Unleashing The Power of YouTube Captions

A few months ago, I was talking with a good friend about new technologies and he mentioned Stanford’s video captioning services. I didn’t understand why it was that exciting a technology, at first. After visiting the site and seeing how Stanford was using captions to supercharge its videos, it all made clicked.

Captions turn video content inside out, making them searchable and accessible to the world.

You’re going to learn about three powerful reasons why your business or organization should leverage YouTube captions.

One. Accessibility

Adding closed captions to videos make video content much more accessible to deaf and hard of hearing video watchers. When captions are properly configured, the speech and actions can be mapped to the video’s timeline.

This video was created by the California School for the Deaf in Fremont and describes some of the accessibility benefits of YouTube captions.

Two. Internationalization

YouTube also allows caption files for 139 different languages. That means you can create one video and fix one caption file then have it translated into 138 languages.

YouTube’s auto translate feature works fairly well. I uploaded a video, cleaned up the captions, then turned on the Spanish auto translation version. YouTube did a good job translating the text to Spanish with 80-90% accuracy. If you want a precise translation, you can upload a language specific caption file.

Three. Search engine optimization (SEO)

YouTube and Google are both indexing text within closed caption files.

This means all your video’s voice information will be indexed and will show up on YouTube and Google search results. I couldn’t find any official YouTube mention of how (or if) it indexes videos, so I set up an experiment to test things out. See the video below.

SEO PRO-TIP: Transcripts

If you are going to embed a YouTube video on a web site, you can do some additional search engine optimization by adding the transcript to the page. The transcript is the caption text without any of the time code information. Transcripts also allow users to quikly scan content without having to view the video in real time.


We just learned three powerful reasons to leverage YouTube’s Closed Captions features.

  • Captions open up the world to deaf and hard of hearing users
  • Your videos can be made accessible to the world with language translation, and
  • You will get a great SEO bump by having YouTube and Google indexing your content.

Can you think of any other reasons to levarage captions? As always, I value your feedback and comments.



Hi, this is Jesse Luna with
Jesseluna.com and today we’re going to take a

a quick look at YouTube
captions and whether or not they

show up in YouTube searches or
on Google searches

so I set up a little experiment
in this experiment , I uploaded and I

cleaned up and uploaded uh captions to match
this video. And one of the key phrases

that I put uh in there
is “handmade tesoros.”

What I had noticed was that that phrase was
not on any Google searches.

So what I did is I only put
it in the caption file but did not

put it in anywhere on the description

or in the title of the

So those of the two main locations
that are usually used to index

they also don’t show up in the tags or any
of the associate keywords so if we go

up and do a search over that
phrase, I’m going to do an exact search.


and then do a search. We’re checking to
see if it shows up and there it

is our video shows up, even though
that keyword phrase, “handmade tesoros”

was not in the description or in
the tags or keywords

so that shows that YouTube is indexing
text that is put into their captioning files.

Well, let’s take a look at the
Google now. Now if you do a regular

Google search [typing] I didn’t get
any results other than the listing that showed

up on my uh

my directly of my blog where I
listed the entire transcript, which is one of

the reasons I put the transcript on
my blog. But it doesn’t show up in

the regular Google search. Ah,

but if you jump over to the
videos [makes jumping noise], you see there it is

Our video does show up it does index

for that special little term, the little uh test term
that is set up, “handmade tesoros.”

And it shows up in the
number one spot

So we just can’t kind of did a
little experiment to see if YouTube caption

if the text in YouTube captions
is being indexed by YouTube and Google

and we just showed that it is.
This is Jesse Luna for jesseluna.com, thanks for tuning in.


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