Why Captioning Your Videos is No Longer an Option

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The use of video in every aspect of social media has exploded in the past few years. More than a third of all online activity is watching videos! So the goal is to make sure that your video content is being viewed and shared as much as possible. Today, that means captioning your videos.

The vast majority of videos on Facebook, for example, are watched without sound (85% of them in 2016 according to a study by Digiday). So how do viewers stay engaged with silent video? Mostly through the different types of captioning; closed captioning, subtitles, and open captions. Each one is a bit different but makes the same point: video content online must have captioning.

Here’s why…

Captions Make for A Better User Experience

Why are over 85% of Facebook videos being viewed without sound if most of those viewers aren’t hearing impaired? Many social media users are viewing content in situations where they don’t want the sound on.

You’re driving with your co-workers to a conference and they’re talking about work problems that you would rather not hear. So you pull out your phone and scroll through Facebook or Instagram and watch videos.

Or you’re sitting on the train to work and you forgot your headphones at home.

Or you’re at your daughter’s ballet recital and she just finished performing and now you have to sit through another 20 different dances until the end of the recital.

Captioning is a critical feature for end users, and organizations are paying attention.

As Eric Feng, the chief technical officer for Hulu, told the New York Times, “Users send us feedback about closed captions more often than almost any other feature, so what started as a small side project has turned into a very important part of our user experience.”

Captions Improve Search Engine Optimization

Captioning your videos is also important for search engine ranking and visibility. When you search on Google, the results you get depends on the metadata uploaded with the content. For example, the title of the article, keywords, links, descriptions, captions and author name. If you upload a video with only the title of the video and the name of the uploader, it will not be as searchable as an article with lots of text for Google to index and use as keywords. So how do you make sure that your video is going to be a result of as many searches as possible?

First, and most importantly, by uploading your video with closed captioning. Closed captioning is the most accurate way for you to optimize your video’s search results. The captions  — when uploaded along with the video — are indexed and used for keywords, which make the video more searchable on search engines. While YouTube and Facebook do offer auto-captioning, it’s only 60-70% accurate, and inaccurate captions won’t help your search performance.

When Digital Discovery Network decided to add closed captioning to their videos on Youtube, they saw a view increase of 7.32% for their captioned videos. A similar study conducted by PLYmedia found that viewers watched almost 40% more of a video that had closed captions.

As another way to up your SEO, you should be including a full and accurate transcript when uploading a video. A study by Liveclicker compared 37 webpages that added transcripts versus those that didn’t. The results? As expected. The pages that added the transcripts to their videos earned on average a 16% increase in their revenue. Why? Because of the increase in traffic from search results.

You want to make sure that your content is being viewed by as many people as possible. A part of that is making sure that the content you upload is as searchable as possible. By using unique keywords, uploading transcripts linked on the page or in the description, using accurate captioning and making sure the content is interesting enough to keep the viewers engaged for more than a few seconds will help boost your SEO.

Captions are Essential for Accessibility

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” —Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

Accessibility means making your videos accessible to people with disabilities, including those who are hearing impaired. For content creators, this means creating web content that is ADA compliant — your content must meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Video captions are a critical part of ADA compliance. You can learn more about web accessibility and best practices on the W3C Standards website.

The Value of Multilingual Captions

English is the most common language found on the internet (around 25%). But according to the U.S. Census, more than 15% of the adult population in America don’t speak English at home, and 80% of YouTube viewers are outside the US. That is a lot of potential viewers.

When you add multilingual captions, not only do you allow more viewers to fully enjoy your content, you also optimize your search results in other languages besides English. If your goal is to try to reach as many viewers as possible, then adding subtitles in multiple languages can lead to a huge boost in views.

Types of Captioning

There are a few different types of captioning available to content creators. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages.

Closed captioning can be turned on or off to the viewers desire, easily changed and edited, and they come in a range of different file formats making it easy to use with a variety of programs. However, those programs do have to support closed captioning, and the use of them places the responsibility of turning the captions on to the viewer.

Open captions (also known as burned-in captions) are permanently fixed to the video and cannot be turned off if the viewer wishes. The advantage of open captions is that the captioning will be accurate, in time with the video (as open captions are embedded into the video), created by the source of the content which allows for less error, and can be used in any media player. However, open captions can become problematic as because they are embedded into the video, if the video is low quality the captions may be as well, and if the video is compressed the quality of the captions may be reduced as well.

SRT (SubRip Text) file types are the most basic type of subtitle format that end a file in .srt. They contain the text, start and end timecode and the sequential numbers of subtitles.

WebVTT is a text based format — it’s primary function is to add text overlay to a video.

Captioning Videos Can Be Easy

The rise of video in social media doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon — so the need for content creators to produce video captions is only increasing.

The Gather Voices solution enables quick, easy, and accurate captioning. We start with auto-captioning and provide an interface for editing captions within minutes.

Want to learn more? You can create a free account, make a video, and check out the captioning feature for yourself. Start here.

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