Skip to content

How to Build a Video Strategy with YouTube Traffic Sources

YouTube Traffic SourcesDeveloping a successful video strategy involves significant consideration and planning in the content, production and promotion of a given campaign. Without sufficient data on which to base key decisions, a strong campaign could miss the mark completely if the audience and YouTube ecosystem aren’t considered as well.

The best way to produce a successful video campaign is to first understand what has already worked and what hasn’t for your channel. Knowing where your viewership is already coming from will be a major factor in deciding how to maximize your next campaign. Fortunately, YouTube provides extremely detailed insights into the traffic sources for every one of your videos in YouTube Analytics. We’ll walk you through how each traffic source works and which ones you can impact the most to boost viewership. 

Organic & Algorithm Driven Views

More than half of all viewership on YouTube comes from search and suggestions based on a video discovery algorithm. Leveraging the user’s viewing history and behavior, YouTube is able to recommend which content that user may want to watch next across different areas of the site. The most common area of suggestions is on the right side of a video’s watch page where other similar videos are listed. Other browse features like YouTube’s home page display suggested videos and channels based on a user’s subscriptions and history. These traffic sources are broken down in YouTube Analytics under three main metrics: Search, YouTube Suggestions, and Browse Features.

Because these sources are based on an algorithm, channel owners have a relatively low level of control on impacting these views. However, it’s also an indication of how important optimization and metadata are to your channel. Make sure that YouTube has everything it needs to learn what your video is about. It’s essential that all videos have accurate and informative titles, tags and descriptions. Gaming the system won’t work any more, so adding false information to try and snag popular but unrelated search terms will hurt your watch time. Adding engaging and clear thumbnails along with an informative title are the best way to get your videos surfaced in search and suggestions.

Fans & Syndication

The best indication of a video’s popularity is in traffic that’s driven by third parties; typically fans, other channels and syndication partners. Viral videos become that way when fans and websites genuinely enjoy the content and share it across their network. Look in your analytics dashboard for External and Embedded Player traffic to find out more about where these shares are happening. Clicking on this metric will drill down which external sites directed traffic to the video, including social media sites like Facebook and third party websites which embed the video like Rolling Stone. You may also find views from fan playlists under the Playlist metric.

Channel owners typically have the least control over these view sources but some of the most drastic traffic spikes come from embeds and sharing. Look for brief spikes in viewership and isolate that time period to see what drove that increase. Noting where shares happen can help you try and duplicate that success. Work with your team to try and secure a premiere partner for your video on other sites to leverage their fan base, and be sure to share your videos on social media to drive fan engagement.

Channel Driven Views

Channel owners have the most control of driving traffic when they leverage YouTube’s audience growth tools. You can never force a user to view your video, but you should do your best to guide them and make your priority content easy to get to. A great first step is to make sure to rotate your channel’s welcome video with your current top priority so it’s the first thing that greets viewers when they visit your channel.

Some of the most often overlooked tools are YouTube’s Cards and Featured Content tools. When used correctly, you can actively suggest more content for viewers to watch, potentially converting a single view into a longer, more engaging viewing session of your videos. To find views sourced from these tools, look for Video Cards & AnnotationsFeatured Content and Channel under the Traffic Sources of YouTube Analytics.

Featured Content offers a quick way for channel owners to suggest a single video or playlist across all videos on their channel. Although this gives you less detailed control, it’s a quick way to update all of your videos. Cards allow more flexibility to link to other related videos or to a single top priority on a video by video basis. You can also link to merch and external sites with cards, but remember, this will cause the user to leave YouTube when they click, lowering audience retention. Make sure to balance the pros and cons of the desired destination of a card before adding it.

Another tool that can have a high impact on viewership is YouTube Advertising. Connecting via Google AdWords, YouTube allows channel owners to set a budget and create a video advertiseent out of their content. This will display the video as an ad across YouTube, driving views and traffic back to the channel. Although you to have to pay for this exposure, budgeting is flexible and the viewership impact could be worth it for top priorities. When running ad campaigns, track which views came from these ads by noting the YouTube Advertising metric in the Traffic Sources section of YouTube Analytics.

Wherever your views are coming from, it’s important to use this information to guide the audience growth of your channel. Having a solid grasp on where your audience is will give you the opportunity to develop a more genuine and engaging video strategy, maximizing exposure. Let the data drive where to focus your efforts and you’ll ultimately improve the discoverability of your videos and reach more potential fans.

If you liked that post, here's more:


YouTube Introduces #Hashtags in Video Search

YouTube is working to increase video exposure and help audiences more easily find videos by giving creators the option to add hashtags to their titles and descriptions. Hashtags should already be a part of your daily social media strategy, so these should b...


More Than Just a Cat Video, a Captivating Video

According to Robert Kyncl, Chief Business officer at YouTube, the average person watches 1 hour 25 mins of video a day. That amount is growing by 25%, and more than half of all teenagers use YouTube as their music streaming platform and music discovery tool...


Creating a YouTube Strategy Without Official Music Videos

YouTube has become the most accessible resource for rich media and drives our demand for variety in unprecedented ways. Over the years, music has cemented itself as a pillar of the YouTube ecosystem, and we expect that same level of variety to suit our list...