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The evolution of YouTube as a search engine

Alex Christie

21 August 2009

In May, to continue the trend of major names giving themselves subtle summer makeovers(see Twitter’s login facelift), YouTube expanded their search bar and removed their ‘home’, ‘videos’, ‘channels’, ‘community’ tab-style layout in favour or a more search-oriented design. This further establishes YouTube’s status as the internet’s 2nd most popular search, surpassing Bing, Yahoo and the other search engine also-rans. The search bar redesign is the latest in a series of search features added to YouTube in the last year.

Other search features added to YouTube,  in reverse chronological order:

The Wonder Wheel (added June 2009)

youtube-ww1

The wonder wheel feature has been a part of Google’s search from early this year and has been used to help users delve levels deeper into keyterms related to a particular keyterm i.e. after a search for ‘football’ above, a user can click on ‘football skills’ and then ‘zidane’ and then click on ‘zidane vs materazzi’ to watch Zidane’s flying headbutt. The Wonder Wheel places the importance of optimising YouTube videos for not only primary keyterms but also related secondary keyterms and should be used as an effective keyterm research tool when optimising your YouTube video.

Advanced Search (added May 2009)

yt-advanced-search

The Advanced Search feature again has been a part of Google for years and has recently been added to YouTube in 2008 to allow users to filter videos by categories, video length and duration. How much people use this feature is debatable but it does mean that your video should be optimised for your target keyterms and that it should also be categorised in the category where your target market will likely to be searching. If it is an tv advertisement for a particular poduct, then it should be placed in a category which will drive the most traffic. As YouTube’s advanced search also allows to search videos by location, it is important to add the location where you think your target market is.

Where to next for YouTube the search engine?

Always one step behind its big brother Google, searches on YouTube will become more personalised to your viewing habits. Their masthead designs are likely offer further personalisation features to suit your video viewing history, channels and favourite type of videos.

YouTube already has Adsense ads placed around your video search results, which like Google’s Adsense ads have mysteriously been moved further to the left opening more potential  space for Adwords advertising in future.

YouTube added analytics tool Insights in June of this year to provide more viewer metrics, statistics and data to measure a video’s performance in terms of views and ‘stickability’ of a video. Currently Insights is lacking in terms of analytics reporting, but this is likely to be developed in future.

With Bing growing in popularity and its video search becoming one of its most popular features, YouTube faces more competition but with the backing of Google’s innovation in aspects like facial recognition and transcriptions, it won’t be long before YouTube takes more of the search engine market share from Google’s competitors as search as a whole becomes more visual.

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