Captions were introduced by YouTube in 2006, and according to a blog post today there are 1.6 million videos that have uploaded caption files. That's... pretty pathetic, considering the huge boost for video SEO that captions can bring (I've ranted about the under-use of captions before). Considering the vast number of videos on the site, 1.6 million is barely a blip on the radar. And it seems YouTube's thinking along the same lines, as they've announced a bunch of new changes, improvements, and enhancements to the YouTube captions system.

YouTube Captions Changes For Viewers

New Languages

Captions now support new languages beyond English. YouTube can now create automatic captions in Japanese, Korean, and English. But if creators upload their own caption files, there are now a bunch of languages supported--as many as 155!

Here's a screenshot they shared of the language options for Life In A Day:

YouTube Captions Expands Features & Capabilities   You Dont Have An Excuse Anymore captions1 606x440

Captions Search Filter

If you're hearing impaired, you can now filter YouTube search results by captions, returning only videos that have them. Check it out:

YouTube Captions Expands Features & Capabilities   You Dont Have An Excuse Anymore captions 2

Customize Your YouTube Captions

Viewers can now get pretty deep on customizing how the captions look, including font and color options to help set up the captions in the most unobtrusive and helpful way possible:

YouTube Captions Expands Features & Capabilities   You Dont Have An Excuse Anymore captions 3

YouTube Captions Changes For Creators

The captions updates and benefits don't end with the viewers... creators get some new bells and whistles too.

More Format Support

There are now more supported caption formats for creators to choose from when uploading captions. This includes .SCC, .CAP, EBU-STL, and more. This is even a bigger deal for larger brands, with YouTube saying, "If you have closed captions that you created for TV or DVDs, we'll handle the conversion for you." Awesome.

ALSO ►  Top YouTube Video Ads: 10 Strategies Video Marketers Can Learn From Them

MPEG-2 Caption Import

If the video format you use to upload is MPEG-2, and that MPEG-2 file just happens to have captions encoded with it (CEO-608), then YouTube will create the caption files for you automatically. Pretty sweet.

Action Items

Here's your list of action items from this article:

1. Use captions

That's it. If your videos aren't a part of the 1.6 million YouTube clips uploaded with  captions, I strongly urge you to consider using them moving forward, especially now that there are so many new options and features.

The benefits go way beyond helping the hearing impaired enjoy your content--even though that alone should be enough. But even if the only benefit to using captions was related to video SEO... it would still be worth it.

Read our in-depth look at YouTube closed captions for more background on the benefits as well as details on the SEO implications.

  • Ross Mason

    We started years ago creating caption files because it helps video become searchable.

    As a video production company, interviews so many people for video projects, it made sense to find practical transcription solutions. Annually transcribing more than a million words, we use a transcript-to-script methodology. Thus, after that commitment, creating captions for online videos was an easy decision. (btw, we ran studies, and confirmed it's less expensive (& faster) to simply create the correct caption file vs. correct the one that YouTube automates.

    YouTube is defaulting to automation of caption files, and that has the potential of back-firing on our clients. If you don't believe it, go check your YouTube videos to see if captions are turned on. Look for the wrong words...think about those inaccuracies as keywords...

    - do you want association with other videos driven by those keywords?

    Our page launches each business client's videos by optimizing its title, description & keywords and then syndicating that video across video sharing sites... EVERYTHING ReelSEO has written about for years.

    After all that effort WHY NOT make sure the captions are correct?

  • Mike Lees

    Great article Jeremy. I have always, and still think YouTube Captions is King. Its a great idea.

    The D.I.Y. Software version is the best way to go, that way you know you'll get it right.

    What would be great is if RealSEO could do an artical like a voting poll.

    1. Does your Company use Video for advertizing?
    2. Have your Captioned videos made an increase in your R.O.I. and viewer count?
    3. Have you had any positive feedback from viewers re Captions?
    4. Have you had any requests from viewers asking for the Non-Captioned product/service videos to be Captioned?

    The interesting thing is. Companies are now using Video for Tutorials in addition to just advertizing their products. I have noticed the occasional requests on Facebook for Captioning of these Videos.
    In most cases the vendor will respond with comments like. "We are looking into it". "Or its to expensive we have no plans to Caption". "Very few if any have requested Captions to us".

    While I have found Youtube Captions do massively increase exposure. Google indexes the Caption file contents. meaning words and search terms in the Caption file can appear in search results. A huge advantage for SEO. I would say better than Keywords and descriptions after all Youtube did a lot work developing the idea.

    "1.6 million is barely a blip on the radar".

    So why are Captions not being used enough? To much work! To expensive! Cannot justify it! Makes no difference!

    You would think that because captions are a good thing for Deaf people, and the Foreign Language converter. Plus the Mega SEO Advantage. Captioned Videos should have a major advantage over the Non-Captioned ones. Hmmm I wonder? What do you think? Has Captioning actually been an advantage to you? Please Tell us, what are your thoughts?

  • Video Leads Online

    Thanks for the heads' up on Captions updates on YouTube.
    David Curtis your comment is right on... the Automatic Captions made by YouTube are still a mess! Better to make your own, upload them and 'remove' any machine generated ones that YouTube may have made - they usually don't help your cause (unless you just like laughing at them).

  • David Curtis

    Another reason to add captions yourself: YouTube says they've enabled automatic captions for 135 million videos...and I'm willing to bet very few of those were captioned with 100% accuracy.