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How to Track YouTube Video Performance Using Google Tag Manager

Track YouTube video performance using Google Tag Manager

Published by

March 21, 2018

You probably already know that video is the best way to make your products and services easier to understand for your prospects and customers.

And when it comes to using video online, YouTube is the largest and most accessible video-sharing community in the world, enabling you to embed videos directly to your website(s).

Odds are you’ll end up using it, so it’s important that you learn how to track the performance of your YouTube videos. It’s the only way to know which videos are working, which aren’t, and how much of each video your visitors watch.

Until recently, you could only track YouTube videos on your website using specialized code in Google Tag Manager. Basically, you needed to either come up with your own JavaScript code or use someone else’s finished recipe (like LunaMetrics) or plugins, like WordPress’ plugin for YouTube.

What changed? Google added a trigger to Google Tag Manager that lets you set up YouTube video tracking quickly and easily.

Now — finally — you can use Google Tag Manager to accurately measure visitor engagement with your video content.

Why would you even want to track your videos in Google Analytics?

After you upload a video to YouTube, you get access to analytics data on that video. Even if the video is embedded in your website, the data will still be recorded in the YouTube interface.

So, if YouTube already has tracking installed, why would you want to track this data in Google Analytics as well?

Four very good reasons:

  1. You see all of your data in one place — By having all your analytics data in one place, you don’t need to switch between different applications to analyze your customers. Keeping everything under the same Google Analytics roof makes it much easier, faster, and more efficient to draw insights.
  2. You can use the tracking data as a base for future goals — By creating events of video views, you can use those events as goals in Google Analytics, letting you track as a visitor that interacts with your videos directly as a “conversion”.
  3. You can easily compare results and track visitor progress visitors (using behavior and event flow reports) — When data is available within Google Analytics, you can track and compare the behavior of visitors over different time periods, or based on their acquisition source or other traffic properties in Google Analytics. In Google Analytics, you can see which videos were most popular, which led to conversion and purchase, and so on.
  4. Ability to see which visitor segments viewed the videos more than others — Finally, in Google Analytics, you can use segments to observe how popular your video or videos were for different groups of your visitors. This way, you’ll know what part or parts of your video were excellent and which weren’t good enough, instead of only knowing that visitors didn’t like it. You can even personalize your videos based on data from your segments.

How to set up your YouTube trigger

You can easily set up a YouTube trigger as a tag, similar to the mechanism for scroll tracking. Instead of percentages of page depth, you’ll use a percentage of video length.

To create a GA event that will report a YouTube video being watched, start by creating a new tag. When you open the new tag dialog, you’ll first need to select the type of tag you want to use.

The new tag configuration interface
The new tag configuration interface

The dialog box consists of two main elements: “Tag Configuration” and “Triggering”.

Tag Configuration allows you to select the type of tag you want to use, including “Analytics” tag, “Third-party” tag, and “Custom” tag. Triggering allows you to define the precise circumstances that will activate the tag and send a hit report to Google Analytics.

Since you want the hit report to appear in Google Analytics, the tag type you select should be the Universal Analytics tag.

Selecting a tag type
Selecting a tag type

When you select the Universal Analytics tag type, you only need to use a Google Analytics setting to enable Tag Manager to establish an event that reports hits to your GA account.

If you’ve set up your Google Tag Manager properly, you will have made a variable that contains the ID number of your Google Analytics account, as well as other settings you can modify using Google Tag Manager. Make sure your Google Analytics Settings field contains the variable with the correct ID number, or the data from the tag will not be reported to your GA account.

The tag configuration dialog
The tag configuration dialog

“Track Type” is an important part of tag configuration, since it defines what’s being tracked. For the usual application of tracking in Google Analytics, Page View is the default track type, so the tag can be fired on every page. This means that the tag will be added to every page of the site, but fire a report only when the selected conditions are met.

For pages that contain no video, the tag will remain inactive.

When you finish with the tag configuration and define the tag type, you’ll also need to define the trigger for the tracking event. The trigger is a set of circumstances that will send a report to Google Analytics and show when the visitors play and view the video. The trigger is a necessary element in every Google Tag Manager tag, as it makes the tag fire.

Next, define the trigger

To define the trigger for the tag, click the Triggering section at the bottom of the new tag dialog.

The triggering configuration box
The triggering configuration box

When you click on this box, a dialog opens where you can select the type of trigger you want to add to your tag.

The trigger for “YouTube video tracking” has recently been added to the number of triggers available by default, which — luckily for us — removes the need to use third-party solutions that required a ton of code.

Types of available triggers
Types of available triggers

When you open the “Choose a trigger” dialog, you’ll see only the triggers you’ve used so far. If you haven’t used the YouTube video trigger type before, it won’t be listed among your available triggers. You’ll need to add it to the list.

To add the trigger, click the plus sign at the top right corner of the dialog. This will open the trigger configuration dialog.

The trigger configuration dialog box
The trigger configuration dialog box

By clicking inside the box, you can choose a trigger to add to the list of the available triggers. Click “YouTube Video”.

The trigger selection dialog box
The trigger selection dialog box

Once you click “YouTube Video,” it will open (another) screen — this is where you’ll define the properties of the trigger. For any trigger to function properly, you need to define the visitor actions you want to track.

Trigger properties that you can modify
Trigger properties that you can modify

There are three types of properties in the YouTube trigger that you can adjust to enhance how the tag sends a video-playing event report to Google Analytics.

Property 1: Capture

Capture contains four different actions: “Start,” “Complete,” “Pause, Seeking, and Buffering,” and “Progress”. Each has a checkbox you can check to enable tracking and reporting of the specific actions in Google Analytics.

As the name suggests, “Start” tracks and reports when visitors click the start or play the video. This report will be contained in GA’s Behavior events section, allowing you to analyze the number of visitors who started playing the video vs. the total number of those who navigated to the page.

Likewise, “Complete” tracks the proportion of visitors who viewed the entirety of the video. This piece of information, together with the number of those who started the video, is vital to judge your video’s success. If only a fraction of visitors actually view the video in its entirety, it may mean that it is not engaging enough (read: it’s boring).

The operative words in the previous sentence are “may mean”. While in general it’s true that you would want your audience to view your entire video, even if they don’t, you might still see good results.

Your video can still be a smashing success even if the audience views only half of it, and then decides to buy something from your website.

You’d never know that if you were limited only to the first two properties, “Start” and “Play”.

Of course, you could examine your Event Flow report and analyze the proportion of visitors that end up converting after viewing the video.

The approach using the Event Flow report is helpful to confirm that you actually profit from having videos on your ecommerce website, AKA they either lead to more conversions or represent an integral part of your customer experience.

An example Event Flow report
An example Event Flow report

But if this report is inconclusive — i.e., viewing video does not result in changes in user flow or behavior — you’ll then need to observe other indicators of video performance.

Property 2: Pause, Search, and Buffering

“Pause, Search, and Buffering” show you the parts of videos where viewers paused, skipped, or encountered a buffering problem. While pausing is likely an inconclusive piece of data, since viewers pause video for any number of reasons, the other two actions can be more indicative.

If you detect that many visitors actually skip some part of your video, you may consider editing the video to leave out that part and shorten the video.

If an equal number of viewers views different parts of your video, you might consider splitting it into two parts, thus engaging both segments of your audience better. (By analyzing the structure of your audience, you can increase personalization by offering each segment only the part they are interested in.)

Property 3: Progress

Finally, the “Progress” property indicates how far in the video viewers progress. Similarly to scroll tracking, progress is shown in Percentages or Time Thresholds.

Configuring the “Progress” property
Configuring the “Progress” property

Percentage (or time) of video viewed is important in understanding the performance of your video, since it offers a more granular analysis of viewer behavior. While the majority of viewers may not watch to the very end, maybe the most important part is toward the beginning — and that part influences the behavior of your visitors. In this case you can even consider shortening the video itself, since it seems to be doing the job.

Of course, if the opposite is true, and the majority of viewers stop watching the video at some point, especially early on, you’ll have a clear understanding of where to improve the content of your video.

Advanced functionality

Using advanced functionality, you can track videos embedded on your page using JavaScript that plays them automatically, stops them at a certain time, etc.

By enabling API support you can track the videos implemented through iFrame
By enabling API support you can track the videos implemented through iFrame

Since these videos are implemented through an iframe, tracking viewer activity inside them requires that you enable the Add JavaScript support in GA. Additionally, this parameter will automatically add API calls to all the YouTube videos on the page.

Decide when the trigger should fire

The final parameter you can adjust is to enable the tag to trigger on all or only on some videos on your website. Triggering the tag selectively can lower the load on your analytics effort by excluding less-important videos from tracking.

Trigger firing
Using ‘Some videos’ option you can limit tracking to videos you deem important

Published by

Edin is a Senior CRO Consultant. Edin is into Google Analytics and testing (any A/B testing tool really) and likes to write about it. You can follow Edin on Twitter.