SEO Best Practices for Video Translation

April 2, 2013 BY TOLE KHESIN
Updated: January 4, 2018

Translation SEO
We’ve talked a lot about why search engines need text to properly index your videos and how transcripts and captions increase SEO. But what happens when you translate your video into multiple languages? How can you leverage the translated transcripts and multilingual subtitles to further increase SEO? That is the focus of this article. First, we’ll set the stage by discussing the SEO value of translating your video content. We’ll then talk about the considerations that should be made prior to embarking on any translation SEO work. Then we’ll outline the steps involved in translating video and the types of output formats necessary. Finally, we’ll discuss best practices for implementing translations on your website. It’s worth noting that translation SEO, especially in the context of video, is an emerging field. While some of the strategies proposed are tried and true, others are evolving and based on the best available information.

Why SEO is Important for Video Translation

Video translation is gaining popularity as more companies go global and as people become aware of the benefits. If you’re going to invest the time and cost to translate video content, it makes sense to implement the translations in a way that derives the most SEO benefit. Below is a summary of the benefits you can expect to see after implementing a solid translation SEO strategy.

  • Increased traffic: Helping Google and other search engines index your video translations will increase traffic to your site, expanding your audience globally and domestically.
  • Greater Authority: Duplicate content is not penalized across different languages. As a result, your site will have more pages, keyword rankings, and inbound links. All of this adds up to greater authority and Internet presence.
  • Less Competition: It’s easier to rank higher against competitors because there is simply less competition across different languages.
  • User Experience: Your video content will become more engaging for non-English users, resulting in longer view times, retention, and a better user experience – increasing SEO even further.

Dubbing Your Videos?

Dubbing is the process of rerecording the spoken audio track in a different language. It often produces the best video translation experience, but at the highest cost. As with subtitles, dubbing first requires the video to be transcribed and translated to text. If you’re dubbing your videos, make sure to save your transcripts because the SEO strategies described in this blog are just as important and should be applied the same way.

What Needs to Be Considered First

Before making any SEO tweaks, thinking through the questions below will help guide your translation SEO strategy.

  • Is your objective to maximize viewership or monetization? In other words, are you trying to bring traffic to your video landing pages or can the videos be watched elsewhere (e.g. YouTube). Among other considerations, this impacts whether to upload multilingual subtitles to YouTube.
  • Are your videos short (less than 5 minutes) or long-form? This affects how the translated transcripts should be published.
  • What player or platform do you use to publish video? This determines your workflow, plugins, and the type of transcript and subtitle format needed.
  • Will you have a separate set of video web pages for each language? As with other translated content, the best practice is to have a separate set of pages for each language.
  • Which search engines will you target?
  • What is your non-English keyword strategy? Keywords in target languages are different than your source languages. Do not use direct translations and be aware of spam words.

Translation SEO Step 1: Transcribe and Caption Your Videos

If you haven’t already transcribed and captioned your videos, this is the first step. Videos benefit from transcription even without translation because it helps search engines understand what your video is about and produces supporting text content. The transcription accuracy needs to be flawless to prevent errors from propagating to multiple languages. We recommend reviewing the English transcript prior to submitting it for translation. Here at 3Play Media, we also offer an extra round of review to double-check for errors and omissions.

Translation SEO Step 2: Create Video Translations

Although we provide an integrated translation service, there are numerous third party and DIY options at your disposal. When creating video translations, consider the types of output formats that you will need. Also, depending on the target language, a translation may require more characters than the English source. The translation process must account for this effect – known as word swell – in order to accurately preserve synchronization of the subtitles.

Best SEO Practices for Publishing Your Video Translations

URL Encoding for Non-English Characters

In order to link to URLs that contain non-English characters you should use UTF-8 encoding and escape the URL. For example, in order to link to the URLéos/ you would need to form the link

Note that é was replaced with %C3%A9. Try this free tool to encode URLs for non-English characters.

Separate Video Landing Pages for Each Language

The best way to localize a website with translated videos is to create equivalent video landing pages for each language. You should set up a URL structure that makes it easy for users to identify what language they’re on just by glancing at the URL. For example, the URL structure below helps users and makes it easier for you to analyze the indexing of your multilingual content.

One Language per Web Page

Google strongly recommends that you stick to a single language per web page and avoid side-by-side translations. Google tries to determine the language of the page based on the text, so multiple languages can confuse the algorithm.

One Video Sitemap per Language with Cross-References

A video sitemap is the most reliable way for Google to learn about your videos and accompanying translations. Unfortunately, there isn’t a good way to incorporate multiple languages into one video sitemap. It is cleaner to create a separate video sitemap for each language. Also, it is best to add rel=”alternate” and hreflang=”x” annotations to inform Google of equivalent video pages in other languages. The example below shows a video site map that cross-references pages in English, French, and German. Note, each language must cross reference every other language, including itself. So 3 languages would require 9 xhtml:link entries.

The value of the hreflang attribute (e.g. “en”) must use the ISO 6391-1 format

< ?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>




On-Page Video SEO

Follow the same on-page best practices as for your English videos and transcripts. The blog article On-Page SEO Basics & Your Video Keyword Strategy describes the basics of how to build out a video landing page by adding keyword-rich text elements, augmenting on-page video SEO.

Plain Transcript

For a short video that is less than 5 minutes, the transcripts can either be placed on the video page or on a separate page. The blog article 5 SEO Strategies for Publishing Short-Form Video Transcripts & Captions provides strategies to optimize a video transcript, making it both search- and user-friendly.

Long-form video transcripts should be placed on separate pages and paginated, as explained in the blog article How to Optimize Long-Form Video Transcripts for SEO: The Wrong Way and the Right Way

Interactive Transcript

Using an interactive transcript to publish your multilingual transcripts creates the best user experience, enabling users to switch languages, search the video, and jump to a specific point by clicking on any word in the transcript. Users can even create and share video clips by highlighting a section of the transcript in any language. 3Play Media’s interactive transcript is completely integrated with our transcription and translation process. When you embed an interactive transcript, it automatically incorporates all of the languages that have been translated. For SEO purposes, a plain transcript should be wrapped in <noscript> tags, making it invisible to users, but readily indexable by search engines. It is often best to combine an interactive transcript with a plain transcript placed on a separate page.

Multilingual Captions Plugin

Similar to an interactive transcript, a captions plugin with multilingual subtitles is another option that enhances user experience. 3Play Media’s captions plugin is completely integrated with our transcription and translation process. When you add a captions plugin to a video player, it automatically incorporates all of the languages that have been translated. For SEO purposes, a plain transcript should be wrapped in <noscript> tags, making it invisible to users, but readily indexable by search engines. As with the interactive transcript, it is often best to combine a captions plugin with a plain transcript placed on a separate page.

Off-Page Inbound and Cross Linking Tactics

As with other content, it is essential to follow best practices for off-page SEO. Video cross-linking and inbound links are vital to every SEO strategy.

Video Schema

Video schema is a new markup standard that allow video metadata to be added in the body of the HTML. Schema markup is not visible to users, but is readily indexable by search engines. The standard schema markup uses the VideoObject to assist Google in understanding what the video content is about. It supports a number of properties, including the ability to add a transcript. Below is an example showing how a video transcript should be added to a video embed code.


Video: Video title

Description of the video


YouTube Multilingual Subtitles

Is your goal to maximize video viewership? Then it is best to upload your translated subtitles to YouTube. This creates maximum exposure in both YouTube and Google. 3Play Media lets you download translations in a number of formats including SRT, which is the subtitle format required for YouTube. Step-by-step instructions are available in this article on adding subtitles to YouTube. Additionally, 3Play Media has a roundtrip integration with YouTube that simplifies the entire process.

Multilingual Subtitles with Other Video Players and Platforms

In order to make multilingual subtitles available in other video players, you will need to upload the appropriate subtitle format. 3Play Media provides a variety of translation output formats to accommodate almost any video player or platform. Some players, like Vimeo, do not support subtitles. However, you can still add multilingual subtitles to Vimeo using the captions plugin. After adding subtitles, remember to set the default language to correspond to the video web page. For example, if you’re on the French video page and press the CC button, French subtitles should turn on by default. Subtitles in a non-YouTube player embedded on your page will not get indexed by search engines, but they will improve view times, retention, and user experience – ultimately resulting in better SEO.

Emerging HTML5 Subtitle Tracks

Although still emerging, HTML5 will make it much easier to add subtitles as metadata. HTML5 natively supports video without the need for third party plugins. A video can be added to a web page using the <video> element, which makes it almost as simple as adding an image. The <track> element can then be used to display subtitles in multiple languages or any other time-aligned metadata. One of the great advantages of adding subtitles or captions as metadata is that search engines will be able to readily index not only the text, but also the associated time codes. This will enable search engines to return search results pointing to a specific part of a video (i.e. deep link). The example below shows how these elements will work once they are adopted.

<video width="320" height="240">
  <source type="video/mp4" src="my_video_file.mp4" />
  <track src="captions_en.vtt" label="English" kind="captions" srclang="en-us" default="" />
  <track src="subtitles_fr.vtt" label="French" kind="captions" srclang="fr" default="" />
  <track src="subtitles_de.vtt" label="German" kind="captions" srclang="de" default="" /></video>

Read the free report: 2017 State of Captioning.

The closed caption CC icon shown in the middle of a TV.