“How do we know if we’re generating a good return on investment?” – Every executive in the world.

This post is about the many challenges (and some insights!) around YouTube advertising success metrics.  YouTube is one of those platforms that you’d THINK it’s very easy to measure success, but in-truth, I have yet to meet anyone in the industry that truly knows that they are doing.  Much of this is due to poor targeting on the marketer’s side and the fact that YouTube is such a content-driven upper funnel activity.

While it is difficult, let’s try to get closer to how we can measure success on YouTube. Here are some ways to think about it:

  1. Measure success through content, reach, and frequency
  2. Measure success looking at engagement metrics
  3. Measure success looking at sales / revenue

So let’s chat about content, reach, and frequency first. Unless you work for a VERY content heavy, non-ecommerce-y company, this will not be sufficient in your reporting.  However, it is necessary to think through these things.

When setting up your campaign, make sure that you are advertising on relevant videos, and have thought through day-parts and devices you want to run on.  Once you’ve done this, you’ve achieved half the battle.  All you need to do is prove that your ads showed on relevant content and report your reach and frequency metrics.  You can pull up these columns to report:


To see where your ads are being shown, go to the “video targeting” tab in your YouTube account, and then click on “where ads where shown”.


Once you know where your ads were shown and at what reach and frequency, you know you are at least showing your content correctly.  This may not sound like a big deal, but believe me, many YouTube advertisers don’t even get this far in understanding their success.

Next let’s look at engagement metrics.  

There are a large number of ways that someone can engage with your YouTube ad.  They can watch it until the end (or past the 30 second mark, which is when YouTube marks a “view”). This is probably the gold standard of engagement metrics, and I would encourage you to use view rates as a measure of the success of your campaign.  If someone is watching your video longer, they probably like what they are seeing.

YouTube likes to cluster engagement metrics into something called “engagements” or “engagement rate” which is basically everything someone could do that doesn’t take them off of YouTube.  You can also look at click-throughs.  Your success in measuring click-throughs depends a lot on how much your ad is trying to get people to the site (with shopping ads, cards, calls to action) etc – so this metric may only be useful if you’re trying more of a direct response method to YouTube ads.

Finally, let’s look at sales.  

Google will tell you that it’s unrealistic to expect sales from such a high level branding channel.  It’s unclear to me whether or not they are right.  It’s true that video ads (if they are not retargeting, or past customers) are very upper funnel.  And that people purchase across many devices these days – so it’s very feasible that someone saw your ad on their phone, and then 30 days later purchased on their laptop – and nothing was ever recorded.  However, we as marketers are not doing our jobs if we are not skeptical.  Here are some tools to try to point to revenue attribution:

Add to carts.  If you have add to cart tracking enabled, you can show how many people considered a purchase.

Lift in organic searches.  If more people are searching for your product after you show your ad, this means that you are increasing awareness, and ultimately sales.

View-through conversions.  If people saw your ad but didn’t click and later purchased.

And….sales.  If you are getting enough sales to prove ROAS then make sure you tell the world.

One last note on YouTube sales attribution.  If you are running retargeting ads, I have found it’s much more likely to prove ROAS.  It may prove fruitful to start here.

To wrap it all up….

Marketers know intuitively that YouTube must be a great channel to use.  So many people watch YouTube every day.  However, it’s hard to prove success due to poor placement relevance by marketers, and the fact that the natural behavior of someone who sees a video ad on YouTube (even if they like it) is not to click through and instantly buy.

However, but making sure that you are showing on relevant content and are getting appropriate reach and frequency, are looking at engagement metrics, and finally attributing purchase intent to your ads, you will be doing better than 95% of the other marketers out there.