5 Quick Tips for YouTube SEO Strategy

March 7, 2016 BY EMILY GRIFFIN
Updated: January 4, 2018

YouTube SEO strategy

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world — second only to Google, its parent company. 8 out of 10 video search results are YouTube videos. And the platform is growing constantly, with 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute.

How do you avoid getting lost in the sea of video? Your best bet is to produce and publish great videos and then optimize them for search with a solid YouTube SEO strategy.

You may know the basics of search engine optimization for YouTube videos, like including keywords in title, description, and tags. Since search engines can only crawl text — not images or audio — you need to make the most of your video’s text. That’s why having a full, accurate transcript is so valuable for SEO.

Here are 5 quick tips for using transcripts and captions in your YouTube SEO strategy.

1. Don’t Use YouTube Automatic Captions

Google developed an auto-captioning feature for YouTube that’s based on automatic speech recognition (ASR). However, YouTube’s auto-captions are only 70% accurate, which can make for incomprehensible and often embarrassing captions. Because of their inaccuracy, automatic captions are not indexed by Google or other search engines. Caption files are only crawled if they are uploaded by the user.

Some YouTubers will download the automatic caption file from YouTube and then upload it so that it will get indexed.

This is a bad idea.

Google rewards helpful search results and penalizes spam. Part of the definition of spam is “automatically generated gibberish” — which is an apt description of most automatic caption files. By uploading inaccurate captions, you risk being labelled as spam and losing search rank for your whole YouTube channel.

2. Create a Quality Video Transcript

An accurate video transcript is a huge asset in optimizing your video for search. Search engines can only crawl text, they can’t watch your video. Your video transcript will be full of relevant keywords that indicate what your video is about, so that Google can crawl your content and rank you accordingly.

You have a couple of options for creating your transcript. Some YouTubers use the automated transcript as a starting point and manually clean up errors. There are a couple of other DIY transcription options, which are cheap but time-consuming and tedious.

The simplest solution is to send your videos to a professional video transcription service. Professional video transcription is high-quality with a quick turnaround time. Make sure to consider these 10 questions when researching transcription vendors.

3. Add Closed Captions

Once you have a transcript, you can create a caption file and upload it to your video. YouTube automatically time-syncs the text to create closed captions. Closed captions are good for SEO, but they have other benefits, too.

Higher Search Rank

Digital Discovery Networks performed a study that proves captions on YouTube videos boost SEO and increase views by 13.48% in the first 2 weeks and 7.32% overall. To test this, they searched for a keyword phrase that was present only in their video captions, not in the title, description, tags, or metadata. Captioned videos ranked highly for the phrase because search engines could crawl the caption text.

How Adding Captions Boosts YouTube SEO: captions increase user engagement which increases search rank and leads to more views

Better User Engagement

YouTube videos that have closed captions are proven to increase user engagement, earning more likes, shares, and comments than videos without captions. Higher engagement in turn boosts video search rank. And of course, higher search rank translates to more views: a study performed by YouTube revealed that captioned videos earn 4% more views.

Discovery video listed as 4th in search results for captioned keyword

Web Accessibility

Closed captions make your YouTube video accessible to viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing. It also lets people watch your video on a noisy train or in a quiet library with the sound muted. In essence, captions make your video viewable, understandable, and enjoyable for a larger audience.

4. Add Transcript to Video Description

The video description is the best option for displaying your transcript on YouTube. The description field fits 4,850 characters including spaces. That’s usually enough to fit a transcript for a dialogue-heavy, 10-minute video. You can always add a truncated version of your transcript with a link to the full version on a separate webpage.

The video description is a prime spot for search engines to crawl and index your video. And since your transcript is likely naturally keyword-optimized for your topic, it’s great fuel for SEO.

5. Translate Your Video Transcript and Offer Subtitles in Multiple Languages

Just as English captions make your video accessible to more viewers, subtitles in other languages will further expand your audience. YouTube Product Manager at Google, Brad Ellis, stresses the demand for multi-lingual subtitles:

“We actually have 80% of views on YouTube coming from outside of the United States. That’s huge, and a lot of that is non-English. Translating captions is very important. It’s a huge opportunity for growth. We see huge demand from non-English uploaders as well to get their content translated.”

Foreign language subtitles let international and non-native English speaking viewers enjoy your videos. Even more exciting: search engines will index your translated caption files and include your video in search results in those languages. This can be huge for SEO, since you have a better chance of ranking higher for non-English keywords due to lower competition.

More YouTube SEO Best Practices

For more in-depth information on how to optimize your videos for search, download this free whitepaper: Transforming Video SEO with Transcripts and Captions.

Download the eBook: Transforming Video SEO with Transcripts and Captions

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