Closed captioning in videos – to add or not to add? It’s a question that marketers might not bother asking when creating their video content. It’s strange considering almost every form of media incorporates closed captioning somehow, especially for compliance with AODA accessibility laws which involves accommodations for the hearing impaired. Everything from traditional DVDs and Blu-Ray titles, streaming sites like Netflix, and even live sports or video games give audiences close-captioning options.
Why aren’t marketers including closed captions in their video content at the same frequency? We have our guesses, but what we do know is that there are several compelling reasons why video content should feature closed captioning.
Closed captioning in video content might seem like a nice “add-on”. However, there’s plenty of research to proves that on-screen text is a fundamental component of successful videos. Research has revealed that videos which use closed captioning tend to perform better in a number of ways.
In Instapages’ silent video test, several Facebook video metrics were tracked to determine the performance of videos with and without captions. They included sound-on views vs. sound-off views, view time with captions, view time without captions, and plenty more over a two-month span. They collected over two days’ worth of video view time from over 10,000 viewers. Their findings were:
Benefits like these aren’t limited to Facebook. YouTuber, Leron Amin, revealed the following insight:
“Adding captions to my YouTube video added additional 1,046 words and 393 indexable search terms. Best of all, my target keyword density increased by 68 terms and my keyword diversity increased by 12 terms.”
It is clear that closed captioning boosts engagement and even supports bottom-of-the-funnel goals such as increasing conversions.
Although Google can’t crawl a video, search algorithms can still crawl the text associated with your video. Adding a transcript (on a platform like YouTube) allows search engines to crawl the text, and that means you can add your captions into your transcript. Keep in mind, too, that captions increase watch duration, the number of views, and engagement. An increase in these rates will signal to Google that your video is high-quality and relevant to viewers, leading to a naturally higher rank on search engines.
Ultimately, you want your video to hit key objectives and deliver on ROI. Closed captioning, as was revealed by research studies above, improve a video’s baseline engagement levels. Watch times go up, social shares increase and conversion rates rise. These “gains” have a direct effect on sales. Research has shown that closed captioning a video can lead to a 7.32% increase in video traffic, which can generate hundreds or thousands of dollars (or more) depending on the size of your audience.
An overlooked benefit of closed captioning in video content is reaching ESL learners. A significant portion of your video audience may not be native English speakers. Just like you may watch your favourite foreign film with subtitles on, viewers of different languages may watch your content with the hope of seeing English subtitles. Therefore, adding captions in your videos will help diminish the language barrier for audiences who aren’t fluent in English but still interested in your content.
Though humans process visual information a lot faster than verbal information, text still plays a crucial role in our understanding of new material. It’s possible for key information to slip by a viewer, especially if they are distracted by imagery or other cinematic elements. Adding subtitles, especially for videos that relay complex information, can reinforce a video’s messaging to help your viewers retain more.
Closed captioning serves another vital purpose. A significant number of viewers have hearing impairments, meaning that they need the visual input of written text to see what they can’t hear. Subtitles added to your video help members of your audience grasp your messages even with hearing difficulties.
The use of subtitles in this regard is highly beneficial for marketers, especially with the rollout of The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Launched in 2005, the AODA is an Ontario law mandating that organizations comply with standards to be more accessible to persons with disabilities. The act, which the Ontario government aims to have in full swing by 2025, covers a wide range of disabilities including deafness and hearing disabilities.
From a legal perspective, marketers must comply with AODA standards. Failing to do so can result in fines, not to mention negative press for agencies and brands. More importantly, catering your content to individuals with hearing difficulties prevents you from alienating yourself from valuable members of your audience.
Finally, keep this insight in mind. As many as 85% of Facebook videos are watched on mute. Why? There could be many reasons for this – perhaps, viewers are in noisy environments (ie. Starbucks) or in quiet ones (ie. office space) where loud volumes aren’t appropriate. Regardless of the cause, subtitles accommodate individuals who, by choice, watch videos on mute.
If you’re wondering how to close caption a video, the good news is that it’s not complicated or expensive in any way, shape or form. In fact, many video sharing platforms offer subtitle functionality. The same goes for editing software used for more high-concept and big-budget productions.
For other formats, such as interactive or personalized video, the use of closed captioning will depend on the platform used to create them in the first place. Here at BlueRush, our IndiVideo platform allows you to easily insert closed captioning in your personalized video to support voice-overs or the dialogue of an on-camera presenter.
This textual element adds another layer of engagement for viewers who have auditory impairments, or whose primary language is not English.
Video content, by nature, offers high levels of engagement, but a great video can still fall flat in the wrong context. In cases where sound can be an issue, closed captioning maintains engagement when a video’s on-screen elements may not deliver the message you intend them too.
From a technical perspective, closed captioning increases a video’s engagement level and search visibility. The use of subtitles in your video content offers a multimodal delivery of information that helps viewers better understand your messaging, which pushes them further down the funnel.