5 Quick Tips for Your YouTube SEO Strategy

August 23, 2018 BY SOFIA ENAMORADO

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 YouTube SEO.

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

1. Lose YouTube’s ASR Captions and Add Accurate Closed Captions

YouTube now automatically transcribes your videos. However, YouTube’s auto-captions are only 70% accurate, which can make for incomprehensible and often embarrassing captions.

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 or using inaccurate captions, you risk being labeled as spam and losing search rank for your whole YouTube channel.

To combat the detrimental effects of ASR captions for YouTube SEO, you’ll want to add accurate closed captions to your YouTube videos.

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.

There are a couple of options for adding captions to YouTube videos. 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.

looking for a captioning vendor? download the guide: 10 questions to ask when selecting a captioning vendors

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.

Closed captions are good for YouTube SEO, but they have other benefits, too.

Higher Search Rank

Digital Discovery Networks performed a study that proves captions on YouTube videos boost SEO. They saw an increase in 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.

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, a 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 videos 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.

2. Add A 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 YouTube SEO.

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

Just as English captions make your videos 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 YouTube SEO, since you have a better chance of ranking higher for non-English keywords due to lower competition.

Just remember to always check your translations for accuracy!

4. Say Your Target Keyword in Your Video

Your targeted keyword should appear in the title, description, tags, and in your transcript.

YouTube uses your transcript and captions to rank your video accordingly. Just make sure that you are including an accurate transcript, as you wouldn’t want YouTube’s auto-captions to botch your keyword!

An easy strategy to find a keyword for your video is to use YouTube’s Search Suggest. Simply type a word or phrase into the search bar and see the suggestions that YouTube offers.

searching in the youtube bar for searches of closed captions. you see closed captions for youtube, closed captions premier


These are terms that people are searching for. You can also find keywords from your YouTube search report (under Traffic Sources > YouTube search).

To check if you have a good keyword, simply search for it on YouTube and see how many “About results” it generates. A good keyword has low-competition.

5. Use the Video SEO Embed

As we’ve learned, Google prioritized video in search results. But if your video lacks the appropriate metadata, it won’t be able to prioritize it.

The SEO embed injects all your video metadata (like the transcript, thumbnail, title, and description) to the head of your page so that Google can crawl and index your video properly.

The SEO embed is part of the 3Play Plugin.

When you optimize your video for Google, you can get 2-5x more views than just optimizing it for YouTube.

Click to start captioning your YouTube videos

This article was originally published March 7, 2016 by Emily Griffin and has since been updated.

3play media logo in blue

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