Add Captions, Expand Your Audience

If providing access to the deaf and hard of hearing lacks incentive, will more YouTube views persuade you? YouTube creators today are forced to look for new and exciting ways to attract viewers. Meanwhile, it’s only getting harder to stand out in the ever-growing, over competitive, viral hungry, trend hopping, video-sharing ecosystem that is YouTube (see the video-host’s latest press release for an idea—the numbers are staggering, unsurprising, and deservedly proud—boasting that over 6 billion hours of YouTube is watched monthly).

Although intended for the deaf and hard of hearing community, captions are providing lesser-known secondary benefits to an unlikely recipient: YouTubers. Content creators are using captions, and they’re doing it for more hits. With rewarding incentives from YouTube, creators are reaping the benefits of “popularizing” their content by tapping into larger audiences—albeit, in a few unlikely places.

Your potential viewers may not suffer from hearing impairments, but they sure value captions. Consider places where audio access is limited: the workplace or a library. Depending on the subject of your content, the video may be densely packed with information and details—an interview with rapid fire discussion, or a self-help walkthrough explained over a series of steps. English learners and students value captions to increase engagement with the video and improve overall comprehension. In turn, you’ll be opening the door to new viewers.

Arguably, the most attractive benefit captions bring to videos is the assimilation of your content into Google’s search results. Any captioning your video contains will be indexed by Google, allowing others to discover your videos much easier while surfing the web.  But beware of automatic captions: YouTube provides them, but they generate text by speech recognition technology, so inaccuracies abound. Since automatic captions are prone to inaccuracies and reflect your content poorly, they will not index to Google. YouTube captions are primitive, but they can save you a lot of time in the long run: turn Google’s automatic captions on and edit the transcript manually. You may prefer this method over captioning the whole video from scratch.

If you manage to create captions for your video, you have the foundation to elevate your content to an international level. Once you have an English transcript, you can translate text into subtitles to open your video to a large and avid market of global users (80% of YouTube’s views are outside the U.S.).

On a related note, our friend Jamie Berke, author of the Caption Action 2 blog, recently informed Aberdeen of a growing fraud where users are circumventing YouTube’s caption incentives.