Search engines are a fundamental part of the way we use the internet. While early search engines could only search specific type servers, including basic text files, today’s search engines are significantly more powerful and capable of crawling and indexing many more types of content—including video.
There are all sorts of video search engines, such as internet search giants like Google and Bing, social media platforms, stock libraries, and specialized archival sites like NASA’s. If you want to incorporate video into your content strategy, then sourcing videos from video search engines could be the key to finding what you need. And if you want your own video marketing efforts to be discoverable by searchers, you’ll need to learn the ins and outs of the platforms you use to host your videos.
What is a video search engine?
A video search engine is a specialized type of search engine that focuses on indexing and retrieving online videos from across the web or a given platform. Conventional search engines like Google and Bing can crawl and display videos from multiple sources, while specialized sites like YouTube focus only on videos hosted on their platform.
Video search engines use search crawlers, also known as spiders, to systematically extract data from websites and online video platforms. Search engines interpret video content using user-generated metadata like titles, descriptions, and tags.
To conduct a search, users input specific keywords, topics, or criteria into a search bar, and the video search engine returns videos based on those terms, usually in the form of video thumbnails or previews.
Some search engines also use technology like optical character recognition, a process for interpreting text within image files to analyze the visual content of the video. Once that data has been indexed, search engines use algorithms to match content to search queries and deliver the most relevant search results. If you’re looking to create videos optimized for video search engines, check out this guide to video SEO.
15 best video search engines
- Facebook Watch
- Getty Images
- NASA Image and Video Library
- New York Public Library Video Collections
Video search engines range from broad to niche and collect all sorts of online video content. Google and Bing’s video search features scan the entire web, while video search engines on social platforms like YouTube and TikTok search only videos that are hosted on those platforms. Stock footage sites like Getty Images and Adobe Stock allow you to search their collections of licensable video, while sites like NASA and the New York Public Library (NYPL) allow you to search for archival footage.
All of these search engines are free to use, but the video contents you find may be protected by copyright law and require a fee to use.
Google dominates the worldwide search engine market share—so it’s a top pick to search for video content. Google includes video results along with web pages in its primary search tab, but it also features a designated Google Video Search tab that returns video content from across the web. Google Video Search includes filters that allow you to sort videos by duration, publication date, image quality, and video source.
Google engineers also created a reverse image search engine called Google Lens. Google Lens can only analyze still images, but you can also use this tool to conduct reverse video searches. To execute a reverse image search, press the camera icon in the search bar and upload an image. The results will look similar to Google Images results and will include a mix of photos and videos. For a reverse video search, take a clear screenshot of the video and upload it as an image.
Bing’s video search operates much like Google’s. The main difference between these two platforms is the display format—Google Videos returns a list, while Bing Videos displays video search results in a grid. Both display the video source and publish date in the thumbnail, but Bing displays the view count as well.
Google and Bing won’t return results in the exact same order, but they’re both solid bets for finding popular videos hosted on major platforms. Similar to Google, Bing includes filters to sort videos by length, duration, quality, and source, and has a reverse image search engine. In addition to these filters, Bing also includes a filter option to search for free videos in the public domain.
Yahoo!’s video search function resembles both Bing’s and Google’s. If you’re familiar with other search engines, it will likely be easy to use, because the user interface is very similar. Yahoo! filters allow users to search videos by length, date, resolution, and source. You can use the source filter to find videos from a specific platform like YouTube or Vimeo, or from networks like CNN or Fox.
YouTube is a place for both finding and watching videos. Unlike a web search engine, YouTube search will only return videos that have been uploaded to its platform. YouTube videos can come from major brands, celebrities, or your next-door neighbor. Anyone can upload a video online to this platform, so the results will vary widely in quality and tone. YouTube search offers an extensive menu of filters you can use to narrow down search results. The filter menu includes options to sort by publish date, popularity, relevance, and video quality.
TikTok is a searchable video-sharing platform that is quickly becoming a popular search engine. This social media platform is relatively new compared to sites like Yahoo! and YouTube, but it’s popular with Gen Z and is a great source for trending videos. You can search TikTok through its app or in a browser, but searches will only return videos posted to TikTok. You can use the search function to find videos based on keywords, hashtags, or specific accounts. The content is usually short and informal. TikTok videos are vertically formatted, so they are designed to be viewed in portrait mode.
Instagram hosts four types of video content: Reels, live videos, Story videos, and Instagram videos. Reels are unique to Instagram—they’re short edited videos that are often set to music or accompanied by a voiceover. You can search for Reels, Instagram videos, and saved live videos in the Instagram app or on Instagram’s website. Videos posted to Stories disappear after 24 hours and are not searchable. Instagram is popular with both brands and individual creators. Its video content appears primarily in a vertical format.
7. Facebook Watch
Facebook includes a dedicated video tab that you can use to search for content on Facebook Watch. Similar to YouTube, Facebook Watch is a video-sharing platform populated with content that brands and individual creators upload. You can search for videos by entering terms in the search bar. Facebook Watch also generates personalized recommendations based on watch history and related content. Facebook Watch offers a limited number of filters that you can use to sort videos by publish date.
Vimeo is a video hosting platform geared toward independent filmmakers. Searching for videos on Vimeo is free, although some creators pay to host their videos. Vimeo content tends to be more niche and artistic than YouTube content. For example, if you input the keyword “charcuterie” on Vimeo, a 16-minute documentary on the history of cured meat may turn up. By comparison, that same search query on YouTube may return hundreds of similar tips for making charcuterie boards. Vimeo’s video search function offers a variety of filters, including a category search. Users can also search for videos by upload date, resolution, and license type.
DailyMotion is a video-sharing website where individual users can upload their original video content. With over 300 million active users, DailyMotion can be a useful tool for finding user-generated content. DailyMotion’s search display has a clean, uncluttered layout with few ads. The search result page includes clearly displayed filters that allow you to sort results by duration, upload date, and popularity.
Adobe Stock is one of the biggest video search engines for stock footage. In addition to videos, Adobe Stock includes photos and illustrations. If you only wish to see video results, use the drop-down menu next to the search bar to sort by asset type. Adobe Stock is a good place to find high-quality 4K video footage. Although searching is free, this platform requires a subscription to download and license videos. Subscriptions range from $29 to $250 per month. Adobe’s extensive list of filters allows you to search for specific shots (like close-ups), and camera angles (like top-down).
11. Getty Images
Getty Images is a media licensing company with a large digital library of stock photos and video footage. Its extensive selection of high-quality footage from global events makes Getty a popular choice with news media outlets and large businesses. As of 2022, Getty’s library was home to more than 495 million digital assets, including photos, stock videos, and audio files. Getty Images includes an advanced suite of filters that allow you to sort video files based on location, frame rate, viewpoint, and more. Searching is free, but licensing a video clip for commercial use can cost upward of $400.
Flickr is a media-sharing platform that hosts images, audio files, and videos. To streamline search results, use the advanced search function to select “Video” from the content dropdown menu. Flickr also includes a public domain filter you can use to find free video content.
Pond5 is a stock video search engine that includes high-quality 4K videos and audio files. It’s free to search for and preview video content. Licensing video content for commercial use requires a fee, but Pond5 includes less expensive options compared to Adobe or Getty. The search function includes a filter that allows users to sort stock footage clips by price and there is a large selection available to license for less than $30. Pond5 also includes an option to upload a still image and search for visually similar footage.
14. NASA Image and Video Library
A more specialized resource, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) official website includes a searchable database of photos and videos. If you’re looking for videos about space or rockets, this is the best video search engine for you. The agency’s library includes educational content and historical footage. Anyone can search and download the NASA database for free and without registering. Its video content is not copyrighted, you can embed or download the footage and use it for educational or informational purposes.
15. New York Public Library Digital Collections
The New York Public Library’s digital collections page offers an excellent video search engine for sourcing archival footage, interviews, or performances. Enter a keyword or several search terms on the homepage, then use the filters to sort by type. This search engine is free to use and does not require a library card. While many videos are available digitally, this search engine will also return results for videos displayed onsite at the Library for the Performing Arts.
Video search engines FAQ
How do video search engines determine the order in which search results appear?
Search engines use algorithms to analyze and rank video content. Elements like video titles, descriptions, and viewer engagement all contribute to video search engine optimization (SEO).
Can video search engines search for videos in different languages?
Yes, you can search for videos in a different language by inputting your search query in that language—the results will match the language of the search terms. Some search engines also include filters that can sort videos by language.
How accurate are the search results on a video search engine?
Overall, video searches are highly accurate. Video search algorithms use multiple factors including metadata, user sentiment, and watch time to analyze the content of a video and determine relevancy. If your search isn’t returning the results you’re looking for, try making your query more specific or adding filters to narrow your results.
Can video search engines search for specific moments or timestamps within a video?
Major search engines like Google and Bing can search for specific moments in a video. Search engines use timestamps, video transcripts, and visual analysis technology to identify relevant information within a video.
Is there a limit to how many videos you can search for on a video search engine?
No, popular video search engines like Google, Bing, and many others are free to use. There is no limit to the number of times you can search.