How to Setup Google Analytics for Video Success

At Wicket Labs, we love data. Obviously! But…we need access to the highest quality data to ensure that your video service is a success. These data sources can come from many different integrations; online video platforms, subscriber management systems, e-commerce platforms, website and app analytics platforms, etc.

A large number of websites use Google Analytics for their site tracking data. Google has been tight-lipped about just how many use the platform, stating in 2012 (a very long time ago in internet years) that over 10 million sites were using it. Some estimates for usage come in at a whopping 52.9% of all websites.

Google Analytics is a powerful tool for measuring how users engage with your site or app. Some features that are useful for video services, however, are not enabled by default and require additional setup. Once activated, these features will enhance your data and ultimately make Google Analytics a more useful data source for an audience insights platform like the Wicket Scorecard.

Below are three adjustments we suggest to the default setup to help video services get the most out of their data.


We’ll start at the user level. By default, Google Analytics tracks each user’s activity using an anonymous, randomly generated session ID. This ID is not tied to a subscriber database and does not persist across sessions, making it impossible to tie activity to a specific subscriber and trace their activity across sessions and devices.

Fortunately, there’s a solution: Google’s User-ID feature. This feature allows you to send your own subscriber ID to Google via their tracking code.

To get started with User-ID, the feature must be manually enabled within the admin section of your Google Analytics account:

Google Analytics settings to enable User ID feature
Fig. 1 – Google Analytics property settings to activate User ID feature.

It’s important to read Google’s User-ID policy closely, as Google has strict policies against storing PII.  Google explains what’s acceptable here:

Generally speaking, you should use a numeric or alphanumeric ID.  You should not use a person’s name or email address. For added security, consider hashing the ID with a cryptographic algorithm such as SHA256 before submitting to Google.

Another important consideration is that Google does not allow User-ID to be queried via their reporting API.  It is therefore strongly recommended that you duplicate (store the same value) in a custom dimension, which can be queried.

Instructions to set-up a custom dimension are available in Google’s documentation.  You will want to set Name to “User-ID-2”, Scope to “Hit”, and Active to “true”.

Finally, you will need to update your website and/or apps to submit the user id to the User-ID and User-ID-2 dimensions.  This may look something like this:

ga('create', 'UA-XXXX-Y', 'auto');

// Set value for native User-ID dimension.
ga('set', 'userId', {{USER_ID}});
// Set the user ID using signed-in user_id.
// Set value for User-ID-2 custom dimension at index 1.
ga('set', 'cd1', {{USER_ID}});

// Send the custom dimension value with a pageview hit to the ‘video’ endpoint.
ga('send', 'pageview', ‘/video/’);

By tracking subscriber activity across sessions and devices, you can see a more complete picture of how subscribers use your service, including the content that interests them.

Video Events

Many video providers will use an online video platform. But, If you aren’t already using a service to track video playback behavior, you might choose to use Google Analytics.

Although Google Analytics does not track video events out of the box, it can be modeled using custom events. Video players need to be programmed to send a custom event to Google whenever a video action occurs. Actions might be different based on the feature set of each video player, however, some common actions include:

Event Label should be set to the video’s ID or GUID assigned in your video management system. You may also wish to append the title of the video for readability. Note that Event Label is limited to 500 bytes, so the title may need to be truncated.

The Event Category on all events should be set to “Video” and the Event Value for the Pause event should be set to the number of seconds the user has made it into the video.

All of this information enables us to see how users are engaged with your content across dimensions, such as: tracking new user viewing activity, short and long tail statistics on series and episodes, completion rates, relationships between content and churn, etc.

Implementation of custom event tracking can be configured using something similar to the following:

ga('send', 'event', [eventCategory], [eventAction], [eventLabel], [eventValue], [fieldsObject]);

Channel Groupings

While the default channel groupings may work well for most Google Analytics applications, creating custom groupings can provide you with another powerful way to classify how traffic arrives to your site and in turn, converts to a trialist or subscriber.

For example, say you have a network of websites that send traffic to your video service. Rather than having these be grouped under the default Referral channel, you can set up a custom channel grouping so Google Analytics knows to group them together. This can be done through the Channel Groupings dropdown by navigating to Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Top Conversion Paths

Create custom channel grouping in Google Analytics
Fig. 2 – Google Analytics property settings to activate User ID feature.

It can also be found in Admin > View > Channel Settings

Custom Channel settings in Google Analytics
Fig. 3 – You can change Channel settings in the Google Analytics Admin View settings.

Once this is set up, you can choose to show your channel grouping from the same drop-down on the Top Conversion Paths tab or on Assisted Conversions.

Data quality matters. With just a little bit of work up front, you can prepare Google Analytics to work more effectively for your video service. It will pay off as you review the unique insights focused on your audience, the content they watch, and better engagement with your service. Don’t miss out on these easy opportunities to add powerful features to your data set.

To learn more about how Wicket Labs can help set your video service up for success, contact us for a demo of the Wicket Scorecard and see how we’re leveling the playing field and increasing audience lifetime value for our customers.