A little known fact about YouTube SEO is that YouTube is indexing videos for text that is contained within your video’s captions. And this makes sense. Video titles, descriptions, and tags only paint a limited picture of your video’s content. The best way to understand what your video is really about is by examining your video’s content. No, YouTube does not employ people to watch every video you upload. It does so by scanning the captions that are automatically created when you upload your video.

 

What are video captions?

In 2007, Google rolled out Google-411 a phone-operated business directory that the company later confirmed was used to train its speech recognition software. Three years later, machine-automated video captions were rolled out as a feature for YouTube to make videos accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing. These subtitles are automatically created with help of speech-to-text software. Those hard of hearing are not the only ones benefiting from this wonderful piece of equipment, however. YouTube uses these captions to understand the content and context of any video uploaded to its platform and its algorithm uses them to index your video.

 

YouTube-Captions

 

Best practices for video captions

  • If possible, script your video content so you have more control over what appears in your captions.
    While you shoot your video, mention your focus keywords early on (e.g. “Today we’ll be talking about [focus keyword]). This is, again, where a script comes in handy. If you need help drafting your focus keywords, refer to this article on keyword research.
  • While you write your script, keep a keyword density of 2-3% and include variants of your focus keyword (e.g. speech recognition, voice recognition, speech-to-text, etc.). As a rule of thumb: If your script sounds unnatural, you most certainly overdid it. Bring it down to a natural level.
  • Correct automatically created captions and re-upload them to YouTube. The output you’ll get from YouTube’s voice recognition program depends greatly on your video’s audio. Background noise, unclear speech, and even accents can negatively impact the auto-generated transcript. You can touch it up as described below.
  • Translate your captions to make your video accessible to viewers across the globe. YouTube let’s you add translations to open your videos up to an even larger audience. In addition, your videos will start to rank well in those countries that you have made it accessible to via your translations.
  • Always enable closed captions. It goes without saying that if captions are disabled, your video SEO may not be able to benefit from the tips I’m giving in this blog post.

 

How to Edit YouTube’s Auto-generated Captions

 

Classic Interface

  1. Go to your Video Manager by clicking your account in the top right > Creator Studio > Video Manager > Videos.
  2. Next to the video you whose captions you wish to edit, click the drop-down menu next to the Edit button.
  3. Select Subtitles and CC.
  4. Select the caption track you wish to edit.
  5. Make your edits and Save your changes.

 

YouTube Studio (beta)

  1. Click on “Videos” in the left-side menu.
  2. Click on the video you wish to edit.
  3. In the left-side menu, select “Transcriptions.”
  4. Click on “Published”
  5. Click “edit” in the upper right corner.
  6. Select the caption track you wish to edit.
  7. Make your edits and Save your changes.

If you prefer downloading and reuploading the corrected captions, you can do so on the page where you would normally edit the captions. Instead of clicking “edit”, you can simply click on “Actions”. Under “Download” you can now select your preferred format. The listed formats are acceptable for re-upload.

 

Tools to Help with the Creation of YouTube Captions

As always, I’d highly recommend reading their terms of use and privacy policies before using these services to ensure that you fully understand how your videos will be used, transcribed, and translated.

 

How to Translate YouTube Captions

How to find a qualified translator is beyond the scope of this article. I would recommend having your transcripts professionally translated or at the very least professionally revised if you did opt for machine translation. Your international audience will thank you greatly!

Assuming that you have already obtained professional translations for your videos, I will now walk you through the steps for uploading them to your videos.

 

Classic Interface

  1. Go to your Video Manager by clicking your account in the top right > Creator Studio > Video Manager > Videos.
  2. Next to the video you whose captions you wish to edit, click the Edit button.
  3. Select “Translations”, pick your original language and the language you’re translating into then and add the translated versions of your title and descriptions.
  4. Now head to the Subtitles/CC tab.
  5. Click “Add new subtitles or CC”.
  6. Select the language you would like to translate the transcript into.
  7. You can now either upload a file with the translated captions (“Upload a file”) or edit them in YouTube directly (“Create new subtitles or CC”)

 

YouTube Studio (beta)

  1. Click on “Videos” in the left-side menu.
  2. Click on the video you wish to edit.
  3. In the left-side menu, select “Transcriptions.”
  4. Click on the Plus sign and select the language you’d like to add a transcript for.
  5. Click “ADD” and provide a translation for your video’s title and description, then hit “Publish”.
  6. Now click “ADD” under Published.
  7. You can now either upload a file with the translated captions (“Upload a file”) or edit them in YouTube directly (“Create new subtitles or CC”).

Lastly, don’t forget to add translated “tags” to your videos as well.

 

Which languages should you translate your video into?

If you’re unsure what languages to translate into, your Analytics dashboard can help. Head over to Analytics >> Watch time >> Geography and analyze which countries seem highly interested in your video content.