5 Ways to Improve SEO for Short Videos Using Transcripts & Captions

August 12, 2016 BY EMILY GRIFFIN
Updated: June 3, 2019

The amount of time adults spend watching digital video each day has increased from 21 minutes in 2011 to 76 minutes in 2015.

What does that tell you?

That video is a wildly popular medium to publish content on the web, of course.

At the same time, attention spans seem to be shrinking. People love watching video, but time is very precious. Shorter videos tend to perform better since they demand less of your audience.

If you produce short-form content (5 minutes or less), you’re on your way to capturing viewers.

But of all the millions of videos online, you’re going to need an edge to make yours stand out from the crowd.

Here are five tips to amplify the search presence of your short-form videos using your video’s own transcript and captions.

1. Add an On-Page Video Transcript

example of a video transcript in a text box directly on the web page

The simplest option is to copy and paste your video transcript directly into the body of the video page. This ensures that all the transcript text is crawled by search engine bots, since the body text is a key factor in determining keyword relevance.

You can also place the full transcript in a <div> or a re-sizeable <textarea> text box in order to constrain the dimensions for visual effect.

The advantage of this method is that it’s easy to do and to maintain. The disadvantages are that it takes up valuable real estate on the page and potentially diverts attention from the video.

Another disadvantage is that Google is more likely to classify your page as a text page rather than a video page. A video page can be displayed as a rich snippet with a thumbnail in search results, which drastically increases click-through rates.

Consider whether your video supports other content on the page or if it’s the main focus of the page. If the latter is true, try one of these other options.

2. Link to a Separate Transcript Page

screenshot of an audio file with a 'transcript' option. A red arrow lead from that to a screenshot of a separate page with a transcript

If you’d rather keep your video page focused on the multimedia content, you can publish the transcript on a separate page and offer a link underneath the video. This is a common solution for audio files published online (see above example of This American Life’s website).

Publishing a dedicated page for a transcript is a great way to build your site size, giving bots more content to crawl.

It also opens up new cross-linking opportunities. You can cross-link between the video and transcript pages, plus you can highlight appropriate text in the transcript and link it to relevant pages on your site. This option makes a lot of sense for long-form video transcripts, but can also be done with short-form transcripts.

3. Add an Interactive Transcript

gif of interactive transcript

Can Google See Your Transcript?

Double-check that your video transcript is visible to Google’s search engine bots.

1. Right click on any page containing an interactive transcript or captions plugin.
2. Select View Page Source.
3. Looking at the code, use the find function (CTRL-F) to scan the code for a phrase from your transcript.

If you can find your phrase, then so can Google!

Get an SEO boost and take your UX to the next level by adding an interactive transcript.

This JavaScript plugin displays a scrolling transcript below, beside, or above the video. It lets users search by keyword or click on any word to jump to a specific point in the video.

The one catch: JavaScript isn’t indexed by search engines. Luckily, there’s a quick fix to make your transcript crawlable.

Check out: “Boost Video SEO with 1 Click: Add noscript Tags to Interactive Transcripts.”

Interactive transcripts keep viewers engaged while watching your video, and provide a quick and easy way to navigate the content. They can transform the user experience for your video, leading to increased watch time and longer time on site.

These factors, along with positive UX in general, can contribute to better search rank.

4. Add Video Markup for Schema

video SERP

Google, Bing, and Yahoo have all voiced support for schema.org video markup.

The standard schema markup uses the VideoObject to assist Google in understanding what the video content is about. This allows video publishers to add video metadata directly in the body of the HTML.

The VideoObject supports a number of properties, including the ability to add a transcript.

Schema markup is not visible to users, but is readily indexable by search engines.

The schema markup example below shows how a video transcript can be added to a video embed code.

<div itemprop="video" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/VideoObject">
    <h2>Video: <span itemprop="name">Video title</span></h2>
    <meta itemprop="duration" content="T1M20S" />
    <meta itemprop="thumbnail" content="thumbnail.jpg" />
    <meta itemprop="transcript" content="Text of the transcript goes here" />
    <object ...>
    <param ...>
    <embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" ...>
    <span itemprop="description">Description of the video</span>

One significant advantage of adding schema markup is that it facilitates having multiple videos (and their respective transcripts) on a single web page.

It’s generally a good idea to give each video its own web page because video sitemaps make it difficult to index multiple videos on one page. However, video schema markup could be an effective workaround, especially in cases where you have multiple videos aligned on a specific topic.

Another benefit of adding schema markup is that it will increase the likelihood that your video will appear as a rich snippet in Google Video Search. Rich snippets enjoy very high click-through rates in SERPs. While most videos in Google Video SERPs are YouTube videos, your web page can potentially rank with the help of schema.

Note that schema video markup does not replace a video sitemap, which is still the most reliable way for Google to discover and index your videos.

5. Add Closed Captions in HTML5


HTML5 standards make it much easier to add text track data to videos. The best part? HTML5 natively supports video without the need for third party plugins, so it’s the closest thing to universal online video you can get.

A video can be added to a web page using the video element, which is about as simple as adding an image.

The track element can then be used to display closed captions, subtitles, text video descriptions, chapter markers, or other time-aligned metadata.

The HTML code below shows how these elements work:

<video width="320" height="240">
  <source type="video/mp4" src="my_video_file.mp4" />
  <track src="captions_file.vtt" label="English captions" kind="captions" srclang="en-us" default=""></track></video>

The content of your text tracks will get indexed by search engines, according to web video expert John Foliot.

What’s even better: closed caption tracks contain time codes, so search engines are able to return search results that point to a specific part of a video (i.e., deep link).

Want more tips on boosting your video SEO?

Download our free eBook:

Download the eBook: Transforming Video SEO with Transcripts and Captions

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