Starting next week, advertisers will be given the option of running video links under the traditional text advertising that runs alongside search results. The new links would be a box with a plus sign next to the words "watch video." When the box is clicked, a window would drop down with the video playing inside.
A Google spokesman said the new offering is a test and would only be used with a "small percentage" of searches. "The vast majority of users probably won't see this," he said.
While adding video ads doesn't pose any technical challenges, Google wants to monitor its impact on users of the site before committing to broader deployment. "We want to understand how users interact with these types of ads," the spokesman said.
Advertisers would bid for video links the same way they bid for keywords for text links, the spokesman said. Google, however, would only charge advertisers for one click, even if a visitor clicks on the video and text links.
The new ads will mark the first time the company has offered video on Google sites. The search engine has only offered video as an option to advertisers on the sites of Google partners.
Online video holds huge potential as an advertising vehicle. Ads today are normally run before a video shows on entertainment sites and Web portals. However, a number of companies are experimenting with delivering ads in the middle or at end of content, clickable videos, and other alternatives.
One such company is Maven Networks, which Yahoo said this week that it has acquired for $160 million. Maven's technology delivers content and ads to more than 30 media companies, including Fox News, Gannett, The Financial Times, Hearst, E.W. Scripps, and CBS Sports. Maven doesn't sell ads but is heavily involved in testing new ad formats.
Online video ad spending will double from just under $800 million in 2007 to $1.6 billion this year, and will hit $4.3 billion in 2011, according to researcher eMarketer. The total online advertising market will hit $50 billion by 2011, according to Yankee Group.
In December, nearly 141 million U.S. Internet users watched more than 10 billion videos, according to ComScore. Video lovers watched an average of 3.4 hours of video during the month, representing a 34% gain since the beginning of 2007. The average online video lasted 2.8 minutes, and the average viewer watched 72 videos.