Digital marketing experts are constantly analyzing the state of search to monitor trends, uses and techniques that are giving certain organizations an edge. While looking into video thumbnails (one of the most effective means of turning SERP appearances into clicks) PushON’s James Flacks came across something of an anomaly with product video thumbnails.......

There appeared to be a video thumbnail link on a search result for UK retailer Marks and Spencer, but when the link was clicked, the page contained no video. This snapshot of the SERP (showing a section that appeared below the fold) shows how the result looks, particularly in comparison to the non-thumbnailed result below it:

SERP selection showing video thumbnail

SERP selection showing video thumbnail

Taken in isolation, it could be a little trick to draw the eye and the mouse to the pictured luxury leather washbag. But Google already has a means of getting still images into search results, Product Listing Ads (PLA), which advertisers have to pay for. This technique (if indeed it is being done on purpose, and is not a bug or some kind of fossilised video remnant) effectively grabs the online retailer a PLA for the cost of an organic link, i.e., nothing.

And if it's deliberate, Marks wouldn't just trying to corner the lucrative luxury leather washbag market, either. Plenty of their pages look like they’re going to show videos but don’t.

Maybe there’s an innocent explanation. But the results hint that something clever is going on. There’s no doubt that searchers are more likely to click on a lovely colourful image than on a dull blue hyperlink, a fact that’s proved by the premium that retailers will pay for PLAs over normal PPC ads. If the results can so easily be manipulated to show false video thumbnails, anyone who’s coughed up for the premium ad might have grounds for complaint if it turns out that you can get an image link for free.

There could be a loophole that needs closing up here.

Video Thumbnails: Further Resources