How to Perform a Reverse Video Search

A reverse video search lets you find a video’s source, which is useful for a number of reasons. In this article, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of a reverse video search, including how to carry one out and our experiences running different types of reverse video searches.

What is a Reverse Video Search?

Normally, when you use a search engine like Google, you plug in words or phrases to find the content you’re looking for, whether that’s a video, image, PDF file , etc. With a reverse video search, instead of looking for the video itself, you’re looking for all the web pages that video appears on.

How Does a Reverse Video Search Work?

Using the video’s colors and pixels, search engines can find the most similar match online. While this isn’t a foolproof system because accuracy isn’t 100%, it can be helpful when trying to hunt down the locations of an online video.

The accuracy of this type of search relies on proper indexing. If the video you’re searching for isn’t indexed by the search engine, you won’t be able to find it by doing a reverse video search. However, you will likely find content that’s similar to the screenshot you use to look for the video.

4 Reasons for a Reverse Video Search

There are a few different reasons why you may want to run a reverse video search. Let’s go over them.

Find the Video Source

It’s common to come across a video online that’s not posted by the original creator. For example, maybe an article includes a video but doesn’t credit the creator, and you’d like to connect with the creator online. In this case, you could use a reverse video search to find the original source of the video — in other words, where the video appeared for the first time.

Find the Full Version of a Video Clip

When only a portion of a video is shown — maybe the website has a file size limit, for example — doing a reverse video search can direct you to the full-length video.

Find Where Your Video Content is Being Used

If you’re a video creator, doing a reverse search can show you the different places your video is posted online. You can then contact the website or social profile owner to ask them to either take it down or credit the video to you.

Also, seeing where your video is posted aside from your own website or social profiles can give you an idea of your backlink profile.

Find Content Related to the Video

In addition to showing you other places the video appears, a reverse search will also bring up related content. This is helpful if you’re researching content similar to the video.

Note that the search will return results for articles, images, videos and other types of content, not just videos.

How to Run a Reverse Video Search

In this section, we’ll go over how to run a reverse video search on Google, Bing and mobile.

Use Google for a Reverse Video Search

Google doesn’t have the functionality to search for a video. Instead, you’ll use a screenshot from the video and see if Google can match that to the video. Here’s the step-by-step method for using Google for a reverse video search:

1. Go to the video you want to search for and take a screenshot of it.

Take a screenshot of the cover image as well as a few standout frames in the video. If you’re not sure how to take a screenshot on your computer, this article will help.

2. Go to Google Images.

From the Google homepage, click the camera icon on the right of the search bar to use Google Images.

The Google Lens option for help with a reverse video search.

This is what you’ll see:

Options for searching with an image in Google.

3. Upload the video screenshot.

Click the upload a file link and select the screenshot from your computer. Google will automatically search for that screenshot once you do that.

4. Adjust the section to search for.

You may want to adjust the part of the screenshot you’re searching for. On the left side of the page, there will be an adjustable white box inside the image you uploaded. Grab and drag the corners to change the portion of the image you want to search for.

The adjustable portion of an image search in Google for a reverse video search.

Note that the results will update as you change the adjustable box.

5. Review the results.

There will be search results in two areas. First, look on the right side of the page, which will have visual matches and possibly a primary result at the top of the page.

Search results in Google Lens.

You can also click Find image source above the original image to see more search results.

Google results on the Find Image Source page for a reverse video search.

My Experience Using Google’s Reverse Video Search

I had a difficult time getting Google to find the source video when running a reverse search. First, I tried the pumpkin screenshot in the examples above. There were too many results, and I realized that this image wasn’t taken by the video creator — it seems more like stock footage to me.

Then I thought I’d try a first-person shot of a popular YouTube influencer, so I searched for the following image from this video:

Screenshot of a YouTube video to perform a reverse video search.

There was only one visual match (an item on Etsy), and there weren’t any results when I clicked Find image source.

No search results from Google Lens.

It also didn’t make a difference when I searched for a screenshot from an older video from that same creator. I chose one that was a few years old and is the most popular on the channel, knowing Google should’ve definitely indexed it by now. Nothing.

Next, I thought I’d try a frame from the video with both an image and text because that seemed distinctive enough to possibly match on Google. I ran a reverse video search for this screenshot from a surfing video:

Screenshot from a surfing video for a reverse video search.

The visual matches had a lot of blue surfboards, but my video screenshot wasn’t among them.

I clicked Find image source and had better luck. The top results were from Barefoot Surf, the company that made the video. None of them were to the video, though, or even an article with surfing tips, which is what the video covered.

Results on the Google Lens Find Image Source page.

I tried a few other screenshots from the video but had no luck. I tried similar searches from two other videos about surfing and a video about drumming, but again, I didn’t find the videos I was looking for.

Then I decided to search for the cover image of the video, even though I’d read it’s best not to do that. I took a screenshot of the thumbnail for this video:

Thumbnail screenshot of a YouTube video.

That seemed to do the trick. In the visual matches section, the correct video showed up in the first slot.

Reverse video search results in Google Lens from a screenshot.

And in the Find image source section, the correct video was the first result.

Find Image Source search results.

Use Bing for a Reverse Video Search

Here’s the step-by-step method for using Bing for a reverse video search:

1. Take a screenshot from the video that you want to search for.

Take screenshots of the cover image and a distinctive frame or two from the video.

2. Go to Bing’s Visual Search.

From the Bing homepage, click the camera icon on the right of the search bar to use Visual Search.

Bing's image search function.

3. Upload one of the screenshots.

Either drag and drop the screenshot or click browse to upload it from your computer. You don’t have to click anything else — Bing will automatically search for the screenshot.

4. Review the results.

On the right side of the page, you’ll see content related to the screenshot you uploaded. See if the video you’re looking for is included.

My Experience Using Bing’s Reverse Video Search

I wanted to compare reverse video search results between Google and Bing, so I used the same screenshots. The first one I searched for was this one:

Screenshot of a YouTube video to perform a reverse video search.

I still wasn’t able to find the original video, but the “related content” search results were much more thorough than Google’s.

Related content in reverse video search results.

Next, I searched for the surfing video screenshot:

Screenshot from a surfing video for a reverse video search.

I got back a ton of results, a few revolving around surf lessons, but again, I didn’t find the video this screenshot was taken from:

Related content from a reverse video search using a screenshot.

The last image I tried was this one, which I found on Google:

Thumbnail screenshot of a YouTube video.

Just like with Google, I immediately found the link to the YouTube video.

Reverse video search results.

Perform a Reverse Video Search on Mobile

You can also run a reverse video search on an Android or iOS mobile device. You’ll need to take a screenshot for this method, too, and have it saved to your device.

1. Open the Chrome app and go to the search bar.

On Android devices, Chrome is automatically installed, and the Google Lens functionality is built-in.

On iOS devices, the mobile version of the Google Chrome app doesn’t have search-by-image functionality. You’ll have to use the desktop version instead.

Click the three dots icon on the bottom-right of the homepage and scroll down until you see Request Desktop Site. Click it.

The "More" options in Google Chrome for mobile devices. Using the desktop version of Chrome on a mobile device.

2. Upload an image to Google Lens.

On iOS devices, the desktop version of the site isn’t mobile-optimized, so you’ll have to scroll left and right to see the whole page.

On the right of the sidebar, there’s a camera icon. Click it, and then select upload a file. Upload the video screenshot from your device.

The desktop version of Google on a mobile device.

3. Refine and browse the results.

You can adjust the interior box over the image you uploaded to focus your search on one area of the image. Look through the search results to the right and by clicking the Find image source link above the original image.

Reverse video search results from an image on a mobile device.

Reverse Video Search Tools That Didn’t Actually Work

These tools show up again and again in “how to do a reverse video search” articles, but they were less effective than Google and Bing. While you may have a different experience, here’s what happened when I used them:

Berify

One of Berify’s best features is that it’s a more thorough reverse image search engine than Google, which means it’ll take longer to crawl the web and find matches. Unfortunately, I uploaded two images, and the “Search in Progress” bar never stopped loading. Eventually, I gave up.

Shutterstock

I ran two searches with Shutterstock, one with a screenshot from an old, very popular YouTube video and the other from that video game thumbnail I’ve been able to find elsewhere. Neither one of them came back with exact-match results.

TinEye

TinEye produced confusing results when I uploaded the video game thumbnail. It returned several results, none of which went to the actual video I was searching for. One went to another video by the same creator, but that was as close as it got.

At first, I thought maybe it found other videos that used that thumbnail, which would be useful for a video creator to unearth. But it didn’t seem that way. Instead, it looked like TinEye found videos with similar graphics but not the actual one I uploaded.

Final Thoughts About Reverse Video Searches

Being able to run a reverse video search is a great idea in theory, but it proved harder than expected when experimenting with it. Unless you have the video thumbnail, it may be near impossible to find the video you’re looking for.

For research purposes, though, a reverse video search, particularly on Bing, is helpful. You can find all sorts of related content that can help you decide what to create next for your own website or social media channel.

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