Measuring the success of online video

Video has grown in importance for marketers over recent years, fuelled by the growth in more sophisticated smartphones, greater mobile penetration, improved download speeds and a wealth of distribution platforms in the form of social media. This is reflected in research by Wyzowl, showing that the number of businesses using video as a marketing tool has increased from 61% in 2016 to 85% in 2020.

The importance of the medium has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, providing an effective means of continuing to work, play and communicate at a time when face-to-face meetings have been severely restricted. The challenge has opened businesses’ eyes to its untapped potential, spawning greater creativity.

But while video is impactful, and now much more accessible for even the smallest budgets, it demands a comprehensive strategy that delivers on a brand’s wider purpose and supports existing content marketing strategy. One part of that strategy is measurement.

Measurement techniques will depend on the overarching brand marketing goals. What will be measured and the techniques to be used need to be decided early on in a brand’s strategy.

For example, if a company’s wider goals are action or awareness, marketers will identify KPIs such as clickthrough rates or video views respectively, and then monitor the impact on sales or brand uplift to drive the overall strategy.

Figure 1: Identifying the right KPIs to meet set goals

measuring brand marketing goals with kpis

Source: Google

Centring the measurement and conversion strategy on the brand marketing goals will ensure marketers measure the right data and do not get distracted by vanity metrics. As Alex Wren, Director of Bitpod, says: “Don’t get hung up on video views alone – it’s a poor way of judging success.”

See Econsultancy’s Measuring Digital Marketing Effectiveness Best Practice Guide for guidance on gauging the effectiveness of different marketing campaigns.

A good strategy needs to be able to measure success, and the fundamental steps in digital marketing metrics are:

Deciding what is being measured – the key performance indicators (KPIs)
Having the systems in place to capture the right information.

A typical pitfall of many video strategies is that the work stops here. In fact, there are two more crucial steps to getting value out of analytics:

Knowing how to interpret the data that comes back
Changing actions as a result.

Are marketers asking the right questions of their data?

Identifying key metrics

Identifying the right metrics will depend on a brand’s campaign goals. Vincent Haywood, Digital Marketing Consultant at VHDigital, says: “If your goals are around building brand visibility it will be about awareness, reach, impressions and social sharing – maximising eyeballs on video. If it’s about driving sales, it will be about clickthrough rates or CPA.”

Marketers must ensure they are measuring what matters, but as Warren Pereira, Senior Digital Manager, Western Europe, Marketing at LEGO, says they must be careful not to focus on too many metrics. “My advice to others would be not to look at video metrics for video performance,” Pereira says. “Look at the metrics which help you understand whether your message has reached the audience or not, within the campaign context.

“It is very easy to focus on 2,000 KPIs within each channel and then not really know anything that happened here. It is a rookie mistake that some brands make – ‘I can measure so much so I will measure everything’ – but it doesn’t really tell you what you need.”

Useful metrics for individual videos include:

Overall view count: This shows the total number of views but, to be meaningful, has to be coupled with other measurements such as engagement stats. If view counts drop, it may be a prompt for marketers to revisit their distribution strategy and ensure they are posting their video on the best platforms for their audience, and that the content is optimised for search engines. This metric will also be affected by how much money has been spent on promotion, how well it has been targeted and the content itself. Analytics on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube also enable brands to see who is watching their videos by age, gender and geography for example. Views are a key metric for top-of-funnel content such as explainer videos, which need maximum exposure to establish an initial audience.

Conversion rate: This shows how many visitors viewed the video, and how many of those visitors turned into leads or customers (whether completing a form, subscribing to a newsletter, or making a purchase, for example). Google Analytics can help marketers to measure a video’s conversion rate, showing how many viewers are watching the content before they convert into subscribers or customers. This metric is critical for bottom-of-funnel content such as FAQ or instructional videos, designed to finalise a sale or lead.

CTR (clickthrough rate): This shows what percentage of a video’s impressions (on a video platform such as YouTube, for example) turned into views. While some views come from impressions, some might come from external sources such as links shared outside of the video platform. CTR depends mainly on how compelling the video title, call to action (CTA) and thumbnail are, as well as how well the video has been targeted. Titles should be enticing but accurate, while CTAs should use a verb (e.g. ‘watch’, ‘click’ or ‘sign up’). This metric is important – if view count and watch time is high but the CTR is poor, marketers need to revisit what they are asking people to do and why. Does the CTA fit the right point in the customer journey? CTR measures how many people act on the video’s CTA, which may be to subscribe to the channel, visit the website, click through to another video, for example, hence moving people along the purchase journey.

View (or watch) time: This shows brands how much of their videos viewers watch, and therefore whether it resonated or if they lost interest. If the percentage of video viewed is low, the content may be too long, or may need refreshing. That is not to say content of 30 minutes or more cannot be successful, but it must be served at the right point in the customer journey, when the viewer is highly engaged and approaching the bottom of the funnel. It shows the value the content adds to viewers, and is important when measuring the effectiveness of how-to video or case studies, for example, to ensure people are moving towards purchase.“The number of minutes your video has been played for is an absolutely critical component,” says Alex Wren, Director of Online Video Marketing and Digital Strategy of Bitpod. “If you make a three-minute video and people only watch it for two minutes then the last minute, which probably contains the majority of your CTA, is missed. It means making a shorter video that people will watch will be more effective.” This measure will also have an impact on a video’s organic reach, as YouTube ranks video for search based on watch time (see Section 6.4 of Econsultancy’s Online Video Best Practice Guide).

Average view duration: This is a telling metric because it reveals the audience’s preferred length of video. For example, a 60-second video which gets a 45-second average view duration is likely to be more effective if cut by 15 seconds.

Average completion rate: Vidyard considers a video successful if at least 60% of viewers watch it to completion. Brands should look at how many viewers watch the content to the end, and if there is a common point where they drop off – if so, they should consider refreshing this part or shortening the video. Shorter videos are more effective higher up in the funnel, when prospects are in the awareness and consideration phases, while longer videos may work better at later stages, nearing conversion, when people are already engaged. Facebook uses video completion rate to rank videos in news feeds.

Average engagement rate: The number of engagement actions (i.e. likes, comments and shares on social platforms) can show how well the video resonated with the audience and whether it elicited an emotional response. The level of social sharing also indicates brand affinity and advocacy.

Unique plays: This filters out repeat video playbacks by the same person on the same or different devices. Do not dismiss repeat plays, however. Knowing if the audience is watching a video multiple times can unearth questions and insights about the video’s effectiveness. Is the viewer watching again because the video is interesting, or is it because confusion required multiple viewings?

Stephanie Boukhari, Marketing Director of Centtrip, says: “When you are producing lots of how-to tutorials and educational video, one of the key metrics is repeats, because if people have repeated the video that might be a sign that it is helpful, but it could also be a sign that the instructions aren’t clear enough, hence their need to play it again.”

Place on-site video at the right stage in the user journey

A brand’s video strategy needs to include detailed thinking about where on its website, and on the user’s typical journey, the video is going to go.

To make this possible, marketers need to know what happened before and after the video view in order to calculate its impact on a specific on-site metric. This demands full integration with the brand’s ecommerce analytics system.

Conversion optimisation is an important competency here too: if a company is selling online, the product page is not the only point where a customer makes a decision about what to buy. There are stages beyond the product selection where users can drop out due to lack of trust in the brand, and companies don’t want to distract someone who’s ready to buy with an ill-timed video.

Consider places other than product pages to stage videos. A video that sits at category page level might perform brilliantly in driving people towards a product page with no video at all.”

Gathering data

There are numerous tools that will help brands to assess and analyse their video campaigns, arming them with the necessary data to track metrics, and to better understand what works, where and why.

Video sharing platforms provide their own data analytics to track viewers, engagement and geographical metrics, while Google Analytics enables marketers to measure and analyse traffic to video hosted on the brand website. It can be powerful for either analysing an overview of video marketing campaigns, or honing individual campaigns.

There are also a number of third-party tools that can measure the performance of a brand’s video outside of its website, such as Vidooly, Vidyard (which tracks real-time video data) and Wistia (which uses heat maps to track which parts of the video viewers watch, rewatch and skip).

Brands should consider using third-party analytics rather than just trusting the numbers from platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. It is advisable to clean the data supplied by these platforms because it is not always accurate. For example, YouTube will count every short view, generally believed to be 30 seconds, as a view. Going deeper will give marketers a more accurate picture.

On Facebook, a three-second view counts as a ‘view’ (as does a viewing of nearly the total length if the content is shorter than three seconds). In the past, Facebook has admitted to misleading metrics, making six announcements in 2017 about incorrect, inaccurate or incomplete video viewership and placement metrics. Marketers cannot just rely on platforms to measure video success.

Phil Nottingham, Video Strategist at Wistia, says that brands should get outputs of data from key platforms and then clean it – i.e. remove any ‘views’ which are only a few seconds long – before judging the quality of the interaction by the remaining views. “You will usually find that the actual number of really engaged views is about 20% of the headline number on Facebook.”

Popular third-party tools for measuring video effectiveness

vidIQ– provides a suite of video marketing tools, allowing brands to analyse videos across multiple platforms and optimise their titles, tags and thumbnails to improve performance.

Brightcove – video platform Brightcove enables brands to track multiple video analytics including interest and engagement across device, destination and geography. It also offers real-time data.

HubSpot – a video hosting, creation and management tool, HubSpot includes video analytics capability, which can show how a video is performing on a blog post, landing page, or website page.

Agorapulse – this social media management platform integrates with Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. It has powerful analytics tools showing how videos are performing across multiple marketing platforms.

Hootsuite – a social media management tool that includes an analytics platform to help marketers build and export customised reports of how videos are performing.

Sprout Social – a social media management tool that integrates with Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn, and enables brands to work cross-platform, comparing the performance of video on one platform to performance on another.

How video is driving cross-media measurement

Connecting the dots between different marketing channels is an ongoing challenge for brands. Cross-media measurement aims to offer a solution. Covering video or text content, whether accessed on a desktop browser, app, smartphone, tablet, laptop, OTT device or TV, the combined data provides a complete picture of audience viewing. It means brands can avoid unwittingly paying to reach the same audiences twice on different media, and measure unduplicated brand exposure and frequency across all platforms for a single campaign, ultimately helping brands to optimise their media investment.

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has been collaborating with some of the world’s biggest businesses (including Unilever, Coca Cola, P&G, as well as Google and Facebook) to deliver a framework and a technical solution to help the industry achieve cross-media measurement. It is initially being tested out by brands in the UK and US, and in November 2019 the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) announced Project Origin in the UK, based on the principles developed by WFA. The project is still taking shape, as it explores ways to bring different data sources together.

February 2020’s Mind the Gap Ebiquity report which looked at video advertising reach in the age of increasing media fragmentation, stated: “Transparent, cross-media measurement has never been more important for brands, many of whom need to upgrade their measurement methodologies to better understand their own coverage gap in the evolving media ecosystem.”

It noted that this was becoming increasingly important as video advertising evolves and the pace of change speeds up. The report advises brands to take a more granular approach to measurement, and make better use of the data provided by channels.

It is certainly getting easier for brands to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of how well their campaigns are working, and how much each media channel contributes to their success. Leveraging first-party data (with permission) is key, enabling brands and agency partners to identify the most effective channels and optimise in-flight campaigns, as well as aiding media planning. This can be achieved by tagging online ad exposures, for example, and using tracking pixels when media is displayed.

Companies such as Kantar, Nielsen and Dynata can work with brands to combine cross-media data. Ebiquity’s report also advises brands to expand their own use of measurement tools, particularly those that indicate attention and engagement: “All of these measures can be combined and ultimately related back to commercial impact (ROI).”

For more on video, download Econsultancy’s Online Video Best Practice Guide

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