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How To Use Google Analytics & Google Tag Manager For Video Tracking

How to use Google Tag Manager For Video Tracking

We all know the importance of good analytics. At least, we should do by now. Getting a picture of how people interact with your site is critical. It’s arguably even more important than tracking how many visitors your site’s getting.

That’s why all site owners have at least a passing familiarity with Google Analytics. It’s the go-to platform for analysing and assessing how your site’s performing. What’s more, it can often be used along with other handy tools to boost your analytics still further.

Google Tag Manager is one of those tools and can be used in tandem with Google Analytics in a variety of ways. One such combination of the two tools allows for video tracking. Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager used in concert make useful video tracking a reality.

We’re going to give you a brief rundown of how video tracking via those two tools works. First, though, let’s begin with what video tracking is all about and why you want to be doing it.

What’s Video Tracking All About?

Loads of websites of all shapes and sizes include embedded videos. There’s a myriad of reasons why site owners love to put them on their pages. They are proven to be effective in imparting information. Better at engaging visitors. They often improve conversion rates. The list is almost endless.

Blindly placing videos on your site and hoping they help in those regards, though, isn’t ideal. It goes against the principles of logical analytics. What you want is to be able to assess the performance and impact of your videos. That way you can optimise your use of them.

That’s where video tracking comes in. Video tracking in Google Analytics is what lets you track your videos’ performance. Using Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics you can track actions and event labels related to your videos.

User interactions like clicking play or pause on a video can be brought under your analytics umbrella. You can also record how much of a video your site users watch. Tracking these interactions then lets you create different segments. Use these to inform your overall site analysis and action useful changes.

Does it Really Matter?

In short, yes. Anything that gives you more data to base decisions on is never a bad thing. Knowing everything you can about how users behave on your site is key. It’s how you can tailor your site correctly. It’s how you ensure it answers user intent, converts as well as possible and ranks well for SEO.

Video tracking specifically, also offers a number of benefits. These are benefits that you don’t get if you can’t assess the performance of your videos. Two of the most notable regard the following:

  • Macro-Conversion Correlation – Influential videos often have a high correlation with macro-conversions. That means users who watch such videos are more likely to perform actions like filling in a contact form. Video tracking lets you analyse and optimise the performance of your videos.
  • Bounce Rate – On pages with an imbedded video, video tracking helps improve the accuracy of your bounce rate. That’s because the users’ interactions with the video are now recorded.

A Note

Before we get on to the practicalities of video tracking, here’s a quick note to keep in mind. It regards how video tracking impacts your bounce rate. To ensure that bounce rate doesn’t get messed up, you need to set the event to non-interactive. That’s when you’re using a 3rd party script to track interactions with an imbedded video player. The reason for that is that if you don’t, both a page view hit and video interaction will be counted.

Getting Started With Video Tracking & GTM

What we’re going to do now is provide a very brief guide to implementing video tracking. That starts with what you need to do in Google Tag Manager (GTM).

The events that GTM and GA can help you track by default

GTM tracks user interactions on your website. It then fires data layer events in response to these interactions. The tracking uses JavaScript functions called auto-event listeners. Tag Manager has some auto-event listeners included by default. These are to track the following interactions, amongst others:

  • Form submissions
  • Pageviews
  • Link clicks
  • Other element clicks
  • JavaScript errors

Custom Auto-Event Listeners and GTM Container Templates

You’ll notice there’s no mention there of tracking video player interactions. For that, you need a custom auto-event listener not included by default in GTM. One option you have is to write this yourself if you’re able. If you’re not or to save time, you can turn to existing GTM container templates.

These templates are written by others and shared online. Analytics Mania have compiled a list of useful ones. It includes custom auto-event listeners for video tracking. Each of those listeners work with different video players (YouTube, Vimeo etc.).

You then need to think about when you want the custom auto-event listener to fire. It’s not worth it firing for every page on your site, when only a handful include videos. The best way to make the listener fire only when necessary is by using a Custom Variable. That custom variable can be set to return true only when a page contains a video.

We’ve already talked about how GTM fires data layer events. It doesn’t, however, recognise variables stored in the data layer, by default. To transfer information to Google Analytics – as you’re looking to do – you need to create data layer variables in GTM. That’s assuming you haven’t already done so. Google themselves provide a handy guide on how to do it.

Custom Event Triggers

At this point, you need to ensure that what you’ve done so far activates only when a video interaction occurs. For that, you’ll want to set up a custom event trigger. You can do this in a few simple steps within GTM:

  1. Click ‘Triggers’ and then select ‘New’
  2. Click ‘Trigger Configuration’ and then choose the event type named ‘Custom Event’
  3. Enter the event name which matches the code of your custom auto-event listener

With the custom event trigger in place, you’re all but done with GTM. What’s left to do now is to create a Google Analytics event tag which is triggered by your custom event. Speaking of Google Analytics. It’s to that platform we now turn to finish implementing video tracking.

Implementing Video Tracking With Google Analytics

You’ll already know that there’s no native analytics on GTM. To analyse and review the video interactions you’re now tracking, you need to leverage Google Analytics.

In doing so, you want to be able to generate the best possible reports. Diverse reports which use all the available data in an intelligent way. These are the Google Analytics reports that can help you to make and to save money by better optimising your use of videos.

To ensure that, you need to set up three different things in your Google Analytics:

  • Custom Dimensions
  • Custom Metrics
  • Calculated Metrics

Custom Dimensions and Metrics

Custom dimensions and metrics are closely related. You can set them up in the same place on Google Analytics:

  1. Open the ‘Admin’ tab
  2. Locate the ‘Property’ options menu
  3. Scroll down the menu until you see the ‘Custom Definitions’ tab
  4. The two options under that tab are ‘Custom Dimensions’ and ‘Custom Metrics’
  5. By clicking either, you can then choose the option to ‘Create New Dimension’ or ‘Create New Metric’

Both your custom dimensions and metrics want to be set with the ‘hit’ scope. As far as the other settings are concerned, Charles Farina’s excellent article provides the perfect pointers. He offers the following tables as examples of the custom dimensions and metrics you may want to set up:




When you create either a new metric or dimension, you’ll get a new snippet of code. This needs to be included with your relevant tags.

Calculated Metrics

Your last step is then to create Calculated Metrics. These – as the name suggests – are metrics which use your video tracking data to calculate other figures. For instance, one calculated metric might be the number of video plays per pageview. Another could be the average user play time for a video.

To set up calculated metrics, you need to look in a slightly different place on Google Analytics:

  1. Head to the ‘Admin’ tab
  2. Locate the ‘View’ section of the menu
  3. Choose ‘Calculated Metrics’
  4. Add and tailor the metric, according to the information you wish to track

With GA4’s custom dimensions, custom metrics and calculated metrics set up, you’ll have access to loads of actionable data. You can build diverse and comprehensive reports. These are what let you go deep on your video tracking. They’re what take your analytics to a new level.

With those reports, you can optimise your use of videos. You will know which videos are performing and which aren’t. You can then make the changes required to whip the under-performing videos into shape. That helps you maximise those all-important benefits of influential videos. Benefits like higher engagement and greater macro-conversions.

Phil Pearce
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Phil Pearce
Phil Pearce
Phil is an analytics expert, author, and web analyst. He's also the Analytics Director & Founder of Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Google Ads and CRO agency, MeasureMinds Group. Over the past 20+ years, Phil has helped clients improve their analytics and search engine marketing through the introduction of new tools and disruptive techniques.
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