How to Maximize YouTube Viewership with the Help of Transcripts and Captions

  • how to maximize YouTube viewership with transcripts and captions
    Ever feel like there is too much to stay up to date with? The internet is buzzing with information: news stories, trending topics and personalities. YouTube is the platform of video discoverability. YouTube takes over where word-of-mouth ends and traditional storytelling falls short.

    Here at 3Play Media, we’ve written quite a lot about video SEO–check out the full video SEO blog series. Search engine optimization (SEO) developed around the idea of trying to maximize the number of views from all sources on your webpage. Video SEO is similar, but execution can differ depending on your goals. Publishers often have to decide between two goals: monetization or viewership. In this post we will discuss video SEO with the goal of maximizing viewership–getting as many eyeballs on the video as possible. Countless marketing blogs will try to teach you how to create a viral video, but that level of video success is often based on intangible factors. If viewership is your goal, you cannot overlook YouTube. Keep reading to learn about how to maximize your YouTube presence and how video captions and transcripts help point more people to your video.

    Google & YouTube: A Solid Relationship

    According to Naomi Black, Accessibility Engineering Program Manager at Google, 60 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Many marketers have embraced YouTube. The ease of use and price are unbeatable for a stretched team and tight budget. Professionals and amateurs alike now have another reason to utilize the free platform: a recent study conducted by Searchmetrics found YouTube videos account for eight out of 10 videos in search results.

    One reason for this may be because Google owns YouTube and has helped to make YouTube the second most popular search engine (after its parent company, of course). The sharing of information between the two companies is seamless; a major benefit to uploading your videos to YouTube is immediate indexing by Google. There is no waiting for bots to crawl your site or submitting a new video site map.

    Even with this tight relationship between Google and YouTube, your viewership strategy must follow tenets of traditional SEO. Well-optimized content gives search engines the proper indicators so they may find and index your YouTube content. A video can’t go viral if Google can’t understand what it is about. As discussed in previous articles, search engines cannot watch a video, as they are purely text driven.

    If we create this text intelligently however, using keywords when building multiple video pages, we will maximize traffic. This means keyword-heavy titles, video descriptions, tags, and paired text content, such as video captions. We will discuss your video keyword strategy in more depth soon; let’s now learn how transcripts and captions impact video visibility.

    3 Reasons to Transcribe and Caption Your YouTube Videos

    1. Accessibility

    Clearly, captions and transcripts enable deaf and hard of hearing users to use videos. This is part of Google’s mission. Their task is to classify and arrange the web’s abundant amounts of information, ideally in a way that makes it universally accessible and useful. Google focuses on their users and recognizes the diversity and different requirements of their users. Because of this, video search results with captions and transcripts rank higher, since they allow access to information in multiple formats, depending on preference and need. Captions widen your audience segment.

    2. Higher Engagement & Longer View-Time

    Why is engagement important? In SEO, we have a tendency to speak a lot about bots: Google bots searching, Google bots crawling, and Google bots indexing. These bots, however, analyze indicators of relevancy left by humans.

    Human engagement is demonstrated through comments, channel subscribers, and total view time. Similar to a webpage’s bounce rate, if Google supplies a video result and the user only watches 20 seconds of it before leaving, this can be a negative signal. It brings into question the relevancy of the keywords surrounding that page.

    PC Magazine weighed in on the importance of view times with the article
    YouTube Tweaks Search Ranking Based on Time Watched. “Basically, if YouTube users regularly watch three minutes of one video, but routinely click away from a similar video after a few seconds, that three-minute video will rank higher in search results going forward, despite keyword relevancy.” So your goal should be more watching–not just more clicking. This is how captions help. Studies have shown that captions increase view times not only for deaf people or those who know English as a second language, but also for users who watch video in a sound sensitive environment like a workplace or library.

    YouTube Deep Linking
    In a joint webinar on accessible technology we conducted with Google and Adobe, Naomi Black explained the concept of “deep linking.” Deep linking means that when Google reads your captions, it indexes each word with the assigned time stamp. For example, if you search a phrase in quotes, the search results returned to you will allow you to start watching a video at the exact moment that phrase is uttered. In fact, that deep link will be the search result returned to you.

    3. Discoverability & Video SEO Lift

    Since captions are read by both YouTube and Google, a full, accurate representation of your video will be displayed through text. This means potentially higher rankings.

    According to Pixability, “one well-kept secret of video SEO is that both YouTube and Google do index text that is found in closed captions. Many videos come up at the top of searches for keywords that are found only in their closed captions–not in the tags or the description of the video.” The upshot is that you should upload captions to YouTube and consider keywords when producing the spoken content in your videos.

    8 Ways to Maximize YouTube SEO & Increase Viewership

    Here are some simple-to-execute tips for getting more video views.

    1. Add Video Content & Captions to YouTube

    After uploading your video to YouTube, it is imperative to add captions. As discussed in the benefits section above, captions make your video universally accessible. Many of Google’s search priorities favor universal design and a great user experience.

    If you do not have a captions file, you can upload a transcript. YouTube will then use Google’s auto speech recognition software to assign time stamps to each word, syncing your transcript with the video. It’s a fairly easy process; see more in the video How to Upload a Transcript to YouTube Videos to Improve SEO.

    2. Don’t Expect Auto-Captions to Help SEO

    YouTube’s auto-caption function is often riddled with mistakes. As you can see in our series on auto-speech recognition gaffes, YouTube speech recognition software can be derailed by accents, background noise, and complex vocabulary.

    Because of this, auto-captions do not get indexed by Google or YouTube, and therefore do not help SEO. Google only indexes your uploaded captions because it deems them to be higher quality and more trustworthy than auto-generated captions.

    3. Build a Keyword-Rich Title, Description, and Tags

    One of the benefits of hosting your videos on YouTube is the free video analytics tool. With YouTube’s analytics you can hone in on the most effective keywords and your target audience. Look for keyword variations with less competition so you can stand out from the crowd.

    Add your keywords into the following fields, but keep in mind some tips and tricks:

    • Title: Fits 100 characters, truncated at 66 characters, meaning your most important information should be close to the front. Use language to compel a click on your video, “how-to,” “advice,” “about,” or numbered lists can help. For example: “7 Tips to Increase Video Subscription Rates.”
    • Meta-Description: Fits 5,000 characters, truncated at 166 characters. For ecommerce sites it is particularly important to include a link to your product, considering more than half of consumers are influenced by product videos. Remember to include the http:// or it won’t be clickable.
    • Tags: Fits 120 characters. Use double quotes (“) to surround your video keyword tags so your video is an exact match for a long tail keyword phrase. For example: instead of tagging your video as “video” and “captions,” tag it as “video captions,” or even better, “create video captions.” Think like a user and always add tags in order of importance.

    Remember, if you plan to post your video on several domains in addition to YouTube, you should vary the keyword phrases slightly. You don’t want to compete against yourself across different sites.

    Lastly, use honest, relevant terms. Trying to ride trending topics irrelevant to your video content will only result in a negative score later.

    4. Use a Compelling Thumbnail

    Until recently, YouTube automatically selected a frame from the middle of the video as the thumbnail. Now, publishers have the ability to choose which frame to display as the video thumbnail. Choosing the right video thumbnail image makes a drastic difference in click-through rate. Use high quality, high contrast images that have a 16:9 aspect ratio. Facial close-ups work best. Note that YouTube overlays the video duration in the lower corner of the thumbnail; make sure it doesn’t obstruct anything important. Also, keep in mind that Google uses image recognition to automatically filter out certain imagery, such as the YouTube logo. Ideally you want an image that is a great visual representation of your target keyword; this will take your presence in search results even further.

    5. Paste Your Transcript in the Video Description Field

    In addition to uploading captions or a transcript, you should also paste the transcript into your video description following a brief sentence summarizing your video. This is the quickest way to inform users and bots exactly what the video is about. Keep in mind, this strategy is best for short-form videos because the description field is limited to 5,000 characters or ~800 words. For long-form videos, we suggest utilizing your transcript to parse out a keyword-rich summary or blog post summarizing the video.

    6. Increase Ranking with Multilingual Subtitles

    A great video is also about a great video experience with options to accommodate people with different needs. Have your video captions translated and upload the translated subtitles to YouTube. This option is available in the same place as uploading transcripts or captions, just select the appropriate language from the drop-down menu.

    If you are looking to rank your video in a Non-English market, please see our blog post SEO Best Practices for Video Translation. While not specific to YouTube, some of the same concepts apply, meaning you should consider creating a separate YouTube video page with non-English language page titles, descriptions and tags.

    7. Publish Videos on a Regular Basis

    Releasing videos on a set day of the week or a recurring schedule helps your YouTube channel by letting your audience know when to return. In many cases, we can stand to learn a thing or two from the publishing schedules of broadcast TV. For more insights, see the YouTube Playbook.

    8. Place Videos & Transcripts to Your Domain

    Lastly, since your goal is to maximize viewership, your videos should also be published on your own site. A few basic rules:

    • Place only one video per page.
    • Create a unique URL for each video landing page.
    • Update your video site map to reflect new additions, creating a separate entry for each video.

    We cover these video SEO standards in the blog post, On-Page SEO Basics and Your Video Keyword Strategy.

    Note, the video on your site may rank lower in video search results than its twin on YouTube, but this is okay. After all, our goal is more eyes!

    Easiest Way to Create YouTube Captions
    3Play Media’s round trip integration with YouTube provides an automated workflow for captions and subtitles. Your YouTube videos can be processed in a matter of hours and captions will be automatically sent to YouTube and added to your videos. Learn more about YouTube captioning.

    Video currently makes up 62% of all media consumed online, and YouTube dominates above all video platforms with no sign of diminishing share. Our future will only see more videos and even more ways to stream. YouTube will continue to supply videos in the same way broadcast media supplies an unending number of channels. But who is watching channel 1027? Does it have an audience? Videos on YouTube that fail to be found and have no audience will be left behind. Executing on a smart video SEO strategy keeps your YouTube content relevant, appealing, and discoverable.

16 Responses to How to Maximize YouTube Viewership with the Help of Transcripts and Captions

  1. Leon says:

    Very nice tips. I can definitely say I have learned a few things. Thank you!

  2. Rune says:

    Thank you for great info

  3. Gail Stringer says:

    Watching any You Tube video, if ‘captions’ and ‘transcript’ are present, how do you put it in your language to watch video?

    • Shannon K. Murphy says:

      Hi Gail,

      If you are trying to move between several languages for subtitles, you can only utilize those that the video creator provides. When you click on the CC button on the bottom right hand side of the YouTube player, subtitle languages might be listed there. Unfortunately, even though captions or a transcript are present on a video, multilanguage subtitles may not have been provided as well. This is dependent on the video creator or video publisher. I would suggest commenting on the video and requesting subtitles however. Please let me know if this answered your question.


  4. Will it be considered duplicate content if you post the subtitles or transcript as a webpage or blog post on ones own blog or website?

    • Shannon K. Murphy says:

      Hi Brian,

      Good question. Taking the subtitles or transcript from a YouTube video and utilizing that keyword rich text is a tactic contemplated by many SEOs. I have also seen quite a few marketers take the transcripts from great conference presentations and put them on their site. But, they always add the video too. Think of it as a citation for the original source. If you do that, I do not think that it will be treated as duplicate content.

      This is why- I think it is reasonable to compare this to an embed of a YT video alone. People have been doing this for years. It’s sharing content. When you add a transcripts as well you are giving viewers options and Google likes this. To take it further for SEO I would say, “add to it.” Meaning, add to the conversation. Write up a paragraph or two about why you are sharing this content, introduce the context, or key readers into some crucial points they should pay attention to. This will help your content to be a bit more unique and less likely to be regarded as spam.

      In a nutshell, I wouldn’t take transcripts from several videos without also doing the video embed and I would also make sure they were highly relevant to the keywords I am trying to rank my site for.

      Thanks for your question,

  5. Zhaia says:

    I’m just getting started with captioning. I have done one video using YouTube’s auto captioning capability and it was wonderful. I just uploaded another video and the auto caption feature doesn’t show up for me to choose. I checked their help section on this and it gives a few vague reasons – none of which make sense for the video I am trying to caption.

  6. Conny says:

    Hello, your tips on transcripts and captions are just mind blowing! Does this only work for videos that have audio text or can I upload captions to a video without any spoken text?

    • Shannon K. Murphy says:

      Hi Conny,

      Thanks for reading. Technically, I suppose you could upload a captions file to a silent video, but I would caution against this. A very important aspect in SEO is authenticity, if you’re uploading a keyword heavy captions file to a video that doesn’t speak specifically about that subject matter, this could have a negative effect. Especially since on YouTube, users have the ability to “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” video content.

      We are suggesting using captions to help search engines find and understand the spoken content of video. If you don’t have that spoken content then it’s not necessary to create it within the video, make sure you fully optimize the video description and tags with the correct keywords. Or write a blog and utilize description area to link to link to that article and any follow up materials.

      I hope this helps!


  7. Colin N. says:

    I followed about half of these steps, just through prior research and knowledge, before coming to this page. I saw awesome results with this method and am looking forward to applying the rest of the helpful tips here to my channels!

  8. Eleanor says:

    Very good post! We will be linking to this great post on our
    website. Keep up the great writing.

  9. Chuck says:

    I really liked the read through — cheers!

  10. Thanks for the tips on transcripts. I was wondering about how to properly use them and this helped out. I appreciate the post

  11. Jose says:

    Hi, really nice post. I have one question related with a channel that I have with 300 videos. The most of all with closed Spanish captions (My native language). Following this article I see that cleary its worthy to add closed English captions to my videos. My doubt is:

    How I should configure the title, description and tags? Actually are in Spanish and I dont know If its recommended to modify adding english keywords to it. Specially to the title which should not be too long.

    Thanks for the answer, and congratulations for this great post.

    • Emily Griffin says:

      Hi Jose,

      Consider who your target audience is. If you primarily want to attract viewers who are native Spanish speakers, go ahead and optimize your title, description, and default language to Spanish. If you primarily want to attract native English speakers, use an English title and description, and make English the default subtitle display on your video.

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