In November 2004, web search interest in the search term, “Black Friday,” was pretty low in the US, according to Google Trends. By comparison, web search interest in “Thanksgiving” was relatively high. However, by November 2014, web search interest was at an all-time high for “Black Friday,” compared to “Thanksgiving.” That’s right, the Friday formerly known as “the day after Thanksgiving” is now a bigger search term on Google than Thanksgiving itself.

But when we use Google Trends to look at YouTube search interest in these same search terms, we see a very different picture. Back in November 2011, YouTube search interest in “Black Friday” briefly edged out “Thanksgiving”. But last year, YouTube search interest in “Thanksgiving” came roaring back to beat “Black Friday” by a considerable amount

Why is Thanksgiving So Big on YouTube?

So, why is this beloved US holiday so popular on YouTube? Could it be that the YouTube community is more traditional than the digital natives who use Google? Or perhaps it’s the case that when extended families get together for the four-day weekend, the YouTubers more interested in topics like “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”, “Adam Sandler”, “turkey”, and “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade”, while their cousins the Googlers are more interested in topics like “Walmart”, “advertising”, “sales”, “Best Buy”, and “Target”?

Have retailers in the US continued to rely on TV commercials to push “Black Friday deals” to people who are now using their smartphones and tablets while watching football games, instead of purchasing a roadblock of YouTube Mobile, which enables advertisers to buy all available ad impressions on m.youtube.com for a full day?

Those are a lot of questions. Now, I could ask video marketers to camp out overnight in an effort to secure a place in front of the line in order to get their favorite question answered tomorrow morning. But, that would pose a significant safety risk if they used propane or generators to stay warm overnight. Besides, they’d be blocking my emergency exits and fire lanes, so I’ll just answer these questions now (while watching the best Thanksgiving video ever:):

Are Google Users and YouTube Users the Same People?

According to Quantcast, 214 million people in the US used Google in August 2015, making it the #1 site in the country. And according to Alexa, the audience demographics of the Americans visiting Google.com is similar to the general internet population. And according to Quantcast, 191.4 million people in the US used YouTube in August 2015, making it the #2 site in the country.

So, at least 10.6% of Google users are different than YouTube users. But, this means that up to 89.4% of Google users are also YouTube users. But, even if the vast majority of Google users and YouTube users are the same people, they’re using the largest and second largest search engines in different ways.

A couple of weeks ago, we took a look at Google’s Consumer Barometer. It told us that 43% of people use their computers, smartphones, and tablets to go online while watching TV, although 74% of their Internet usage is unrelated to TV programming. It also told us that, even though 66% of people watch online video alone, 33% watch videos with others. So, maybe people get more “traditional” when co-viewing YouTube videos with their extended family on Thanksgiving than they are when conducting searches on Google that are unrelated to what the rest of the extended family is watching on TV that day.

Think about it. You can’t multi-task while watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving 1973” on a tablet with your granddaughter. But you can use a smartphone to sneak in a couple of surreptitious searches for Black Friday sales while feigning interest in watching the Detroit Lions game on TV with your brothers-in-law. You know what I’m talking about.

Do People Use Different Search Terms on Google and YouTube?

In addition to using Google and YouTube in different ways, people often use different terms when conducting searches on Google and YouTube. According to Google Trends, the top queries on Google related to Thanksgiving over the past 12 months are:

  • “2014 Thanksgiving”,
  • “Thanksgiving Day”,
  • “Thanksgiving 2015”,
  • “turkey”,
  • “Thanksgiving turkey”,
  • “when is Thanksgiving”, and
  • “Happy Thanksgiving”.

But the top queries on YouTube related to Thanksgiving over the same period of time are:

  • “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”,
  • “Charlie Brown”,
  • “Thanksgiving song”,
  • “Thanksgiving for children”,
  • “kids Thanksgiving”,
  • “Thanksgiving songs”, and
  • “turkey”.

And the top queries on Google related to Black Friday over the past 12 months are:

  • “Black Friday 2014”,
  • ”Walmart”,
  • “Black Friday Walmart”,
  • “Black Friday deals”,
  • “Target Black Friday”,
  • “Target”, and
  • “Best Buy”.

But the top queries on YouTube related to Black Friday over the same period of time are:

  • “Rebecca Black”,
  • “Friday Rebecca Black”,
  • “2014 Black Friday”,
  • “Black Friday haul”,
  • “Black Friday fight”,
  • “Lil’ Kim”, and
  • “Black Friday fights”.

If you aren’t familiar with the whole Black Friday fight phenomenon, check out this video entitled, “Crazy Wal-Mart Black Friday fight for TV.” Hey, you can’t make this stuff up.

Are Retailers Still Using TV Instead of YouTube?

Finally, let’s take a look at the Walmart, Target, and Best Buy channels on YouTube to get an idea of whether these retailers are using the video platform effectively.

According to Tubular, the Walmart YouTube channel has 1,805 videos, 154.6 million total views, and 85,000 total subscribers. And it ranks 4th out of 60,000 channels in the Thanksgiving category powered by a series of popular videos like “How to Make the Perfect Pie for Thanksgiving.” This video is now unlisted, but it has more than 739,000 views.

And the retailer hasn’t missed the Black Friday trend. Check out “Samsung 55″ Class Smart HDTV – 2014 Black Friday Deals at Walmart.” Again, the video is now unlisted, but it has almost 3.2 million views.

Other retailers also have a presence on Google’s biggest video portal. The Target channel on YouTube has 396 videos, 36.8 million total views, and 72,000 total subscribers, and the Best Buy has 108 videos, 4 million total views, and 16,000 total subscribers.

So, yes, some retailers are doing better on YouTube than others, but none of them is asleep at the switch. It seems that differences in consumer behavior are driving Google and YouTube search interest in Thanksgiving and Black Friday, instead of audience demographics or retail marketing efforts.

And understanding consumer behavior will be key to your video marketing success in November.