Google Claims No Bias for YouTube In Search Results – Do You Believe It?

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ReelSEO earlier covered prominent search marketers’ growing concern over what they perceive as Google’s strong bias for YouTube in its universal search results.

I recently posed that question to Google’s CPG Industry Director, Kevin Kells, and ad tech’s keynote speaker.

Hear Kevin Kells’ response to the question.
(Apologies for the poor sound quality – someone’s cell phone was going).

Kevin Kells, CPG Industry Director, GoogleYou can hear me asking Kevin (taken during the Q&A portion after his keynote): “Is Google giving favoritism in its search results to its own brands and products, particularly with YouTube videos showing up above more relevant and popular results from other websites?”

The closest thing to an actual answer I could make out from him was, “I’m not sure if it is or isn’t; I don’t see that going on.”

I found this answer to be what I expected from Google: evasive, and still reluctant to address what is becoming a bigger issue with search marketers. Ironic considering how in Kevin’s presentation, he repeatedly hit on the terms “relevance” and “democratization” for the keys to brand building with search. His own slides expounded on how Google was utilizing both video and search as the means for “Democratizing the tools of production,” “consumers being in control” and “marketers being in control.”

Selling YouTube – Google’s Online Video Summary Findings

Kevin also presented the following claims in his keynote presentation:

  • 10 hours video are uploaded to YouTube every hour.
  • “TV creative shown on YouTube and Embedded in Content is as effective as when shown on TV across multiple dimensions: likeability and engagement that drives purchase intent.” (Directly taken verbatim from one of slides.) How Google came to those unclear, since Kevin declined to disclose any additional data when asked by an audience member. However this seemed to tie in nicely with an example of  YouTube video channel by Heinz, perhaps making more of a sales pitch for larger companies to consider YouTube’s Brand Channel program. (No actual ROI data was disclosed for the Heinz campaign, either.)

Reading past Google’s slides – what really happens online

“Google is in the ‘Connections Business'” read another one of Kevin’s slides. “We connect consumers to ALL the information they care about” and “connect marketers to all the customers they care about.”

I guess that’s assuming that all you may care about for video results is what’s on YouTube. When Kevin gave the example of example of how Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs shows up in Google’s Universal Search Results, the prominent “Video results for steve jobs” listing only shows up YouTube videos. (Not to mention their graphic icons taking up the most real estate on the page.)

Even Kevin’s own presentation examples were begging the same question. What transparency is there for Google proving that its not showing favoritism with YouTube over other results on other sites? Google has shown many search results dominated by YouTube links and graphic icons, even where the popularity level of that video content was small, ratings were low, and even actually relevancy was rather questionable. Sometimes it seems that all you need is a YouTube title, description and some meta tags and you could be showing up well ahead of other search results that clearly have better optimization and relevancy.

I suppose SEO’s with video skills and experience should be salivating over this disparity, and Google’s complicity in looking the other way. However video SEOs shouldn’t interpret this as preferential treatment for them. Its really about how can Google continue build up is ad revenue and channels around YouTube with large brands that have sizeable online marketing budgets. No matter how many ways they may try to spin it, “money” is a much more important word to them than “democratization” or “relevancy.” But its understandable to see why. If Google were to admit to video results disparity, either accidental or intentioned, it would Google’s own brand in the short-term and possiblity create revenue windfall with some advertisers. And when you’re the biggest player on the block and dwarf all competitors, there’s not really much of an incentive for Google to admit to anything negative, even when its overwhelmingly obvious to search marketers. So we continue to play the game and either continue to exploit the opening for our own gain, or decry it to little avail for now.

But thinking just briefly beyond the marketing aspect here – if Google continues to be evasive about whatever search engine results’ standards it may or may not be applying for its own video network sites, then its not really consumers being in control of what they get, nor will they be properly exposed to the multitude of content on non-Google video sharing sites that certainly deserve their just due. That would be the real democratization which Google right now only wishes to spout in keynotes, rather than actually practice as long as they can squeeze as much revenue out of it as possible – or at least, for the short term.


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