By now, marketers know that closed captions for YouTube videos are an important SEO tool. But in their zeal to save money, some marketers are using a shortcut that can result in mangled captions that are unintentionally funny – and that damage not only your SEO, but your brand as well.
That shortcut is the YouTube auto-caption tool. It’s a way to add captions quickly and without cost. The tool uses speech recognition technology to translate spoken language into text, and then to insert that text as captions.
Sounds like a great idea, right?Often the tool works pretty well, especially if the people in your video speak slowly, clearly, and without an accent. Like a TV news anchor. But if the person speaks quickly or with an accent, the auto-caption tool’s performance drops off. Sometimes precipitously.
Here are some examples of mangled captions, pulled from real YouTube videos:
With over 50,000 employees worldwide…. Louise why
Science needs the best tools… Science needs the best old softball
If you’ve got a math degree… if you got a massacre
A range of new column chemistries… a sitter range of Yukon chemistries
On this calculator I just have to push this button twice… on this cod the icehouse pushed this plan twice
Molding me into the type of person … holding me in the paper person
As we go in to day two, day three… as equality to date who gate the
And it really depends… and the indigent burials(And you should know that we made an editorial decision not to include mis-captions that would be appropriate for a porn video.)
Why should you care if some of your captions are mangled?
First, because for marketers the whole point of closed captioning YouTube videos is to improve your video SEO. You want your videos to rank high in Google and YouTube search results, and you want them to rank for the specific keywords that are important to your business. Adding closed captions gives Google and YouTube every word that’s said in your videos in a format they can analyze and use to help their algorithms decide where to rank your videos.Without closed captions, Google and YouTube only have your title, tags and description to analyze. Compared to the volume of text they can get through your captions, that may not be much. With closed captions, they have a lot more information about your videos, and can rank them for the keywords that are spoken.
But if those keywords are mangled by the auto-caption tool, you won't get the SEO performance you're looking for.
Second, because you as a marketer take the brand you are marketing seriously. You probably don’t want to distribute content that causes people laugh at it, or to make a judgment that your marketing is sloppy and careless.
But that’s what can happen if viewers see “yen from full bath and chinchilla file photo” on one of your videos.
Will people actually see your messed-up captions? Yes!
A study by the BBC showed that while the original intent of closed captioning was to allow the deaf and hard of hearing to access content, most people who access them (80%) have normal hearing.
And in the UK, 18% of the population used closed captions.
Captions are used by those with normal hearing to:
- Understand content if English is not their native language
- Understand content if the speaker has a heavy accent
- Understand technical terms
- Understand the content if they’re watching in an environment like the office, or a library
Clearly, while marketers may be creating closed captions only for better SEO, and they may be thinking that no one will actually see them, that's wrong. Viewers are using closed captions.
Which means it’s important to get them right.