What is happening?

Analysts at the SEO software brand SEM Rush noticed that promoted videos were starting to appear in an ad carousel unit in Google search. The videos featured were movie trailers for forthcoming cinema releases, with a video pulled in directly from YouTube.

Although Google have confirmed that this test is occurring, the search engine hasn’t been drawn on any details. The feature has not been widely spotted, and a number of people within the SEO community have tried to replicate the result with no success, suggesting that this is a feature that is very much in the testing phase.

Why does this matter?

It matters because promoted videos has the potential to be an enormous advertising channel for both brands and Google. Implemented correctly, if could offer advertisers the opportunity to get prime content in front of audiences during the search journey. For Google, demand for these spots creates the opportunity to grow margins on its advertising products, whilst at the same time supporting its YouTube video property.

We’re a long way from that point at the moment, and even if this concept does get rolled out to brands, it is likely to be restricted to a very small pool of potential advertisers. Testing new features with film trailers is nothing new to either Google or its social media competitors; it is widely considered to be “safe” content for testing such concepts and click-through rates are generally much higher, providing platforms with enough data to test the concept without opening it up to too wide an audience.

Hasn’t Google tried this before?

Yes. We have to go back ten years to when Google first tried to experiment with promoted video ads, but the 2008 pilot never really got off the ground.

There were also similar trials in 2015, where promoted video ads were spotted in the search results.

This looks to be a case of Google re-visiting a project that is has long tried to get off the ground. Not only does Google see video promotion as a product that would-be advertisers are crying out for, it also sees this as a way to fend off the threat that social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pose to YouTube’s dominance in the video market.