5 Tips for Improving Video SEO with Transcripts and Captions

July 8, 2014 BY LILY BOND
Updated: January 4, 2018

A new study from Cisco predicts that by 2018, 84% of all Internet traffic will be video content. The question is, with online video becoming an undeniable force in many peoples’ marketing and content strategies, how do you position your video for maximum exposure? Because Google can’t watch a video, the only information it can crawl is the text associated with your video. Without transcripts and captions, your video’s SEO and keyword depth is minimal.

While video SEO is similar in concept to traditional SEO, videos inherently require different tactics because there is very little written content associated with them. If you’re looking to improve your video SEO, one of the first strategies to consider is adding transcripts and captions to your video content. Transcripts and captions allow Google to crawl everything that is said in your video, increasing not only your keyword density, but also your keyword diversity. This allows your video to rank for a multitude of relevant terms, instead of just the prioritized terms in your video description, title, and tags. In fact, adding transcripts and captions to your videos is a proven strategy for improving SEO, views, engagement, and search rank.

Discovery Digital Networks conducted a controlled study of captioning across 8 of their channels. They found that adding captions to their YouTube videos resulted in a 13.48% increase in views after 14 days, as well as a 7.32% lifetime increase in views. Further, they found that their videos ranked in the top 5 for search terms that did not appear in the tags, titles, or descriptions of their videos (only in the captions). Similarly, SafeNet conducted a 3-week test to see how quickly video transcription could make an impact on SEO, and found that within 3 weeks, their videos were ranking on page 1. Other interesting stats come from This American Life: they added transcripts to their audio podcasts and found a 6.68% increase in search traffic attributable to transcripts, as well as a 7.23% increase in user engagement.

These case studies provide impressive data that proves the effectiveness of using transcripts and captions to improve video SEO. Below are five tips for transforming your video SEO using transcripts and captions.

1. Create a Video Sitemap

Treat your videos like you would any other content. Creating a video sitemap is the only truly reliable way for search engines to learn about the videos on your website. A video sitemap lists all the videos on your site, including URLs, titles, durations, keywords, and other details. You should include video transcript pages in your video sitemap to give search engines more information about your video. Make sure that your videos and transcript pages have separate entries in your video sitemap so they can be properly indexed by search engines.

2. Follow Best Practices for Publishing Transcripts

There are many different practices for publishing video transcripts depending on the video duration. If your videos are less than 10 minutes in length, the simplest option is to place the transcript directly in the body of the video page. Other best practices for publishing short-form video transcripts include posting the transcript on a separate page, publishing an interactive transcript or captions plugin, completing a video schema markup, or adding video captions in HTML5.

On the other hand, if your videos are longer than 10 minutes, you should make sure you do not post transcripts on the same page. Not only do you want your viewer to feel like they are in a video environment, you also want Google to classify your page as a video page rather than a text page. The best practice for publishing long-form video transcripts is to review your transcript for natural keyword breaks and publish your transcript on separate pages of less than 1,000 words, each with its own keyword focus. Make sure you link from your video to your transcript, and again, include your transcript pages in your video sitemap.

3. Be Patient and Publish Content Consistently

Consistency is a big determiner for SEO. Content is a numbers game: doubling the word or page count of a website overnight night raises red flags for search engines, and “dumping” content can be detrimental. Instead, the best practice is to “drip” content, maintaining focus and releasing videos and transcripts on a regular schedule. If you have 100 hours of video to publish, great – just keep in mind that that amounts to about 1 million transcribed words. Think of how much more beneficial it would be to publish that content over a 3-month period, rather than all at once! Video SEO requires patience, and dripping content will allow you to steadily build linking opportunities, keep your keyword strategy agile and trendy, and stimulate more frequent indexing. Publishing fresh content on a regular basis will prompt Google bots to crawl your site more often. Plus, fresh content influences SEO ranking!

4. Use Transcripts to Create Derivative Content

One of the perhaps unexpected SEO benefits of transcripts is that they can provide lots of derivative content! Content marketing grew out of the popularity of SEO and the belief that informative, engaging, and unique content is the way to climb to the top of search results. Transcripts can provide content marketers with the beginnings of numerous derivative works that will help to further your site’s search presence, depth, and reputation. Consider a webinar: a simple business recording, transcribed, can yield not only a long-form transcript, but can also be used to create case studies, support docs, white papers, blogs, and infographics – all of which will boost your SEO. Transcripts are a great starting point for developing a robust, SEO-friendly content marketing platform.

Use Transcripts to Create Derivative Content

5. Improve Your Global Presence with Video Translation

Video translation can be of great benefit to your SEO strategy. Less than 27% of Internet users speak English as their primary language; in fact, 80% of YouTube views come from outside the United States. Once you have a transcript of your video, it is easy to translate that transcript into other languages. This can increase your potential audience by over 70%, expanding your audience globally. Translating your video content leads to increased traffic and greater authority. It is important to note that duplicate content is not penalized across different languages, so your site will gain more pages, keyword rankings, and inbound links. Further, there is simply less competition across different languages, so it is easier to rank higher against competitors. Finally, adding subtitles or translations to your videos makes them more engaging for non-English users, resulting in longer view times, retention, and a better user experience (all of which increase SEO even further).

For more detailed information, you can download a complimentary copy of our eBook, Transforming Video SEO through Captions and Transcripts: The Definitive Guide.

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