Tracking YouTube's Impact using Google Analytics

Published January 28, 2015
This we know: Online video consumption is growing. We also know that online video offers businesses and marketers a powerful way to promote their brand, connect with their audience, drive traffic and get their message (or products) out in a memorable way.
And like a good marketer, you’ve taken notice!
You’ve created a YouTube brand channel, you’re showcasing your products and you’re engaging with your audience in front of the camera. Even better – as you continue to create videos, more and more people are watching and sharing them.
But, how can you determine the value that these videos and these users are providing to your business?
Google Analytics offers multiple reports to see how many users are coming to your site via YouTube, where they’re going, how well they’re engaging and how many are converting.
In this post, we’ll take a look at a few ways to analyze YouTube traffic. Our example brand, a site promoting healthy living and eating, uses videos to demonstrate recipe preparation, review organic products and showcase promotional appearances by the site owner.

YouTube Tracking in Google Analytics


Viewing YouTube in the Referrals Report

The Referrals report in GA allows you to see traffic volume, engagement stats and conversions from YouTube all in one place. To access this report, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals. Then, type “” into the search bar below the graph to filter sessions.


Google Analytics Showing YouTube Referrals


In this report, we see YouTube drove 1,844 sessions, and 797 new users. The engagement metrics (Bounce Rate, Pages/Sessions and Avg. Session Duration) for this subset also show that the quality of YouTube traffic is significantly better than site traffic as a whole. Bounce Rate is much lower than the site average while Pages/Session and Avg. Session Duration are much higher. This tells us that users from YouTube are more likely to look at multiple pages and spend more time on the site than the average users.

The % New Sessions column shows us that less than half of the sessions are from first-time visits to the site. This data means that a lot of people coming from YouTube are already familiar with the brand and may regularly engage with the content.

We can also look at the Conversions columns to determine how well YouTube contributes to the Goal of newsletter signups. Conversion rate is slightly more than double the site as a whole, confirming the quality of traffic seen through engagement. These users are much more likely to sign up for the newsletter than the average user.

Note that the Source column shows multiple URLs, breaking down visitors from the main (desktop site), (mobile site), and five sessions from (extraneous traffic we can ignore). By looking at these specific URLs, you can compare performance of the desktop site vs. the mobile site in driving engagement and conversions.

Overall, desktop visitors show better engagement, as well as a higher conversion rate. While shorter time on site tends to be common with mobile usage, the low conversion rate is a red flag. The site owner should look at how the newsletter’s call to action to sign up is presented to mobile visitors, and should consider perhaps making it more visible or testing the signup form on a phone for usability issues.

Viewing YouTube Referrals in Social Reports

You can also view YouTube data in the Social section of Google Analytics. This method allows you to easily see all YouTube traffic together without showing separate mobile and desktop URLs or having to use the search bar to filter.

To access this information, navigate to Acquisition > Social > Network Referrals. As long as you’re receiving referrals from YouTube, you will see it in the list of social networks. This will help you see how YouTube measures up against other networks.


Google Analytics Social Network Referrals


In this example, we see that while YouTube drives a fraction of the sessions coming from Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, sessions from YouTube show a much higher Avg. Session Duration and Pages/Session than any other channel. This data confirms that the traffic from YouTube is of very high quality.

To view the specific pages people landed on during these sessions, click “YouTube” from this list. You’ll then see a list of URLs visited from YouTube.


Google Analytics URLs Visited from YouTube


In this list, we can see the homepage at the top, a normal occurrence as your homepage will be most frequently linked to from social profiles. Next in popularity is a recipe page for green juice that includes an infographic and video. This page also shows relatively high engagement, with Avg. Session Duration of over three minutes. Also on our list is another video about making a green smoothie, helping us to determine that instructions for making “green drinks” are of high interest to this site’s audience and should continue to be part of future videos and articles.

Viewing YouTube Conversions in Social Reports

You can also view conversions within the Social section by going to Social > Conversions. While viewing conversions in this report does let you easily see YouTube conversion totals and value, you can’t see conversion rate as you could in the Referrals report previously referenced.

On this report, start by selecting a specific goal from the Conversion Type dropdown at the top. We’ve already determined YouTube’s effectiveness in driving newsletter signups, so this time we’ll choose a Goal directly connected to revenue, downloading an e-guide that sells for $20.


Google Analytics Conversions from Social Media


After selecting the Goal, you will see a list of social networks, with total conversions (e-guide purchases) and revenue for each. Facebook continues to rank on top as the highest contributor to conversions and revenue, partly because of sheer volume of traffic. For this conversion, YouTube only contributed directly to three e-guide purchases worth $60.

However, we did note previously that YouTube contributes to a high conversion rate for newsletter signups. Comparing the data for these two conversions, we can determine that YouTube is not well suited for driving direct sales but performs well with higher funnel conversions. Once on the newsletter list, they may then later choose to buy as they begin to further identify with the brand.

Tying the Data Together

From this data, we can show our client where YouTube is most effective – driving people to read site content and entry-level conversions. We can also show where YouTube is least effective – driving immediate sales. If YouTube isn’t effective in driving much traffic, we can encourage linking to relevant pages on the site from each video.

Overall, when reviewing YouTube data, look for the metrics that inform the quality of users coming in, as well as their potential to turn into paying customers. Compare multiple analytics reports to share the best information. For brands that use video well, a YouTube channel can help to drive not only sessions but conversions that ultimately contribute to long term value.


When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:



It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
Digital marketers spend a lot of time focused on PPC and SEO campaigns in order to drive desirable traffic to a website. The phrases we’re ranking for and bidding on get meticulous attention, so much so that we often forget about some of the other ways that visitors find us.

We put a tremendous amount of the effort we put into reviewing organic search data and PPC campaign performance in analytics. But how closely do we monitor referral reports?

If that’s not a channel you review regularly, you may be missing out on seeing traffic that is coming directly from links you’ve obtained around the web, local business listings, news mentions, and more. Many times, links are only considered as a means to an end, a metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs (search engine results pages). But the fact is, many of a site’s links may be directly contributing to its traffic.

In this article, we’ll review how to look at referral reports in Google Analytics, and some of the many ways to use that data to better inform your web marketing decisions.


Remember how your mom told you not to stand too close to the television because it might hurt your eyes?

The same rules can apply to data. If you’re too close, you may miss the patterns and trends that are crucial to understanding your website’s performance. You can’t judge a site’s performance looking at data in the bubble of a single day, you must consider any day’s traffic compared to the days before and after.

Google Analytics makes it fairly easy to analyze trends over long periods of time. But it also allows you to stand right in front of that TV, to look at more granular levels of time, right down to the hour.
There’s a better way to get that close to the data, without burning your retinas. We’ll cover how to analyze traffic effectively in today’s post.