Is adding closed captions to your video a worthwhile video SEO tactic that delivers enough ROI given the time it takes to do so? It can be very time consuming if you do it yourself, and there's a cost if you outsource the process. We talked to Lily Bond of 3PlayMedia about some of the research carried out about closed captioning

Closed Captioning Led to Increased Views for Discovery Digital

Discovery Digital Networks captioned over 100 of its videos over 8 YouTube channels, and compared to performance of those videos against ones that were un-captioned. In the first 14 days, it received a 13.48% lift in views on those videos that were closed captioned, and generated a life time increase of 7. 32%.

Closed Captions: Greatest Effect When Video is First Published

Any time you publish a video, you are sending that out to your new subscribers so of course, there will be a lot of interest in it. But, closed captioning has the potential to boost your SEO immediately, and the keyword diversity generated by using closed captioning means you can be found for a greater range of search terms - which should bring in more viewers.

Why Use Closed Captions? Because Everyone Uses Them!

80% of YouTube viewers who choose to read closed captions aren't hard of hearing. So, captions are not only very valuable in terms of accessibility for those that need them, but are proving to have some worth for the wider community. The Office of Communications in the UK released a study that confirmed that 7.5 million people in the UK (around 18% of the population) used closed captions, and only 1.5 million were deaf or hard of hearing.

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The accessibility features of closed captioning are open to everyone, particularly those in sound-sensitive environments like noisy offices. It's also a great option for those for whom English is not a first language - which is most people who use YouTube actually.

Closed Captions also have the potential to increase retention rates for videos, as viewers tend to stick around if they can understand what's being said.

The ROI of Closed Captions: When Do You Break Even?

You should be able to calculate that based on the number of views on your channel. If you are captioning all of the videos on your channel, count the views and then add a 7.32% increase, which is the number that Discovery found for its closed caption increase. You can judge your estimated figure against your CPM earnings to ascertain whether you would be making money by employing this tactic.

Let us know in the comments below if you always upload closed captions to your videos, and how that's working for you.  

  • Cohenguy12

    Does the auto geneorated ones by YouTube help this? Or do I need to pay/do it myself for them to really show this effect?

    • Carla Marshall

      No, the auto-generated ones won't be of much help at all. You'll need to do it yourself, or pay a service to do it for you. This can be a very reasonable cost if the video is quite short.

      • Cohenguy12

        Why not? Does youtube only read manually uploaded ones?

        • Carla Marshall

          It doesn't index the automated closed captions - effectively rendering them useless for SEO purposes. If you want them to work for you, you have to go through the manual process.

  • Videolean

    Thanks, @lilybond:disqus! That content answered the exact doubts we were having.


  • Videolean

    we actually were having a long debate internally and conversation on Twitter about translated captions (

    Would love to see more about that. Let's say you translate to other languages and translate the English captions of your Youtube videos. Would those translated captions help you to rank in the other languages?