Understanding YouTube analytics to level up your channel

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One of the crucial ingredients to cooking up a successful YouTube channel —  beyond compelling content, intros, and banners — is knowing your audience. The best way to gauge your audience’s likes and dislikes is by seeing how your videos perform. Which of your videos is your audience viewing the most? How long are they watching? You can also view these numbers for competitor channels to find out what they’re doing right and/or wrong.

Knowing how to use YouTube analytics to improve your content can give you a real competitive advantage.

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Why are YouTube analytics important?

The competition to understand and make the best of YouTube’s algorithm is fierce. But taking the time to learn more may help boost your videos in search; sometimes the tactic can be as simple as adjusting your intro. By viewing and understanding your own channel’s analytics, you can identify:

  • Which kinds of videos perform best.
  • Which videos viewers watch for the longest.
  • Which videos trigger audience engagement — what is it that makes them click through, like, and subscribe?
  • How certain video publishing elements, such as titles, thumbnails, and runtime, can affect performance and shares.

In essence, YouTube metrics provide you with information on where and when to adjust your content-making process. Adjusting elements here and there — tweaking how you edit your videos or write your captions, for instance — can be the secret sauce to a popular video or channel.

How to view YouTube analytics

It’s possible to view both your own channel’s analytics and those of competitors, which gives you double the insight into what you need to boost your performance.

How to view your own YouTube analytics

To view your own channel’s analytics, first login to your YouTube account. Click your profile picture in the upper right corner of the screen, then select “YouTube Studio” from the dropdown menu. There, you’ll see a summary of your channel’s metrics to the right on the Channel Dashboard. To view those analytics more in-depth, you can click “Go to Channel Analytics,” or select “Analytics” from the left-hand column menu.

You can toggle between views like “Overview,” “Reach,” “Engagement,” “Audience,” and “Revenue,” depending on what you’re looking for — we’ll explain what all of these mean below. If you select “Advanced Mode” in the top right corner, you’ll see a more detailed breakdown of your channel’s analytics (such as year-over-year channel growth), along with metrics for specific published videos (first 24-hour video performance, how individual videos compare against overall channel metrics, etc.).

You can download a report containing this data by selecting your parameters in “Advanced Mode.” Click the down arrow in the top right-hand corner, and choose a Google Sheets or .csv file format to generate the report.

How to view competitor YouTube channel analytics

Viewing competitor analytics can be a valuable way to improve your own content, but it requires a third-party YouTube analytics tool. You can’t view analytics for another channel inside YouTube Studio, but platforms like Tubular Intelligence, BuzzSumo, Social Blade, TubeBuddy, and Popsters allow you to extract that data. Many of these tools can also locate competitor channels you may not be aware of through trending keyword searches. Most offer a freemium model, where the free version offers few features and the paid version gives you more defined search and tracking features.

YouTube reports and metrics

YouTube analytics reports can be divided into five main sections: “Overview,” “Reach,” “Engagement,” “Audience,” and “Revenue”:


Your “Overview” section gives you a bird’s eye view of your channel’s performance. Metrics include:

  • Subscribers: The number of people who have subscribed to your YouTube channel over a given period of time.
  • Realtime views: The number of views your videos have gotten in the last 48 hours.
  • Top videos: Your most-viewed videos over a given period of time.
  • Channel views: The number of video views your whole channel has gotten over a given period of time.
  • Channel watch time: The total amount of time in hours viewers have spent watching all of the combined videos on your channel.


Your “Reach” section gives you an understanding of how people are coming into contact with your content, both on YouTube and off. Metrics include:

  • Impressions: The number of times thumbnails for your videos have appeared to YouTube users. This won’t include external impressions on website embeds or through social-media shares.
  • Impressions click-through rate (CTR): The percentage of people who clicked through your thumbnail when they saw it on YouTube. This demonstrates how attractive the marketing elements of your videos are.
  • Traffic sources: Where and how people are finding your content. This might include keyword searches, browsing, playlists, and suggested videos.
  • Top YouTube search terms: Which search results are leading people to your content on YouTube. This demonstrates whether your YouTube keyword strategy is doing what it needs to do.


Engagement metrics will indicate how people are interacting with your content. Metrics include:

  • Average view duration: How long the average viewer stays watching your video before clicking away.
  • Top playlists: Which of your video playlists are viewers watching the most.
  • Card and end screen reports: If you have interactive content in your videos — clickable windows, for example — these show how and when viewers interact with these elements.


The “Audience” section will help you get a hang of who watches your videos, identify a target audience, and build a community around your content. Metrics include:

  • Unique viewers: The estimated total number of viewers watching your videos over a given period. One viewer is “unique” in this context, and will only be counted once — even if they watch videos three or four times.
  • Returning viewers: People who have previously watched a video on your channel who have returned to watch another. Frequent returns indicate your content is hitting a note with some viewers, and these are key for building audience retention.
  • When viewers are on YouTube: This displays the days and times when most of your viewers are online and using the platform. That can help you schedule content publication for the best times (though YouTube itself says publication times don’t always affect performance—hey, it’s more of an art than a science).
  • Subscriber watch time: How much of your total view time comes from those who are actually subscribed to your channel.
  • Audience demographics: Age, gender, location, and language metrics for the people who watch your videos on YouTube.


The “Revenue” section helps you track your earnings if you qualify for YouTube monetization and have been accepted into the YouTube Partner Program. Metrics include:

  • Estimated revenue: The net revenue your channel has earned over a given period of time from all Google-sold advertisements and transactions, which are broken down further below.
  • Estimated ad revenue: The estimated revenue of your channel from AdSense and DoubleClick ads.
  • Transaction revenue: The estimated net revenue your channel has generated from transactions, like paid content or Super Chat, etc.
  • Estimated monetized playbacks: The number of times a viewer has seen at least one ad impression during your video, or quit watching during a pre-roll ad. Pre-roll ads come before content starts, mid-roll ads in the middle, and post-roll after it ends.

Final thoughts

Understanding analytics is the only way to optimize your YouTube channel, see which content is resonating, and which falls flat. And your best bet to grow your channel is to constantly compare your analytics to those of your most successful competitors. Take note of the adjustments they’re making to their content and channel over time, and if appropriate, try to replicate some of those strategies yourself. Analytics shouldn’t be the only thing that drives your YouTube content, but it can help it be seen by the highest number of eyeballs possible.

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