Online Video Player Measurement with Jim Snyder of Empirical Path

As viewing and sharing online video becomes more ubiquitous — evidenced by the 2 billion daily video views on YouTube — so grow the demands to understand the impact of hosting this content… and not just from content sites.

Like other multi-channel retailers discovering the value of video, Empirical Path’s auto manufacturer client wanted visitors to engage with, share, and be moved towards conversion by a high-end video experience on dozens of dealer sites. But this top brand struggled to effectively gauge the success of video on their own sites and beyond.

While our client was already tracking basic dealer site stats with Google Analytics, it was blind to interactions with video players, sharing tools, and other Flash features not captured by GA “out of the box.” Management demanded to know: Which videos are visitors watching and sharing? Where are videos re-published? Does any of this ring the cash register?

Our recommended solution was the Google Analytics for Flash framework (GaForFlash), which fit the client’s existing GA implementation and is a widely adopted open source platform (making Google a welcome ally for Flash in the midst of the Adobe-Apple fallout).

By customizing GaForFlash with ActionScript, we quickly delivered the needed insights into visitor behavior. Empirical Path captured desired viral outcomes, such as emailing a friend and posting to a social networking site, and tracked viewership wherever an embedded video was posted.

Our rich media tracking experience and other best practices suggested mixing Event and Pageview tracking approaches to expose conversions represented by different visitor behaviors. Event tracking measured interactions with sharing tools and video players, the latter allowing us to understand engagement via time spent watching, and completion of, each video. Pageview tracking was applied to content that drove visitors deeper into dealer sites.

To expose this information to multiple decision-makers, we faced the challenge of condensing results for a multi-state region with over 50 dealer sites onto one dashboard, not to mention creating dealer-level reporting. Compounding the difficulty was GA’s limitation of dashboards to 12 report summaries.

Fortunately, GA offers Custom Reports, which allowed us to combine several elements — such as video titles, completions by city, and completions by dealer — and free up precious dashboard real estate. From there, we created a dashboard showing KPIs of engagement and sharing down to the city level, pinpointing on a granular scale the impact of each video.

Now this automaker can improve or drop videos that don’t move the needle and emphasize those that do, while learning what messages resonate in different markets. The next step is to help our client add these video analytics stats to a data warehouse (expedited via Google Analytics API) to provide more sophisticated insights, such as linking in-person dealer visits and vehicle sales back to video consumption. Ultimately, the goal is to tie offline TV campaigns, online traffic sources, and video consumption to purchases and service.

Online video is not just for content businesses and not just in ads and social media; on-site, it can boost leads and sales if measured and optimized. As adoption of rich media tracking continues to solidify, free tools such as Google Analytics and GaForFlash allow publishers and retailers to maximize profit from viewing and conversion behavior that might otherwise remain invisible.

About Empirical Path: Based in Atlanta, Empirical Path, a Google Analytics Certified Partner, is a leading web analytics and market research firm founded in 2002. Our focus is interpretation and business recommendations based on website visitor behavior. Our Principals have deep experience in the media, consumer products, healthcare, government, and not-for-profit fields.

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