How To Use Closed Captioning To Make Your Video Content Searchable

By: Verbit Editorial

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We have been getting a lot of questions about video searches recently. The benefits of making your video content searchable,¬†both across a video archive and within a video, are obvious. For example, as long-form video is becoming more commonplace (definitions vary, but let’s consider videos longer than 10 minutes “long-form”), and video libraries are getting larger, having an easy way to find precise locations where videos discuss specific topics is essential. However, what most people don’t realize is that providing video search for your users is relatively simple these days. On many platforms, captioning your videos will enable users to access built-in search features within videos and across your video library.

Until recently, video producers had to use a lot of elbow grease to make up for the lack of video search engines. One method was to split up your video into small chunks and label each section according to the topic. Using this approach basically means splitting the content into chapters. You could also add lots of tags, detailed descriptions or even post a transcript below or near the video. All of these approaches still have their merits. However, they are time-consuming. In many cases, a simpler and more elegant approach is to simply add closed captions to your video. By taking this step, users can rely on the familiar search tool bar.

Video Searches on YouTube

Creating captions makes it easier for users to find a video. In fact, YouTube is the second most-used search engine after Google. As a result, making sure the content in your video is easy to locate in a search is critical. In addition to captions, transcripts can help with this effort. Also, transcripts allow users to search for terms within a video. Searchable transcripts work within many platforms, but let’s take a look at how to search transcripts of YouTube videos.

First, you open the transcript. With the video open, you can click on the menu, and select “open transcript.” The transcript will then open to the right of the video. Those using Windows can then press “Control + F” to make the transcript search bar appear. For those using a Mac, press “Command + F.” When the search bar opens, you can type in any term and press “Enter.” If that term appears in the video, you’ll be able to jump to that section.

As you can see, not only can you find videos in YouTube like you would with a Google or Bing search, but you can search within the video as well. By providing captions and a transcript, you’re allowing users to pull up a list of videos that they can quickly scan. Viewers can find the most appropriate videos based on the caption context. With the transcript, they can also jump straight to the relevant spot in the video. YouTube gives you all of this “for free” when you add closed captions to your videos.

If you have a YouTube Partner Channel, there is one caveat to be aware of. The “Search Channel” feature is nowhere near as robust as the general YouTube search feature shown in the example. The channel search bar does not search closed captions, so it is pretty much useless for detailed searches. Hopefully, YouTube will fix this for partners. However, in the meantime, YouTube is not the only video platform that enables video search. Online video platforms such as Kaltura offer similar video search features. Many lecture capture platforms such as Sonic Foundry’s MediaSite, Echo360, Tegrity, and Panopto do as well.

SEO Benefits of Captions and Transcripts

When you hear the term search engine optimization, or “SEO,” you might think about content like blogs or webpages. Search engines crawl text for terms that relate to a user’s search. There’s no shortage of tips and tricks for making written content better for search engines to find. The goal is to have a page appear higher on Google and other sites. However, audio content, and the audio content in videos isn’t automatically searchable.

Video search engine optimization (SEO) is possible as well with the addition of captions or transcripts. For anyone concerned with marketing, advertising and monetization, this is extremely important.

If you have questions, examples of use cases, or other thoughts on video search, please add your comments below. As always, please feel free to contact Verbit directly.