Transcripts and Captions for Understanding Content

by Jay Durgan  30 December 2015

We’ve been talking a lot about increasing engagement of your videos. But what does engagement actually mean, and how do captions help? Sure, captions and transcripts improve your video’s search engine rankings, and get more people to click. But when it comes to watching the actual video, the main audience for captions is the deaf and hard of hearing, right? Actually, no. In fact, 80% of people who use captions when watching a video are hearing people. So why do they look at captions and transcripts? It increases their understanding.

Have you ever watched a music video you liked on YouTube, then immediately checked the video description to see if it contained the song’s lyrics? That’s the simplest form of transcript. You heard the song just fine, but that doesn’t mean you registered all the lyrics perfectly accurately. Sometimes singers mumble a bit, sometimes they speak/sing too quickly, or sometimes you just don’t remember exactly what they said. Using captions, however, increases our retention of what we’ve seen.

Increased understanding likewise leads to better engagement. Videos that include captions have an 80% completion rate, vs. 40% for videos without. That means twice as many people will get to the end of a video if their understanding of it is aided by captions or a transcript. And the more people reach the end of your video, the more people are likely to engage further with your brand, by sharing the content, clicking to other portions of your site, etc.

Not only that, when people get further into your video, it also improves your SEO. YouTube doesn’t just track how many people click on a particular video. It also tracks how long each viewer spends watching it, and factors that into its search rankings. So, if there are two videos with similar keywords, the one where most people reach the end will rank higher than the one that most viewers click away from after a minute or two. Thus, adding captions to improve your completion rate will also improve your SEO.

But increasing engagement is more important than just helping people to find your videos. The more people engage with your content, the more likely they are to want to view more of your content going forward. And the more of your content they engage with, the more likely they are to become leads, and ultimately turn into sales. Basically, the better people understand your video and what it’s saying, the better engagement you’ll get. And adding captions to your videos is a simple and effective way to increase audience engagement.


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