Closed Captions : The Quickest Win On YouTube

Closed Captions : The Quickest Win On YouTube

1st August 2012

Video – what marketer doesn’t love it eh? Done well, we know it’s fantastic for driving traffic, lowering bounce rate and making content more ‘sticky’, increasing engagement (and hopefully conversions), and generally enhancing the whole user experience.

We also know that – because of all these things and more – video marketing is fast becoming as competitive and technically challenging as other forms of optimisation so it pays to know what works and what doesn’t.

There are two types of video content delivery but for the purpose of this article, I want to focus on YouTube, still the second largest search engine in the world. Optimising video on YouTube really revolves around 7 main best practises:

  1. Title
  2. Description
  3. Tags
  4. Categories
  5. Annotations
  6. Closed Captions
  7. Engagement within YouTube

Every features deserves a blog post of its own as each is equally important in helping your video content to be found amongst the 72 hours of video that are uploaded to YouTube every minute.  This post however, is all about the wonders of closed captioning.

Closed captioning basically means that the content of your video becomes available in a text format – something that the search engines can read and process. The captions are “closed” which means that an individual user can control whether these are shown during video playback (obviously embedded captions/subtitles play whether the user wants them to or not but that’s a whole other subject).

The Dark Art of Closed Captioning:

I jest of course, there’s nothing underhand about creating/using closed captions but it does take a little effort on your part to make sure you get them right first time. So what are they? No doubt you may have watched the odd video on YouTube and you may well have noticed a ‘CC’ button in the bottom right corner (CC = closed captions).

Closed Captions are effectively subtitles – the text mirrors the timing and content of the spoken word on screen when enabled by the user. Now, there is a process to go through to upload captions and I could walk you through it……but as this is a post extolling the virtues of video, then let’s watch one that does that for me (along with a very helpful article from YouTube).

That video shows us the right way of doing it. If you already have the transcript of the video then most of your work is already done. YouTube can now detect the beginning and the end of each individual spoken line so all you need to do is upload the script and the captions will appear pretty much exactly in sync with the video. Easy peasy.

The wrong way would be

a) not to do it at all or even worse

b) let YouTube take care of it with their automatic voice recognition software.

I urge you, if you want your or your client’s video to be taken seriously, please take the time to make sure that the captions are correct otherwise all of your hard work (and budget) will be a massive waste of time….

CC goes International

Want to reach a wider audience but haven’t got the budget or resources to make separate videos for a handful of languages? No problem, YouTube supports closed captions for 155 different languages so a very, very quick win is to upload a CC track for any number of different languages and watch as your international audience begins to take notice.

CC & SEO = K.I.S.S.I.N.G

Subtitles are good for the user and for accessibility, that’s a given. Obviously that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside and all that but, let’s not beat about the bush here. I’m a marketer and I want results. Now please. The biggest, best ever news about closed captions for an SEO is that both YouTube and Google index them.  One of the overwhelming negatives of online video has always been the fact that it is invisible to the search engines (including video hosting sites like YouTube).

Search engines cannot tell what is on a video so features like closed captions give them a great big sign as to what the focus of the video is all about. If closed captions are utilised along with descriptions, tags etc then the video stands a very, VERY good chance of ranking well in the SERPS (both on YouTube and on Google). Closed captions are a positive signal to the search engines to help them better understand the video content – and return that content in the blended search results for a given search phrase, particularly the more long tail ones.

So, closed captions are a GOOD THING. If you haven’t had a chance to implement them then have a go and test the results. You’ll hopefully be pleasantly surprised at the difference they make to your video seo marketing campaign.


Written By
Carla Marshall is Director of SEO at
So Yeah, Online Video Is Pretty Big News
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