An Open Letter to YouTube

By Phil Nottingham

Dear YouTube,

I’d like to spend more money with you. A lot more money. My clients are spending significant amounts on on TV advertising, which is becoming increasingly expensive and the value is hard to quantify.

AdWords has been a revelation for our digital media spend. Where once we were stuck to buying bespoke packages based on estimated impressions, real time bidding has allowed for a more efficient, targeted use of spend that means we can get our content in front of the right people at the right time. Alongside AdWords, Google Analytics has allowed us to track the performance and value of our adspend alongside our referring traffic from links, social media and organic search, meaning we can better understand our customer conversion funnels; and thereby create better ads which more directly serve user intent – meaning our money goes further and your users have a better advertising experience.

But, for some reason, we’re not there yet with video. The toolsets aren’t sophisticated enough, the tracking isn’t good enough and as a consequence, the content isn’t good enough and spend isn’t high enough. The majority of spend still sits with TV, where the creative fits in a tried and tested, broadly formulaic model. Therefore, with the little bit of online video advertising I’m working on, I’m just recycling formats made for TV, to fit into a pre-roll model that feels outdated, unnecessarily intrusive and increasingly ineffective.

If you could offer me a different model to this, an auction based, real time bidding alternative that allows me to break free of interruption ad breaks with the flexibility and accountability of AdWords, you can have all my money.

TrueView and AdWords for video are not good enough. The tracking is too low quality, the advertising options too limited and the quality of placements available not sufficiently exciting. However, with Chromecast bringing YouTube to the TV in a meaningful way and more and more people around the world holding a device capable of streaming video in the palm of their hand, I think you can get there.

I truly believe that with a few minor adjustments to your offering, YouTube can be the place where the biggest brands of tomorrow are built and the lion’s share of ad dollars spent.

So, without further ado, here is my relatively short list of requests…

Provide Full Integration with Google Analytics

While there’s currently some level of integration offered, the only pages we’re able to track are the channel pages: i.e.. &, and this data is largely useless. What I really want is data on the traffic to video watch pages and playlists; pages where the majority of activity happens, and to be able to chop up and segment these views in exactly the same way as I do with traffic to my website. While YouTube Analytics offers a very broad overview of some of this data, it’s nowhere near sufficient.

Here’s what I specifically want to be able to do….

  • Segment demographic data against drop off rate and retention.

Right now, while YouTube Analytics will show me the age, sex and location of my viewers, I am unable to compare engagement and retention against these demographics. Until the available data is comparable, this is of limited value.

  • See the level of (anonymised) user data available in AdWords in GA.

I don’t care about keyword referral data, but I do want to know a bit more about the people watching my videos. You’re willing to offer this data in Adwords for video through the targeting options, so please make this data available in GA. Learning more about the interests and demographics of the audience I pick up organically will allow me to better understand who I should target for my AdWords campaigns, meaning I can then spend money more effectively, which will encourage me to spend more with you!

  • Provide full URLs in referring traffic report.

YouTube Analytics currently only shows details on referring sites and embedded players at a subdomain level. As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, having “Google”, “Disqus” or “” listed as top referrers isn’t terribly useful information…

  • Be able to accurately distinguish paid from organic referrals to my site from annotations & ad overlays.

It’s very frustrating to see people clambering for workarounds for what is a solved problem in all other areas of AdWords.

  • Be able to work out which videos have delivered referring traffic to my site and through which links (links in descriptions, annotations, ad overlays etc..).

This may be a caused by a site architecture problem – namely having all videos living on pages defined by parameters under the /watch subfolder… but, you’re Google! This isn’t tricky to fix! Having listed as a referrer in GA is largely useless.

Allow us to add a rel=”canonical” tag to videos.

It’s extremely common that we’ll host a video on YouTube and then embed a video on our own site. While I think a lot of businesses take this as a default approach when they shouldn’t (i.e. with product videos) there are, nevertheless, completely sensible reasons for doing this – for example, with an informational video that we might create for a blog post.

In such instances, I want to be able to be sure the version of the video on my site is the one that will show up in the SERPs – not competing with the instance and cannibalising rankings in the process. Just as I’m able to use the canonical tag to consolidate duplication across web properties I own, I’d like to be able to do this with my YouTube videos.

Are there any negative consequences of this for YouTube? Well, it means you’ll have to sacrifice consistently dominating Google search results, driving users instead occassionally to embedded versions of the video, rather than then video on This may affect the amount of ads you can serve, …read more

Source: Distilled


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