Quietly, as if it occurred while you were sleeping over the past few years search relevancy has improved. The combination of increased algorithmic accuracy plus an abundance of additional data and content have made this possible. Long gone are the days you could and would go from engine to engine and try your query in search of relevance. Remember when engines even had links at the bottom of their results pages to other engines?
There are 4 basic forms of digital media, all now effectively searchable: text, sound, image and video. It is clear that our overall online experience is enhanced by the ability to search and find media. Text of course has been prominent since the onset of the web. It’s not called hyper “text” for nothing. Sound reached critical mass with the dawn of mp3 file compression and a great “search engine” called Napster that spurred use of the mp3. Image search has also been around for quite a while. In fact the first thing many people did when they first got online even in 1995 was search for pictures. Video however, has for many reasons been the last and in many ways the most interesting search frontier.
Three things fell into place in 2006 that enabled the masses to cross that frontier and truly enter the video search age. Broadband reached critical mass, Flash Video slayed the “players” (Quicktime, Windows & Real) and an abundance of video content has been added to the web.
YouTube is responsible for none of these three forces. However, neither were Napster or Google delivering bandwidth, providing technology or owners of content. Like Napster and Google before it, YouTube delivers media content to users quickly, easily and with great relevancy. Our online experience will be forever changed.
YouTube is brilliant in its simplicity to deliver relevance. And make no mistake, it is, or has become a search engine. If you want to find a video of just about anything YouTube is the place to go. Just getting into T. Rex? A search for Marc Bolan yields 165 results and some insane videos from the early 70’s. Want to show someone how good Reggie Bush is? Results for a search on his name yield highlight reels from High School, College and the Pros. Has your co-worker never seen Magilla Gorilla? Send them a link to one of five videos. Piracy? Not Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. posts the videos.
What Google got about YouTube (and many failed to realize when this deal went down) is that YouTube is a search engine. It has proven beyond a doubt the ability of tagging to deliver highly relevant search results to a user. YouTube also provides the basic elements of user control. The ability to filter search results by relevance, date, view count & rating. Also, YT delivers reams of contextual relevance in the player box after viewing a video and along the right rails. Yes, there are plenty of teens lip-synching on YouTube but there is also a vast and deep library of videos covering myriad original and interesting subjects. Like the rest of the web this content is growing each day.
This is search driven media. Which is why Google will leverage the user generated tags to match relevant video ads in a similar manner to the way AdWords is used in search. It’s not a stretch to think that ESPN will advertise its Monday Night Football game on the post roll of a Reggie Bush video or that Amazon will link right to Magilla Gorilla DVDs or for Apple to link to the iTunes section for T. Rex. A number of other factors like geo targeting also seem pretty ripe for relevant delivery of video ads. Don’t overlook the ability of videos to drive direct response either. There are 2208 video results tagged with Hurricane Katrina. Imagine the CTR if Google were to run AllState Insurance spots at the ends of those videos.
From Amazon’s user reviews through ASP UGC platforms like Bazaarvoice online businesses understand that user generated content provides the greatest form of persuasion. The good news for Google and for advertisers is that online video, though yet to be tapped, through targeting and the power UGC will likely become Google’s largest and most effective advertising platform.
The video search age is upon us and Google has that market share locked up tighter than even traditional search. Evil or not it’s one more reason to ring in the New Year at Mountain View.