How Video Ads Will Change Google's AdWords Forever

Danny Sullivan on Search Marketing

By Published on .

Last May, I predicted Google's new Universal Search results would open the door for video ads. They're he-ere!

Google is running a private test program that allows selected AdWords advertisers to associate video clips with their ads. Below the ads there's a small plus symbol with an invitation to watch a video. Click the symbol, and the video appears and begins to play.

Didn't Google have video ads already? Not on its search-results pages. Google video ads appear within YouTube clips and on pages across the web that carry Google AdSense units. But video ads in the sacred Google search results? This is a revolutionary change.

Danny Sullivan
Photo: Jason Meyer
Danny Sullivan has been covering the search-marketing industry for more than a decade and is editor in chief of
For one, AdWords advertisers have had to shoehorn their messages into a 70-character limit. Well, if a picture's worth a 1,000 words, moving-picture ads will let advertisers blow through the haiku-like restriction.

Video ads also open the door for the payment structure to change. Anyone remember that Google ads used to be CPM-based? Cost-per-click pricing was introduced when the AdWords Select program began in 2002 -- and the old cost-per-thousand program was eventually retired.

CPM, of course, is nice for building brands. Impressions can matter more than clicks, and video might allow CPM-based ads to return to search pages. That will be especially useful in Google's quest to woo budgets from big accounts looking to build brands.

Of course, video could kill the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs. Search ads make money because people find them relevant to what they're searching for and click on them. Dump brand-building video all over the search pages, and the relevancy of the results might be hurt.

Maybe. But it doesn't have to be that way. Searching for "blender"? Text ads that come up will be relevant if targeted to that word -- and if they have accompanying video about a particular blender, it likely will be perceived as relevant too. In contrast, thousands of searchers each day look for general topics such as "weather" or "lottery results." A carmaker with a video ad shilling a new model is likely to encounter the hurdles Google will toss up. Are people clicking to play the video? Do they click from the video to a site? Do editors reviewing the ad feel it is relevant?

Google's going to protect that search goose. But video is almost certainly going to stick and evolve. Whatever comes, AdWords is about to undergo as radical a change as when silent pictures became talkies.
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