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Google crowbars search money machine into YouTube

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In its ongoing struggle to actually make money from YouTube, Google has shoehorned its ridiculously-successful search advertising setup into the popular post-your-own-video site.

Google's new YouTube Sponsored Videos program allows any video poster to pay their way into the site's search results. "Anyone can use Sponsored Videos to make sure their videos find a larger audience, whether you're a start-up band trying to break out with a new single, a film studio seeking to promote an exciting movie trailer, or even a first-time uploader trying to quickly build a following on the site," the ad broker burbles from its Official Blog.

The program operates much like Google's AdWords money machine. You bid for a particular keyword or group of keywords - "taser," for instance, or "sarah palin" - and if you bid high enough, your ad will appear each time someone searches on those terms.

Naturally, Google bills this as an auction. But that's just a euphemism. In any event, video ads are labeled with Google's familiar sponsored link tag, and advertisers pay by the click.

On one level, this move makes perfect sense. According to those clever web trackers comScore, YouTube is the third most searched site on the US web - behind Google and Yahoo!. And Google has proven that search advertising has some distinct advantages over display ads. With search, netizens aren't just gazing at a screen. They're actively looking for something. And if you toss ads into their search results, they may not realize they're ads.

The difference is that YouTube doesn't shuttle surfers directly to products. The best you can do is post an ad for an ad. You can promote a video urging someone to buy a taser, but you can't get them onto the buy page without another click.

And so the struggle continues. Google is also trying its luck with video overlay ads, and though it insists that brain waves prove these ads "compelling," it admits that Madison Avenue isn't that impressed.

Google paid $1.65bn for YouTube in early 2007. ®

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