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Developing transcriptions and captions

From: Video SEO Basics

Video: Developing transcriptions and captions

I know we talk a lot about video, but search engines still at their heart use text. Plain old text on a page as their primary ranking signal, so video represents some special challenges to search engines. They have to find ways to attach relevance and significance to different videos. And they do that using a lot of the signals I already talked about. Things like velocity of comments, velocity of views, keywords in the title tag. But you can help them and rank much higher if you can supplement your video content with text and transcripts, captions and annotations offer you that ability. So I'll start by talking about transcripts.

Developing transcriptions and captions

I know we talk a lot about video, but search engines still at their heart use text. Plain old text on a page as their primary ranking signal, so video represents some special challenges to search engines. They have to find ways to attach relevance and significance to different videos. And they do that using a lot of the signals I already talked about. Things like velocity of comments, velocity of views, keywords in the title tag. But you can help them and rank much higher if you can supplement your video content with text and transcripts, captions and annotations offer you that ability. So I'll start by talking about transcripts.

A transcript is a word for word copy of what's said in the video. You can upload a transcript directly to YouTube and you can put it directly on the page on your site where you embed your video. Either way it's giving the search engines an accurate copy of the video. The example you see here is from a website called maz.com. They post a full transcript of their videos right on the same page as the video. That gives search engines a full text version to crawl and use to classify both the video and the page. And that's important because even though YouTube and other search tools attempt to transcribe automatically.

They're not quite accurate enough to be used as a classification tool. You can look in this example and see that they've gotten a couple of lines very wrong here, home entertainment instead of oh, you're kiddin' me. We've got because you can pay me with your instead of the kind you can pay me with. So these are very impressive tools. And when you think about, it this transcription tool got it probably 80% right which is amazing. But it's not quite accurate enough to trust it to give a search engine its idea of how to classify your video. So if you put the transcription on the page in your website where you embed your video, that provides Google with a very powerful signal as to the content of that video.

Because the text on the page, Google will assume is relates to the video itself. Plus it can help you with conventional SCO, because you put more content on that page. If you upload the transcript to YouTube, then we know for a fact, that Google crawls and indexes that text. Google uses that text, when it's classifying the video and deciding where it should rank. Now captions are different. Captions may be word for word or not. But they're time based and they're synchronized with the video so that the transcribed words or other information appear on the screen right when the actor on the screen is supposedly saying those words.

And if you didn't notice a moment ago YouTube actually generates captions when it's transcribing your video. So you actually get both when it does the automatic transcription, but again, it's not quite accurate enough. So captions have to be connected directly to the video. If you add captions, remember to put a copy on your embed page as well, otherwise they may not provide the same relevance. Use captions if you're going to have a lot of users using mobile devices because they may be in places where there's too much background noise to listen to the audio of your video.

You should use captions if you are going to have your video auto play on your own website, which I never recommend. But if you're going to, you want to have captions because you'll probably want to mute the video. When it starts playing so that your viewers don't suddenly blast your soundtrack across their whole office when they decide to load your homepage. You definitely want to use captions if you think your audience might include folks who are hearing impaired. Because this may be their only way to understand what's being said in the video. Regardless of which one you choose, you have to pick one or the other because you need that text supplement to your video.

Now I typically do transcripts. They're much easier. I can hire a service to do it for pennies per word. And it scales really well, because I can send the video out, get it transcribed in a couple of hours and get it back really quickly. Captions take a little more effort because they have to be synchronized and delivered in a certain format. Now there's another way to supplement the content in a video, and these are called annotations. An annotation is a bit of text that's added directly to the video itself and appears in the video at a particular time. In this example I'm adding a block of text to the ultimate marketer tease video. And while it's not 100% clear how these directly impact rankings, they're a useful tool and they can indirectly help video SEO.

They do that by providing a call to action. Maybe providing a link to your website or otherwise adding details to the video that aren't there. And, they can let you do that without using a high-end video editing tool. So you can use annotations to create links to other resources on your website or elsewhere. You can point out important details in the video. And you can provide a call to action. So you can provide something at the end of the video like share this video with your friends or rate this video below. Or you can combine it with a link and and say visit our Facebook page and like us there.

Use annotations when and if they make sense. Unlike transcriptions and captions which we know get crawled and indexed by Google and therefore impact the rankings. Annotations have a secondary effect on SEO. They get people to take action. Be mindful of that when you invest effort and focus on the transcript or captions first. Then move on to using annotations. Captions, transcripts, and annotations are always to supplement your video content. When you use them, you make your video more visible. If you put in all the time to create and upload a video, take the extra few minutes to annotate it, and pay for a transcription or a caption. You'll see the results in your rankings.

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Video SEO Basics

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Ian Lurie
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