Is Google trimming down video content in search results?

Posted on November 26, 2018

 

Recent years have certainly seen search engines and social media get more visual. While text remains the bricks and mortar of the cyber world, the first post you see on your Facebook or Twitter feed will usually be one containing an image or video, and the success of Instagram shows that images alone can drive social media.

Likewise, whereas using a search engine would once have simply returned a page of text, you’re now almost certain to see images of what you searched for. A Google search for ‘banana’, for example, brings up a picture of the yellow fruit. Search for a guidance on how to do something, such as ‘how to chop fennel’, and you’re likely to get a video among your top results – probably one from Google-owned YouTube.

However, a Search Engine Roundtable article from last week suggests that Google may actually be reducing the amount of video it returns on the first page of its results. Search analytics tools like STAT and RankRanger have recorded considerably fewer video results brought up by Google searches than there was a fortnight ago. In fact, it appears that the number of videos dropped by 30% within a week.

A tweet from STAT suggests that Google took away video ‘carousels’ (which are scrolling menus of videos) on November 13th, thus dramatically reducing how much video we see in the results for our search terms.

As STAT says, it particularly seems to have affected mobile search, with nothing appearing in the place of where the carousels used to be. For over three years now, more Google searches have been performed on mobile than desktop, so this amounts to significantly less video being seen among the whole spectrum of search engine users.

Search Engine Roundtable article writer Barry Schwartz, however, does not rule out the possibility of it being a bug rather than a deliberate move from Google. With the company owning YouTube, it seems surprising that it would want to cull the number of videos it displays.

There is an argument that a neater and more refined page of search results is provided by keeping videos and images to their appropriate tabs and returning mainly text-based results. Videos are certainly worth having on your site, not least because they are so shareable and widely viewed on social media. Nonetheless, this move from Google, whether deliberate or unplanned, is a reminder that the first things webmasters need to get right is the amount and quality of text on their sites.

John Murray

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.

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