Digital platforms are becoming more engaging and more competitive than ever before, which means content creators everywhere ask the following: How do I increase the online traffic of my channel? How do I keep my viewers engaged?
YouTube provides content creators free access to a dashboard of analytics. This data includes sources of traffic, levels of audience engagement, viewer demographics, and more. Using this information, creators can effectively increase viewership and audience engagement to grow their channels.
The following tips and tricks will help you learn how to navigate your channel dashboard. Try implementing a few of these strategies, and you’ll be hacking the algorithm in no time!
Your Channel Dashboard
Every channel owner has access to a personalized dashboard of data analytics. To access your dashboard, sign in to the YouTube studio. This will immediately bring you to the dashboard for your channel. The dashboard displays the overall current performance of your channel, as well as a menu on the left-hand side of your screen that will provide access to more details.
The overall summary screen will automatically display the most recently uploaded video, listing the data on how well it is performing in comparison to your other videos, based on views, view duration, subscribers, and overall watch time. To the right, you will see a box entitled “Channel Analytics,” which will list your current subscriber total, a summary of the channel’s views and watch time that is based on the past 28 days, (as well as percentages to indicate growth or declines in those areas), and your top videos based on data from the past 48 hours.
To dive deeper into the data itself, go to the vertical menu on the left side of your screen and click “Analytics.” Under channel analytics you’ll see a horizontal row of tabs: “Overview,” “Reach,” “Engagement,” “Audience,” and “Revenue.”
Under the “Overview” tab, you will see a graph of personalized information about the performance of your channel, based on views, watch time, and subscribers. Click on any of the three categories to view that data.
The “Reach” tab shows how many viewers your videos are attracting based on impressions and click-through rates. Impressions are simply the number of times your video shows up on the screen, regardless of whether it is played. This includes homepage thumbnails, play-next suggestions, etc. A high number of impressions increases the likelihood that viewers will actually click on your video.
Click-through rates indicate the number of times that people engage with your video by choosing to watch it. This number is displayed as a percentage derived from the overall count of impressions. Additionally, the exact number of viewers is shown under “Views,” and the number of people who are seeing your videos for the first time is shown under “Unique viewers.”
From there, you can view the analytics for individual videos, or filter the data using the right-hand dropdown menu to see more long-term performance, such as data from the last 90 days. To learn more about each metric, simply hover over it with your mouse. To view additional data or compare metrics, click on “See Data.” To go back to the Analytics menu, simply click the ‘x’ in the top right corner.
The dashboard includes quite a bit of information, so feel free to explore the other three tabs to learn more about your channel performance. It’s an incredible resource.
Basically, if your dashboard indicates that both click rates and average watch times are high, the YouTube algorithm will find more viewers for your channel by suggesting your videos more often. To get into the nitty-gritty of increasing these numbers, most successful YouTubers recommend starting by focusing on the “Traffic Sources” section.
Understanding Traffic Analytics
The “Reach” tab shows important information about the sources of traffic that feed into your channel. To increase the level of traffic on your channel, it is critical to first understand how and where your viewers are initially encountering your content. On the left, you’ll see a pie chart of percentages describing which platforms are feeding into your channel.
External sources include other platforms, such as Google searches, Instagram or Facebook promotions and links, suggested videos or search entries directly on YouTube, and so on. The higher the traffic generated by a platform, the more you’ll want to focus on promoting your material through that platform.
To the right of the traffic source types, you’ll see a funnel-shaped graphic. This demonstrates how the impressions of your video ultimately contribute to the average watch time for your videos. This data is critical to understand because the amount of traffic your channel receives will depend on your click-through rate and video watch time. Successful channels typically have an average watch time of one minute or higher.
In other words, the longer viewers spend watching your videos, the more likely it is that YouTube will suggest more of your videos, increasing the total number of impressions, and thereby the views derived from those impressions, and so on in an ever-expanding cycle. You can also view traffic sources under the “External” tab.
One of the most helpful features of the Traffic Source data is the “YouTube Search” tab. This provides a list of common searches that ultimately lead viewers to your video. Scroll through these search entries to get an idea of what your viewers are interested in or curious about. This is also a great way to generate ideas when you’re struggling to come up with new and interesting content, because the list of search entries may include something that your videos have not yet covered. Creating videos on commonly searched topics will increase traffic for your channel.
Another way to increase traffic is through demographic analytics. Click on “Demographics” to learn details about your audience, including age ranges, gender, geographic locations, and more. Click on “Geography” or the globe icon on the left side of the screen to see a map of which areas in the world contain most of your viewers. This can help you decide which time zone to focus on when publishing your content. For example, if most of your viewers are in California, use a western time zone.
The best way to generate traffic based on demographics is to use the data on which hours of the day most viewers watch or search for your videos, and then schedule release times (based on the time zone of your highest demographic) an hour or two before that peak window of activity. YouTube’s algorithm promotes videos that are successful within 24 hours of publication, so publishing your videos immediately before most of your viewers are online is a sure way to increase traffic. Be sure to choose times and dates with which you can consistently publish, as this is the best way to retain subscribers.
Increasing Audience Engagement
One of the best ways to grow your channel is by stepping beyond increased viewership and increasing levels of audience engagement. Viewers can interact with your channel in a variety of ways, including subscribing; clicking on links, banners, and thumbnails; participating and sharing promotions; and so on. The more engaging your content is, the more YouTube will promote it because you are increasing the number of time users are spending on the platform. Engaging content shows up more frequently in watch lists, search suggestions, and recommended lists.
To view the data on your audience’s levels of engagement, go to “Overview” on your Creator Studio and click on “Audience Retention.” This will show you the metrics on how many viewers remain engaged with your content. Generally speaking, the longer your videos are, the lower your percentage of viewers and subscribers will drop. The “Audience” tab shows more general information about how many videos each viewer watches on average. If this average is anywhere from 3 to 5 videos you are doing well.
Click on the “Engagement” tab to learn more about your click-through rates and levels of success at grabbing viewers’ attention. On the left, you’ll see a list of your videos, from most recent to the earliest published. Click on a video to see a line graph timeline of how many people stay engaged with your video, and for how long. If viewers are still watching after 30 seconds, you’re doing well.
Use this timeline to learn about which parts of your video are engaging, and which parts could use a little work. Dips in the timeline indicate areas where people stopped watching. Click on those spots in the timeline to be brought directly to the corresponding area in that video so you can observe what went wrong or simply did not go well. Conversely, spikes or rising peaks in the timeline indicate sections of the video that people watched repeatedly, so you can see what content they’re going back to hear or watch again. Click on these areas to learn about how you did well so that you can repeat successful creative moves in future videos.
Above this timeline are two more tabs of information: Absolute Audience Retention and Relative Audience Retention. Absolute Audience Retention indicates at which points in the video viewers start dropping off or losing interest. Relative Audience Retention shows data on how the selected video compares to videos of similar content and length made by other creators. This can be a helpful source of comparative information when looking for ways to improve your content.
Enhancing Your Content
Ultimately, the growth of your YouTube channel depends on the quality of your content. Ideally, videos will appeal to a narrow niche of interest. From here, users will subscribe because they enjoy the content and find it useful, engaging, or relevant. From then on, subscribers are more likely to love the rest of your posts because they’re connected to the original interest.
Under “Overview” click “Subscribers” then “Video” you can get the number of subscribers incurred by each video, as well as the thumbnail, viewer time, and link statistics that contributed to that increase in traffic so that you can repeat those strategies or work to make them even more effective.
By clicking on the “Content” tab on the left menu of the Creator Studio, you can open the analytics that displays gradual growths in traffic and interest. Check-in a month or so after each upload; if the line indicating growth rises above the light grey area on the graph, engagement with your content is above average.
Here are a few more times for optimizing your content quality:
- Repeat the title: Viewers want to know that they’re in the right place based on what they’ve searched. Be sure to repeat the title of your video at the very beginning, or to say something very similar in order to reassure your audience that the video contains the material they were looking for.
- Get to the point: The best way to preserve and increase watch time is to get directly to the point. Few people are likely to stick around if they don’t feel like your video will answer their questions or provide the content they searched for.
- Hooks: Have a catchy title or thumbnail. Reference hot topics. Use commonly asked questions. Do something that grabs users’ attention and intrigues them about the content of your video enough to click on it.
- Best content first: Similar to repeating the title, include your best video content first. Why? Because if people aren’t engaged, they won’t stick around to see if the video gets more interesting. Hook them with your most interesting information, your most valuable tips and tricks, your funniest material, etc., and they’ll be more likely to stick around until the end.
- Include bonus information: About two-thirds of the way through the video, include bonus content like links or promotions. Once viewers recognize this pattern in your content, they will be more likely to stick around through future posts and wait for the bonus material.
- Call to action: End your video by asking a question, encouraging viewers to comment or subscribe, linking relevant videos or materials, etc. This increases the likelihood that they will not only watch the video to the end, but also engage with new material.
- Be open minded: If your timeline analytics indicate that viewers disengage at certain areas, be open to adapting and learning from those areas, rather than getting discouraged. What caused viewers to leave? Was your intro just a couple minutes too long? Did you stutter or run out of things to say? Was your research invalid, or was a tip not that helpful? Did it just get boring? Being open to learning from your own mistakes will help you avoid repeating them in the future.