Understanding Video Analytics

Sep 27, 2010


Online video is slowing becoming ubiquitous – used more and more by publishers to promote their products and services to their customers. So how do you measure just how ubiquitous it has become? Our Answer: Video Analytics.

It is becoming increasingly important to analyze video performance. For example, retailers want to know if their video marketing efforts increase sales. Publishers want to know which type of videos (and accompanying advertisements) have the greatest return on investment. Foundations want to know if their video bulletins are successfully increasing awareness of their mission. Analytics are both intriguing and insightful across many industries.

Luckily, video is just another part of the online mix: embedded in HTML and delivered over HTTP. Thus, the vast array of tools for analyzing the performance of webpages can be used for videos as well. For example, with Google Analytics you can setup a goal that tracks just how many of your users both watched your video and then bought your product, i.e. analyzing its effectiveness.

Webpage-oriented tools like Google Analytics do provide insight into video performance, but due to the time-based nature of video, they lack the proper tools to delivery a deeper analysis. Video portals (e.g. Vimeo and YouTube), video platforms (e.g. Bits on the Run and Brightcove) and video analytic providers (e.g. Omniture and Visible Measures) have risen to fill this gap and offer solid tools focused on the specific time-based nature of video, providing you with reliable and insightful statistics for your videos.

When comparing these offerings, three valuable, video specific metrics are always included: video pageviews/video views, hours viewed, and video engagement.

Metric 1: Video Pageviews And Video Views

Consistent across most websites, users are required to click on a video to make it play. There are two important reasons for this practice. First, playing video is still expensive – both in terms of bandwidth, computing power and battery life. Second, and perhaps more important, automatically starting a video when a user loads a website is a less than desirable user experience.

Understanding exactly how many users click to play a video is important. It tells you how many people are interested in the video, or how many people are able to identify the video on your page. By keeping track of this metric, over time, you can use it to optimize the video’s poster thumbnail and the placement of the videoplayer on the page, increasing the number of people that play the video.

A video pageview is a measure of how many times a user loads the page on your site where the video sits (this does not mean the video is played/watched). A video view is a measure of each time a user hits play on your video, and thus views it. Note the distinction.

The ratio of video views to video pageviews generally ranges from about 10% to about 50%. If more than 50% of your pageviews result in a video view, your page layout and video thumbnail are considered greatly optimized. However, if less than 10% of your pageviews result in a video view, there’s work to be done. Alternatively, you might want to re-think if placing a video on that certain page is a good idea, of if there might be more optimal pages within your site.

Example analytics summary. The views:pageviews ratio is roughly 40%Every video analytics provider offers these pageviews and video views metrics, although the exact naming differs. Video pageviews are also called embeds or loads and video views are sometimes called plays or starts.

Metric 2: Hours Viewed

With traditional website metrics, a comparison of the amount of site visits to the amount of pageviews gives you a good sense of the stickyness of your content – users that like what you write will read multiple pages. In online video, this same logic is applied to compare the number of video views to the number of total hours viewed by your visitors. For example, if you have a 3-minute video on your site and 20 visitors watch the entire video, the video is reported to have 1 hour viewed (i.e. 20 visitors x 3 minutes = 60 minutes viewed).

It is generally useful to understand just how much of your video a user is watching. In the example above – if you have 20 video views for your 3 minute video, but total hours viewed is only 0.25 (or 15 minutes), then the average visitor is only watching about 45 seconds of your 3 minute video. This statistic can help you evaluate your video content.

If the duration of videos on your website varies greatly, the number of hours viewed is a more effective business metric than the number of video views. This is particularly interesting for those experimenting with video advertising – using advertisements to monetize your content. A long video with fewer views, but 10 ads, might make more money than a short video with more views, and only 1 ad. The former may result in fewer video views, but hours viewed will be higher, and in this case, directly proportional to more revenue. The latter with have more video views, but total hours viewed will be less. So these statistics are not always comparable. Hulu is a great example of a site where the number of hours viewed is more important than the number of video views.

Example analytics report. The video with most views did not generate the most hours viewed.The hours viewed metric is offered by nearly all video analytic providers and naming is generally consistent.

Metric 3: Video Engagement

Since video is a temporal medium (i.e. contains a timeline), the number of views for a given clip doesn’t say much about its actual performance. Even the number of hours viewed lacks a true performance metric. For examples, where do viewers drop off? How many viewers watch the entire video? Are there sections in the video that viewer like so much they seek back and replay?

Video engagement is the metric that answers these questions, providing you with a deep understanding of how your visitors interact with your videos. Engagement is usually plotted as a chart, showing you the number of viewers for every second in your video. Steep drops in the chart show that a lot of visitors stop watching your clip at that point. This can help you effectively edit your video. Bumps in the chart show that visitors re-play that section. You might want to insert an advertisement there, or simply keep in mind that the info shown in this section really resonates with your visitors – learning something valuable about user activity.

Example engagement chart. There’s a steep drop in views at the start of the clip: not good!Video Engagement is a powerful metric. However, while being the most insightful it is also the most technically challenging metric to track. Not all analytics providers offer it. Those that do all call it engagement, with the exception of YouTube, which calls it attention.

Get Started!

With these three basic metrics, you are able to compile valuable reports on the performance of your videos and the behavior of your audience. Note that most video analytics platforms provide more information, such as embeds on third-party websites (useful for UCG video) and unique number of viewers (useful for news reports).

There are plenty of options for people who want to start tracking their videos! We ourselves offer a comprehensive suite of reports with our Bits on the Run platform. We also offer a GAPro plugin, which adds video-specific reports to your existing Google Analytics account. Other highly recommended options are the tools developed by specialists like Omniture and Visible Measures – video analytics is their bread and butter, and they usually offer the widest array of tools and metrics.