If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. While it is absolutely true that everyone’s journey is going to be decidedly different and no two paths are going to be identical, it just makes intuitive sense to derive inspiration from those who came before you. And with the power of the Internet, it’s easier than ever to spy on your competition (and your idols) to see what’s working for them (and what’s not).
Of course, a lot of data is kept private, so you won’t be able to deep dive into someone else’s Google Analytics report without their permission. You won’t be able to get full access to their YouTube analytics either, but did you know that you do have some access to their statistics and you can glean further information based on this data? It’s hidden in plain site.
For the purposes of this post, we’ll be taking a look at this video from the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The talk show host discusses how “post-truth” is really just a rip-off of the “truthiness” concept that he coined several years ago.
You might already be somewhat familiar with some of the things you can do with every YouTube video that you watch. There’s a subscribe button next to the channel name, an “add to” button to add a video to your watch later list, a “show more” link to expand the video description, and so on.
Have you ever clicked on the “more” link? Probably not, right? Click on that and you’ll reveal that you can see some of the “statistics” associated with that video. But even before you do that, there are a few metrics you should already look at. The number of views is obvious enough, but how many likes and dislikes does the video get? How is that interaction as a ratio of the views?
It’s worthwhile to go through a few videos from your channel of interest, because you can then see what videos not only get more views, but which videos elicit the stronger reaction from the audience. The number of comments is something else you should think about.
When you click on the “statistics” link, you are presented with four main tabs of information. The first of these is “views.” I personally find it is much more useful to click on “daily” rather than “cumulative” here, because you can analyze the viewing pattern of the audience. It’s also more helpful to look at videos that are a little older so you have more data.
It’s perfectly understandable that most videos get the majority of their views in the beginning, but what’s the lasting value like? Is there an immediate and hard drop off in views? Or is the content a little more evergreen, possibly showing up in searches over the long term and receiving a steady flow of viewers? That’s useful to know, because it affects your potential content strategy.
The next tab shows time watched. The total time watched isn’t as useful here as looking at the average view duration. Are viewers watching the video through to its entirety or are they jumping out very early? Just because a video has thousands (or millions) of views doesn’t mean the video was seen in full every time.
Using this Colbert example, the average view duration of 5:27 is pretty good, considering the video is 7:09 in total length. This likely means that a large majority of viewers are watching the whole thing. It pays to look at videos of different lengths too. Do viewers watch the whole thing if a video is more than 15 minutes? How do they react to shorter videos?
The third tab shows subscriptions driven. This represents how many people subscribed to the YouTube channel as a result of watching this video. As you go through several videos on your competitor’s channel, you might find that certain kinds of content result in more new subscribers than others. This is very much worth knowing!
The fourth and final tab shows the number of shares. Just like the other tabs, you can view this statistic on a cumulative or on a daily basis. And like what you see with subscribers and average view duration, you can see if certain types of videos or certain kinds of content are more likely to elicit social sharing than others.
Are shorter videos more sharable? Does the channel push more viral-oriented content to get shared? What kinds of topics and subjects do the shared videos cover? Are the titles more “clickbait” like in nature? These questions and others like them should be running through your head as you analyze the competition.
Spying on your competition in this way won’t answer all of your questions and solve all of your problems, but it can arm you with a lot of remarkably useful insights into how you can improve your own performance on YouTube. Armed with the right information, you can make smarter, more informed decisions.