2 billion users log into YouTube each month. Every day, they watch more than a billion hours of video, generating billions of views.

That’s reason enough to dive head-first into YouTube advertising. But since April of 2021, Apple’s iOS14 release has put Facebook ads into a free fall. 

YouTube is not only cost-effective, it gives you the data you need to implement and optimize your ad campaigns. Which is why, if you’re leaning into YouTube ads, you’re not alone.

Keep reading for a quick overview of the YouTube advertising metrics you need to know.

YouTube Ad Metrics

We’ve broken down the key YouTube ad metrics into five categories: views, clicks, costs, actions, and conversions. Here’s a closer look at each of these categories and the metrics that will help you track them.

Ad Metric #1: Views

The basic metric for YouTube viewership is the video views. Views tell you how many people watched your ad. To be counted as a view, a user must meet one of three criteria:

  • Watch 30 seconds of your ad
  • Watch the whole ad if it’s less than 30 seconds
  • Interact with your ad
  • Click on your discovery ad

But views don’t tell us much until we include two other metrics: impressions and view rate.

Impressions reflect the number of times your ad is shown in the SERPs (search engine results pages) or on the Google Network. Each time your ad is served (both viewable and nonviewable), it creates an impression. 

Impressions depend on the type of ad. In a discovery ad, for example, an impression is counted when the thumbnail ad is shown. For instream ads, an impression is counted every time the ad is served as a pre-roll.

View rate is the number of video views divided by the total impressions. The view rate tells you how well your ad is capturing and retaining audience attention.

These numbers tell a useful story when they’re all used together. If you have a high view rate, but low overall views, then you have an effective video with low audience reach.

Conversely, a large number of impressions with a small view rate means that your video may not be resonating with the audience. (This isn’t the case with discovery/responsive video types.)

Ad Metric #2: Clicks

Once your YouTube ad is running and getting views, you need to know how well it motivates your viewers to take action. There are two foundational metrics that will give you this information: clicks and clickthrough rate.

Clicks show the total number of viewers that were motivated to tap their screen or click their mouse.

Clickthrough rate (CTR) is the same idea as the view rate from the previous section. CTR is the opportunity-action ratio for click performance: clicks divided by impressions.

A healthy CTR is anything above 1%. Aim for 1.3% to 1.5%. If you get 2% or higher, you’re doing great. If your CTR drops below 1%, you need to go back to the drawing board — your creative is bad.

Views give a glimpse into your market exposure. Together with clicks, these YouTube ad metrics tell you how much interest you’re generating in the market.

Ad Metric #3: Costs

You already know it takes money to make money. How much does it really take?

YouTube uses numerous bidding strategies to suit a range of marketing needs. Here’s a look at some common bidding strategies for video ads.

Cost per view (CPV) is a bidding method where you pay for each view of your YouTube ad.  Generally, the cost is between 10 and 30 cents per view. You indicate your maximum per-view bid and your maximum daily budget. 

CPV is only available when you run TrueView video ads. 

Note: The advantage with TrueView is that you are only charged if the viewer watches the whole ad or clicks on it. According to Google, this format is preferred by 80% of viewers.

You can also set a maximum CPV (mCPV) bid for your video ads when you create your ad group. ”Maximum” means what you’ll pay for a view will be equal to or below your bid, depending on other advertisers’ bids.

mCPV bidding applies to: 

  • Skippable TrueView ads
  • Discovery ads

Cost per 1000 impressions (CPM) is a bidding method where you pay per one thousand impressions on the Google Display Network or YouTube. Trouble is, not every ad that’s served will be viewed.

tCPM (target cost per thousand impressions) is a bidding strategy where you set how much, on average, you’re willing to pay every thousand times your ad is shown. This amount is your target CPM. Google Ads then tries to keep your campaign’s average CPM equal to or lower than the tCPM you set.

tCPM bidding applies to:

  • Unskippable ads
  • Bumper ads
  • Ad sequence types

Viewable CPM (vCPM) bidding ensures that you only pay when your ads can be seen. Existing CPM bids are converted to vCPM automatically, but it’s best to update your bids since viewable impressions can be more valuable. 

Your strategy is your guide when deciding on your bidding strategy. Sometimes your goal is to get clicks. Other times, your goal is to be seen. 

Add Metric #4: Actions

You’re getting views, generating clicks, and collecting data on your bidding strategy. Great!

So, what now? How is your audience engaging now that you’re a familiar face?

Audience engagement after the introduction is called earned actions. After the viewer sees your ad, they may be inspired to connect on a deeper level. Here are the YouTube ad metrics that you measure at this stage:

Earned views – the viewer is hungry for more. They’ve seen your ad and they click on another video on your channel or watch pages.

Earned likes – the viewer saw your ad and liked it, giving it a virtual thumbs-up.

Earned shares – your ad played and the viewer smashed that share button.

Earned subscriptions – they liked your ad so much that they want to stay tuned in.

Earned playlist additions – you’re put in the queue with the viewer’s favorites.

Earned actions are a great indicator of where your campaign is gaining traction. Conversions are the cherry on the sundae — for good conversion rates you need to earn your position as a well-known, well-liked face.

Ad Metric #5: Conversions

This is the finish line of the marketing funnel. By tracking your sales and profits, you can know which marketing pathways have led your viewers to conversions. You’ll do that by watching your conversions and traffic sources.

Conversion tracking tells you which keywords, ads, ad groups, and campaigns are driving conversions. You can find these metrics in your YouTube analytics. 

Traffic source is the channel where your viewers are seeing your ads. This tells you how your viewers are finding you. If one channel stands out above the rest, you can double down on that channel to boost your traffic and exposure.

YouTube’s metrics toolset provides information on sources such as YouTube search, external links, channel pages, browse pages, and suggested videos.

How Do You Analyze YouTube Metrics?

Now that you’re acquainted with the basic metrics, let’s take a look at how they fit into the life cycle of your marketing strategy:

Stage 1: Awareness 

This is the very beginning of your customer journey. It’s your first touch with your audience, where you introduce yourself or your product to your audience. At this stage, you need to measure:

  • Impressions – how often they see you
  • Views – how often they watch you
  • Unique viewers – how many individuals there are

Stage 2: Consideration 

You’ve met. You’ve caught their attention. Now your viewer is getting to know you better. At this stage, you need to focus on metrics that assess just how much consideration they’re giving you:

  • Watch time – the accumulated total of your content’s play time
  • Average watch time  – how much of the ad your typical viewer watches

Stage 3: Decision 

You’ve done it! They came, they saw, and now they want what you’ve got. You can track conversions through the viewer’s actions:

  • Clicks – how many viewers click on your ad
  • Click-through rate (CTR) – how many clicks you get divided by impressions

Fine-Tuning Your Campaign

Once you have the data from your campaign’s market performance, you can see what works and what doesn’t. There are endless approaches to fine-tune your strategy and get the most out of your advertising budget. 

A good place to start is on your ad format, targeting, and performance.

Ad format – There are numerous formats for your YouTube ads, each with its own placement and style. If your ad isn’t performing well, you can try different formats until you start getting some traction.

Targeting options – YouTube ads allow you to specifically target your audience by keywords, topics, placements, and interests. This ensures that you’re firing a well-aimed shot at the market. You may only need to tweak your targeting to ensure your ad is served to your best audience.

Content performance – A metric like average watch time provides great insight into how well you retain your audience. This can combine with other tools to provide even more useful information.

Moments allows you to timestamp important moments in the ad, such as when your brand or product is shown. Combined with average watch time, you can ensure that your core message is reaching the viewer.

For example: if your call to action is at the twenty second mark but most users are exiting after ten seconds, you could rearrange the video to introduce the compelling content earlier and improve conversion.

Bottom Line

You now know the basics of YouTube ad metrics. By focusing on this data, you can track your ad campaign’s performance and optimize for better results.

Keep in mind, YouTube ad optimization is an ongoing effort. Even if your ad performs well, you can likely squeeze a few extra conversion points by tweaking your campaign. 

Just watch your metrics to know what’s working, what’s not, and what you may need to change. 

How does this list line up with the tools you’ve used on other platforms? What exciting advantages do you see that can level up your advertising game?

About the Author Kathryn Aragon

Kathryn is the founder of Kathryn Aragon Media and Solopreneur Life. She's a content strategist, consultant, coach, and author. Her mission: to help businesses use their words to grow authority and revenue.

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