Indexability of Subtitles Securing Video SEO

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Did you know that subtitles can improve engagement metrics and help implement better SEO strategies? If you want to learn more, check out this article.

Not surprisingly, video content is now the most requested form of content online covering 82% of internet data as of 2022 – a number expected to rise. Videos are the dominant medium to communicate market, educate and entertain, and in our digital world it doesn’t look like this will change anytime soon!

Although video content is easy to consume it isn’t necessarily easy to create and edit. It takes creativity and passion to put together video content with enough potential to lead to attention, cause interest, trigger desire, and evolve into action such as likes, comments, shares, followers, subscribers, or even buyers, which are some of the metrics that decide whether a video is going to be successful or not.

No doubt, optimising your video content is on the high end of the list to perform better online, but you also need to think a bit further if you want to create a sustainable marketing strategy. To get your content seen you’ll have to appear in relevant search inquiries – the higher the ranking the better.

This is where subtitles come into the picture, with the possibility of not only securing the comprehension of your video content but also optimising your SEO strategy to its full potential.

In this article, we will share a bit of background knowledge about subtitles, discuss when and why they are useful, and what can be done to streamline the process of adding subtitles to your videos.

How did subtitles come into the picture?

How did subtitles come into the picture

In the 1900s subtitles originated to support the storyline of silent movies. Further along, when movies with audio were made subtitles were used to support those hard of hearing.

Today, subtitles are still here to support the growing population dealing with hearing difficulties. These numbers are not small. In fact, around 466 million people have impaired hearing – and this number is only expected to rise. In excess of this, an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide have some degree of hearing loss.

Subtitles specifically made for aiding this group of individuals display more than the spoken words, they also include text describing other audible sounds, such as footsteps approaching or sentimental music playing in the background, to ensure the audience doesn’t miss out on those important movie effects.

However, subtitles have also been assigned newer and more modern purposes worth knowing – find out how to get the most out of your subtitles here.

The Mute Phenomenon

Let’s throw in a fun fact; most videos today, are actually being watched on mute or with audio volume significantly decreased. Why? might naturally be your first thought. But think about it, people have access to videos almost wherever they go.

Through video player platforms, and social media not least, people are being exposed to lots of videos, and not forced, but deliberately, because for most it is a pleasure and source of relaxation to indulge in various video content.

Still, most people are shy, and the unspoken rule is to not disturb those around with unrequested sounds from videos, and basically, that is why videos are played silently – to show respect. Headphones of course are a great tool to get around this, but as we know are not always handy or convenient to use.

Muted videos as a phenomenon might prevent you from being able to deliver key messages effectively, making your content less comprehensible, and potentially decreasing viewer engagement.

However, by adding subtitles to your video you can unite the audible and visual content, and make sure your message is “heard” even when no one is listening. This is not only a statement because studies have shown that subtitling videos can boost viewers' comprehension and attention towards key points, create better memory of the video and increase engagement rates by up to 80%.

SEO and Subtitles

Did you know that your subtitles can help strengthen your SEO strategy? SEO is short for search engine optimization, and should always be considered if your goal is to grow your brand online.

Technically explained, SEO is the process of search engine robots regularly crawling every page online to detect factors that can decide the ranking of the pages in specific search inquiries. It’s a well-valued process and an important brick in the strategy to achieve online success.

Factors that matter to gain a better SEO are first of all the presence of relevant keywords in your content, and also engagement metrics such as views, bouncing rates, likes, shares, and comments.

Video SEO

Unfortunately, search engine robots can’t detect the audible and visual parts of video content – only the metadata of the video and its engagement metrics. Therefore, the keyword-based SEO of your video is limited to the video's title and tags (important as well), but your actual content isn’t recognised or valued.

So what can you do to change this? You can add subtitles with relevant keywords to your videos, or more precisely – subtitle files. Because by adding a subtitle file to your video you will provide the search engine robots with indexable material that they can read and value in the ranking process.

Closed Caption Subtitles

Before we get too excited here we need to point out that not every kind of subtitles can improve video SEO. It specifically has to be closed caption subtitles – the ones that exist as a subtitle file you can upload together with your video in order for search engine robots to detect and index it.

However, SEO isn’t the only thing closed caption subtitles are good for. They are the kind of subtitles that viewers can turn on and off, and furthermore, they allow you to add a selection of subtitles in different languages for your viewers to choose between.

Translate Subtitles

Translate Subtitles

The need of translating videos into other languages is a well-known reason for adding subtitles. We live in a globalised world, and an incredible amount of video content is being shared on the worldwide internet, giving everyone the opportunity to easily explore and enjoy cultural differences. This means subtitles often need to be translated. And it doesn’t only apply to movies.

Informative, promotional, educational, and entertaining videos are also candidates for reaching and benefitting from a more global and bigger audience, and with translated subtitles this is achievable.

Before we get too stressed out about all the subtitles we have to type in and translate, let us take a look at how modern technology can help us in doing so.

AI technology can help automate the process of subtitling and translation

Advanced computer technology powered by artificial intelligence has given us new options when it comes to subtitling and translation. AI-powered software can now convert speech to text by using speech recognition and neural network algorithms. That same software can create subtitles from the transcribed text. This can be done with an accuracy of up to 98% depending on the quality of the audio track, and in a matter of minutes depending on the length of your video.

It almost sounds too good to be true, you might think. But the new reality is that tasks like this have become possible to automate. You’ve probably already heard about chatGPT and other AI-driven devices, and you most likely by now are using some AI features for instance face recognition on your phone or voice assistants, some maybe even without realising it.

So how about automated translation? Is that equally accurate? It isn’t. In fact, translation is a much more complex task to perform for AI because of linguistic characteristics.

However, AI translation has come a long way, and although it might not be sufficient for longer-form material it is more than sufficient for translating shorter-form material such as subtitles for social media videos. This gives all social media content creators a handy alternative to the otherwise pricy and time-consuming human-sourced translation services.

AI-powered translation software is not just a usual word-by-word translation software – it uses advanced language models to consider grammar, sentence composition, and more – all very important factors to understand the meaning of a sentence and translate it correctly.

Anyhow, back to closed caption subtitles! How exactly are they created and uploaded?

How to create closed caption subtitles

The actual steps to create closed caption subtitles, of course, depend on what video editing software you are using, but usually goes like this:

  1. Upload your video to the software
  2. Auto-generate subtitles (choose the spoken language or let the software auto-detect it)
  3. Edit and translate the generated subtitles if needed
  4. Download your subtitles separately as SRT / VTT files
  5. (Export your video – without hardcoded subtitles)
  6. Upload the subtitle file together with your video on your chosen video distribution platform.

If you prefer to create subtitles that are burned onto your video (hardcoded, open caption subtitles) – only step 4, 5, and 6 differ, as you have to export the whole video with the subtitles burned onto it, and then upload it.

Ready to Grow

Whether you are creating informative, educational, promotional, or entertaining videos – or a mix of those – you can achieve better engagement metrics and a higher ranking in search inquiries by implementing closed captions subtitles into your marketing strategy.

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