Tracking YouTube In Stream Advertising in Google Analytics

Over the last couple of months we have experimented with ways to measure Google Adwords advertising in YouTube using Google Analytics. You'd think this would be pretty easy considering the three products are all from the same company. This is most certainly not the case.

Paid video campaign ads on YouTube have multiple formats. The one that we’re focusing on the ‘in stream’ video ad. These are the ads that play before and after the video you clicked on starts to play.

Viewers who are watching your ‘in stream’ video ad can click on the video and be taken to a link that you specify when setting up your advertisement. We couldn't find any data showing how effective this was so we did an experiment.  To start, we used a link to our client's main website for the in stream URL. This would turn out to be a poor decision.

One of the first problems was sorting out Analytics to show which part of our Adwords clicks were from in stream YouTube ads. We weren't seeing any of our Campaigns or Ad Groups show up in the Adwords section of Analytics. We tried creating custom tracking URLs but were not able to see those custom campaigns either.  After a great deal of exploration, we discovered that the only way to find the details of this visitor segment is if you sorted by Advertising > AdWords > Campaigns > (not set). It's almost like they don't want you to find it. I think you will see why.

Youtube Advertising in Analytics


No goal conversions and a bounce rate that was dramatically higher than the site wide average. It seemed that those who clicked on the 'in stream' video advertisement were not expecting to be taken to a third party website. Only 5% of this segment of visitors actually looked at another page on the site.

These in stream clicks are free in Adwords but this segment was starting to affect our client's site wide bounce rate and average time on site. Based on this, we decided to link to our YouTube channel instead. We’ve searched for a way to turn off this feature entirely and have not found a way to do this.

From a user interface perspective these results make sense. There is no visual indication that clicking the video in YouTube will take the viewer off of YouTube. Unfortunately there isn't a way for the advertiser to turn off the feature. Google should really enable a way to disable this feature as it doesn't seem to add value to the YouTube user experience. If you are running YouTube in stream advertising,  take a look at your own Analytics data and make sure this traffic segment isn't bringing down the stats of your website too.

This experiment was only conducted for a single client. If any of you have an example where driving traffic to your website via YouTube in stream advertising clicks resulted in different results, please share it in the comments.

4 responses to “Tracking YouTube In Stream Advertising in Google Analytics

  1. Well done, guys. Couldn’t find this info ANYWHERE (especially from Google). Have come to the same conclusion – Youtube advertising is not effective when sending people to a website – and it’s pretty clear they don’t want you to know.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. To clarify, I believe you’re able to ‘turn-off’ the CTA overlay by just leaving that section blank (within Youtube) or by deleting it through your adwords account (next to the video campaign). Additionally, Youtube just introduced enhanced annotations, which allows you a bit more customization on the messaging, where it links to (external/internal) and when it shows up in the video. It is a good option to use in addition to the CTA overlay.

  3. Hey guys thank you for the info! I experienced something similar I have (not set) campaigna which seems like the clicks form YouTube. Although YouTube is not effective for conversions I do have a couple showing up in Google Analytics but they don’t show up in Adwords for video, I wonder if there’s a way to set this up.


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