention

Audience retention tells you how much of your video people actually watch, as well as when they stop watching. Retention is an important part of YouTube’s rankings, so this is a key metric to track. It can also be useful for informing you about which parts of your videos are the most engaging, and therefore what you should be doing more of.

To locate this data, go to Videos in your channel dashboard, and then select the video you want to view metrics for. Click on Analytics, followed by the Engagement tab:

Audience retention metric in YouTube Channel analytics.

To understand the data here, you’ll want to know the difference between absolute retention and relative retention:

  • Absolute: This curve indicates how well viewers were retained overall.
  • Relative: The relative retention curve shows how well the video retained viewers in comparison to your other YouTube videos with a similar length.

To get a more in-depth explanation of how to interpret these graphs, YouTube offers helpful guidance in its documentation.


Shares can be a more important engagement metric than likes, because they require more effort from the viewer and they can improve your videos’ rankings. All of YouTube’s SEO ranking factors fall into one of two categories: video content and user engagement. YouTube considers shares to be social signals, and therefore counts them as a user engagement factor.

YouTube tracks shares from clicks on each video’s ‘share’ button, and this type of sharing counts the most for YouTube SEO. You can use filters to sort video data by location, device, date, etc., and check out the Sharing service option to find out where the shares are coming from:

Sharing service option.

This report will tell you how many total shares your videos get. It also lets you know what sites your viewers are sharing your videos on, which can clue you in to what platforms your strategy should focus on.

5. Subscribers

Your subscribers metric represents the number of people who have subscribed to your YouTube channel. This is an important metric to track for a number of reasons. For starters, a high number of subscribers looks good from a vanity perspective. Subscriber count can also influence engagement rates, which in turn affect SEO.

When people subscribe to your channel, they will get a notification every time you post a new video. This can significantly boost watch time, views, and overall engagement.

Keeping track of your subscribers can also help inform you about which videos are resonating. For example, if you see a spike in your number of subscribers after posting certain kinds of videos, that’s a sign you should probably continue with the same strategy.

There are multiple places where you can find information about your subscribers in your YouTube Analytics dashboard. You can see these details in your YouTube channel dashboard, or by going to the Analytics dashboard:

YouTube Channel current subscriber count.

It’s worth noting that the public sees a shortened version of the subscriber count you have access to. YouTube’s documentation offers more information about how this count will be displayed depending on how many subscribers you have.


Starting a YouTube channel is an effective way to incorporate video content into your social marketing strategy. However, it’s not enough to base your performance assessment solely on likes and comments. To get a valuable snapshot of YouTube analytics, there are certain metrics you’ll want to pay attention to.

In this article, we discussed five key metrics you can track to improve your YouTube analytics and video marketing strategy:

  1. Watch time and Views
  2. Traffic sources and Playback locations
  3. Audience retention
  5. Subscribers

Do you have any questions about the YouTube analytics we’ve looked at here? Let us know in the comments section below!

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By John Hughes

John is a self-taught WordPress designer and developer. He has been working with the CMS for over a decade, and has experience operating as a freelancer and as part of an agency. He’s dabbled in everything from accessible design to website security. Plus, he has extensive knowledge of online business topics like affiliate marketing.

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