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Go Beyond View Count with YouTube Analytics

When I publish a video on our Mayo Clinic YouTube channel, I’m often asked a few months later for an update on “how the video is doing.” Usually the client wants to know how many people have watched the video. If the number of views is high, the video must be great – right?

Actually, this is a pretty bare-bones approach to measuring success. Although you can monitor viewership trends by age range, geography, date, and other factors, view counts indicate little about viewer behavior. A viewer who bolts after five seconds, for instance, doesn’t add much value to your metrics.

To help flesh out our understanding of video performance, I use YouTube Analytics to study metrics that tell more about how viewers react to videos. Here are two data reports that I find useful – in addition to views – when analyzing video content.

(Note: To navigate to YouTube Analytics, click on your account icon in the top-right corner and select “Creator Studio.” Find “Analytics” in the left-hand column. Metrics for your entire channel are displayed automatically. To view metrics for a single video, type the video name into the “Search for content” bar. If you want to view metrics for all videos within a playlist, read this post.)

Audience Retention

The Audience Retention report reflects how well your content is holding the audience’s attention. How much of the video do people watch on average, and at which points do they tend to exit?

Audience Retention Graph

One of the biggest issues with audience retention is a high exit rate at the very beginning of a video. Some drop-off throughout is normal, especially for longer videos. However, a significant drop-off in the first 30 seconds could signal problems with your content. The video might need a stronger introduction to hook viewers. Or the video title, thumbnail and description might promise something that isn’t delivered quickly enough.

For example, say your video is titled “Preparing for a Colonoscopy.” Viewers expect to hear specific instructions about diet restrictions and liquid intake. If a physician instead spends the first minute talking about the importance of regular colonoscopies for people over 50, viewers are likely to click away – they’re not getting the content that was promised.

So if you see a large drop-off in audience retention at the beginning of your videos, consider the following:

  • How do you pitch the content in your title, thumbnail and description?
  • How compelling is your introduction?
  • When do your click-through features appear – before or after major dips in retention?
  • How does retention compare across videos? This could shape future content strategy.


Hopefully viewers are already flocking to at least one of your videos. But are they liking it, sharing it, commenting on it, visiting your site because of it, and subscribing to your channel because they want to see more of your content? Engagement reports will tell you.

In my opinion, the most valuable engagement metrics involve subscribers, shares, and click-through features like Cards and End Screens. All of these show a higher degree of engagement compared to likes/dislikes and comments. If a viewer subscribes to your channel, they want to see more from you. If they share your content on Facebook or Twitter, they’re vouching for your content and expanding your reach organically. And if they click through to your website, they become a potential customer.

If views and retention rate are up but engagement metrics are low, consider the following:

  • Is your content shared more frequently on a particular site? Maybe it’s time to revisit how you’re incorporating video content into your Facebook or Twitter strategy.
  • Are you optimizing click-through features (Cards, End Screens, Annotations)?
  • Do you respond to comments?

Are you using YouTube Analytics in a different way? Let us know in the comments.

Shea Jennings is a Communications Associate for Mayo Clinic's Social & Digital Innovation team who supports Department of Medicine Continuous Professional Development courses. She also is the lead for the Mayo Clinic YouTube channel and participates in the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network

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Your view count isn't the only metric that matters on YouTube.
View counts actually indicate very little about viewer behavior on YouTube.
On YouTube, audience retention is every bit as important as the actual view count.

Very interesting and useful article, @csjennings. In your experience, do you see any correlation between length of video and audience retention?


Thanks, @DanHinmon. In general, the longer the video, the less audience retention. That said, I find it helpful to segment videos by length when I compare stats. Looking at retention for videos longer than 10 minutes, for instance, gives you a better picture of retention than comparing a 15-minute lecture with a 2-minute clip.


Good idea for this post on going beyond the view count, @csjennings!

One thing I would add is that I think measuring success based on number of subscribers varies greatly depending on the target audience. To clarify, I wouldn’t expect Mayo Clinic’s YouTube account to get as many subscribers as some other accounts, and I’m OK with that. There may be many people that wouldn’t want to get notified about every YouTube video Mayo uploads (over 5,000?) across a variety of specialty areas. But, for a more narrowly targeted YouTube channel, I think gauging success on subscribers might be more pertinent. My two cents at least. 🙂

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