Based on my experience building video analytics and discussing with marketers and media producers who use them, one of the most important metrics to track and optimize is a video’s play rate, defined as the fraction of player loads where the user actually plays the video. This metric is a strong measure of how well video integrates with a site and captures 1) whether the video player is embedded on a visible location on the page and 2) whether the preview image for the video is relevant and inviting. Site optimization tools like Google’s Website Optimizer can help in this regard. Moreover, if your video platform provider charges for player loads in their bandwidth fees, then a low play rate from a player embedded far below the fold could make a large financial dent with little user benefit.
Strongly correlated with a site’s overall video play rate is the player load times across the site. Google and others have conducted studies demonstrating that visitors spend less time on sites when the site responds slowly. The same reasoning applies to online video; slower-loading players will noticeably reduce play rates and weaken engagement. Ensuring that your video platform provider has optimized for smaller player footprints and that they’re serving the player from a fast CDN like Highwinds Striketracker Traffic Analyzer and Log reporting can help boost your videos’ play rates. An important note to keep in mind is that different CDNs have varying levels of presence in different geographies, that is why we optimize delivery for low latency in the predominant geographies of the target audience.
Whereas the first two metrics measure whether users interact with video in the first place, the next important bucket of metrics concern user engagement after a video begins and summarize content and playback quality. Most important are probably the average video play-through rate, typically expressed as a percentage of the total video duration, and the average minutes watched per stream. Histograms of these metrics provide even more visibility into distribution of engagement across users. A low play-through rate can indicate too many pre-roll ads, low content quality, or a poor playback experience. Particularly for content with high production value, verifying that the average and percentile distribution of bitrates per stream will ensure that your video platform provider is a) not cutting costs by serving lower quality streams and b) aggressively optimizing their dynamic bitrate selection algorithms to upgrade users’ streams to the highest quality whenever possible.
If videos abound on the site, then the average videos watched per visit is a useful metric to track. Video recommendations and related links either within or surrounding the player can help boost engagement across the site. For sites that optimize and iterate on a small handful of videos, an engagement report for a particular video, should show the drop-off rates for various portions of the video and point to where the video can be improved.
With the explosive growth of Facebook and Twitter, if social media plays an important role in your online strategy, then your videos’ share rates and the fraction of inbound plays through shared links should also be measured and tracked relative to the different social media campaigns.
Each of these metrics can be segmented along different axes, or partitions of your traffic. If you stream videos according to different categories, then a domain distribution report (and preferably one with url breakdowns) that provides each metric per domain helps to measure the efficacy of the different content. A low play rate on a particular domain compared to the overall average, for instance, lets you know that a which content is popular and which is not. Likewise, if a global or regional presence is important, then a geographical distribution report that compares engagement across countries or regions can inform you if different demographics are reacting differently or if playback quality suffers in certain parts of the world.
The video analytics solution provided by RAMP’s provides all of these metrics.