Is YouTube Really the Second Largest Search Engine?

Search marketers and Google claim that YouTube is the second largest search engine, but is that really true? Let’s start by defining a search engine. According to Webopedia, “search engines are programs that search documents for specified keywords and returns a list of the documents where the keywords were found.”

Major Search Engines vs Internal Search Engines

Google, Bing, Yahoo,, and AOL are all examples of a web search engine. They crawl the Internet for documents and return the findings. While there may be overlap between their results and products they own, for the most part they select results from the millions of websites in existence.

By definition however, an internal search engine is “a search engine that indexes only a particular Web site in order to create a search results list that contains only results from that Web site.”

Getting the Facts Straight

That’s why YouTube is not a search engine and can not take second place behind Google. Like Amazon, Craigslist, E-Bay, SEOMoz, Search Engine Land, ESPN, CNN, Forbes, and thousands of other sites and blogs, it is a website that contains an internal search engine that is part of YouTube and returns results from within YouTube. It does not return findings from all over the web.

Additionally, it only serves videos. It doesn’t return results containing websites or documents. To claim that it is, itself, a search engine means that you have to claim every website that hosts an internal search engine is also a search engine.

Think About How You Use Search

When you want to find a good deal on an item of clothing or a household item, you either go directly to the website or search a web search engine such as Google or Bing. You don’t go to YouTube. When you search for a video or demonstration, chances are you go to YouTube or search a web search engine like Google or Bing to bring you video results. That does not make YouTube a search engine.

It makes YouTube a content aggregator that supplies you with the means to find something you’re looking for based on keywords – like Amazon does with books or MP3s, Overstock does with clothes and accessories, and Craigslist does with, well, pretty much anything you can think of.

The Power of YouTube

Yes, YouTube is the largest source of videos. It also plays a huge role in social media and brand awareness development, and it has the added bonus of putting your brand in video search vertical results. That’s one of the best reasons why you should include video as part of your digital strategy.

However, video still drives a relatively low stream of traffic to websites. The results – and the interest in those results – remain within YouTube itself. When was the last time you watched a video and then clicked through to the website?

The Bottom Line …

In my opinion, YouTube drives the largest amount of traffics for videos, and I can certainly see how it could host the largest internal search engine. However, it’s misleading to call it the second biggest search engine whether Google wants us to look at it that way or not. Because of this claim, business owners are becoming more convinced that they must have some kind of YouTube channel and presence, but video isn’t necessarily the right medium for everyone. Like any other kind of social media, it requires resources to create and promote the content and monitor the channel.

Before you invest in video because you think you have to appear on the second biggest search engine, make sure it’s the right move for your company, and make sure that you understand how people use YouTube.

By Betsy Rainwater

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