You might find it hard to believe that auto-captions are bad for SEO. But if you think about it’s low-quality content; something which YouTube and Google does not like.
Yet, from my own experience and research, many people still resort to using auto-captions (which is often labelled as ‘craption’) for their YouTube videos.
We take into considerations of everything when it comes to YouTube SEO; tags, descriptions, engaging content. Yet, captions are never taken seriously, even though it can help with your SEO more than you think.
You can listen to the podcast…
…watch the video…
or read the transcript below.
Why are auto-captions bad for SEO?
Or should I say, why are “CRAPtions” bad for SEO?
There are many many issues with auto-caption, I can go on forever about it, but if I want to give mainly focus on SEO, search engine optimization, the main problem with auto-caption is that the punctuation and the grammar are wrong, terrible.
And also there are plenty of bad spelling which is not great, you know, for the name of the people or for any word, nouns, adjective, whatever that is, they’re always wrong.
And if just for experience or engagement with that video, a piece of content really, it’s very very poor as well. And these are the three big factors in SEO.
Of course, SEO is a big big thing, covers a lot of topics, but if we’re going to focus on content, then most people will realise that good quality, high quality content is important for SEO.
And you need good punctuation, good grammar, good spelling, good experience, and obviously everything else that comes with it like answering questions, or makin’ it engagin’ and creating a story, all these things.
Yes, they all matter, but I just wanna focus on the problem of havin’ auto-caption and why they will have a negative effect on your SEO both on YouTube and, if you’re going to use it for your transcriptions on your website as well and for the general Google search.
When looking at information that Google has provided, and even on their website on their help guideline area, well Google/YouTube, they have said that these automatic captions “are generated by machine learning algorithms, so the quality of the captions may vary.”
More often than not, they tend to be quite poor quality.
And they have also said, in the same document in the same page that you should always review automatic captions and edit any parts that haven’t been properly transcribed. And my problem is that not a lot of people do that.
Especially if they get to leave it and depend on auto-caption and that’s it, you upload the video, publish it, a lot of people just leave it as it is, and off you go.
Thankfully, more and more people are gettin’ aware of how important captions are for many many reasons, and it’s great, and I think it’s really good. But it’s still quite obvious, from my research, that a lot of people just depend on auto-caption and it will do.
That’s the kind of attitude that I see a lot. And I even tweeted John Mueller about it, and he works at Google, he’s in the webmaster team, and he’s aware of the stuff.
And he’s one of the few people in Google who actually provide information to the SEO community on how you can do whatever related to SEO, and he provides some guideline along the way.
And I asked him about whether the auto-captions are used in the search or not and whether they’re used in web session.
And he replied with an interesting statement.
And he said that “last I heard, we use the captions for search within YouTube and that includes auto-captions, but not within web search.”
So basically, that means that whatever caption you have on YouTube, whether it was manually reviewed, manually written, or if auto-caption, they’re used for search on YouTube.
But of course, if you have bad quality caption, with all the spelling mistake and poor quality grammar and all these things, then it’s not going to be very easy for YouTube to pick up your video.
So it makes sense that if you have auto-caption then that’s bad for SEO.
That’s kind of obvious.
And then if you think about it as well, people sometime like to turn it into transcription, and people then use it as a blog post on their website.
Hopefully, they will edit it and, you know, make sure that it’s clean and correct and all these things, but if it’s not, you know imagine if you have created transcription for those auto-caption, you put it on your website, and they tend to be a lot of mistakes in there.
That’s not gonna be good for SEO in the general web search as well, if you think about it. Google search, not YouTube search.
So, of course auto-captions above for SEO.
And not that I’ve even considered the other important edit of SEO, like video experience, engagement, and gettin’ people to improve their view times on their videos.
Just like in other content, if you want people to engage with your video, it has to be good quality, high quality, and make sense, and easy to engage, easy to absorb information.
But in this case, if it’s bad captions, then why would people engage with it, especially those who are dependent on it, or if you just need it because you’re watching a video in silence, why would you engage with that video? If you can’t even use the caption there.
So, that will affect your reach in video search and YouTube search, and that will affect your SEO overall. It just makes sense.
And this is why I’m a big advocate of the hashtag #NoMoreCRAPtions campaign, originally put together by Rikki Poynter, another deaf YouTuber, who has been campaigning and fighting for YouTube to just provide proper caption to creators especially.
Provide proper captions, it’s beneficial for a lot of people, not just for deaf people, but for a lot of people as well.
So, just do it, what’s the big deal? Just do it.
on’t have this attitude of it will do, I will leave it, or it’s not important. You will miss out in the long term, you will miss out if you don’t have proper caption.
There are plenty of scope for better content, better engagement, better view times, and then if you want to transcribe it, better blog posts, better quality content.
All of these things can be because of good caption, and then you have good SEO as well.
Thankfully, I have this unique privilege of being deaf and with an SEO background as well, so it allows me to look at it in a different angle, and I get to show off sharing this information because I think it’s important for a lot of people.
So thankfully, I have YouTube as an advantage, and I hope you’ve learned something from that.
If it makes sense to you, let me know in the comments.
Check out the show notes, make sure you subscribe, make sure you ‘Like’, and I would love to know what you think.
Does everything make sense? And if you have any questions, let me know. Just comment below.
In the mean time, I hope to speak to you again soon.
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