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YouTube Caption Fails


YouTube Optimization Matters

By now most businesses and brands have accepted the fact that they should have some sort of presence on YouTube, even if they don’t know how to set up a YouTube channel and properly sync it to a G+ page, or what to do with their channel once they create it. Most brands know they need to be on YouTube – and that’s progress.

Why Use YouTube for Business?

While YouTube may not actually be “the #2 search engine in America“, a lot of people start their searches for video content directly on YouTube, skipping parent company, Google, altogether. Just in case you still need some convincing, here are some recent YouTube user statistics: (last updated April 2016)

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth
  • According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network
  • Millions of subscriptions happen each day. The number of people subscribing daily is up more than 3x since last year, and the number of daily subscriptions is up more than 4x since last year
  • The number of people watching YouTube per day is up 40% y/y since March 2014
YouTube Captions Fail - Friday by Rebecca Black written as "fried egg"

Um, yeah… I’m pretty sure that’s not the lyrics to one of your most famous viral videos ever, YouTube…

Why is YouTube Optimization Important?

So we’ve established that you want to be on YouTube, but just “being there” isn’t enough. There are almost 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. If you want people to be able to find your content (and if you don’t want to have to pay for all your views) you need to optimize your YouTube channel, videos, and playlists, just like you need to optimize your website.

How Do You Optimize a YouTube Video?

YouTube’s search function still doesn’t understand video content; it relies on crawlable text content (Titles, Descriptions, Tags, Comments, Transcripts, and Closed Captions, etc.) to understand the context of your videos, playlists, or channel. It seems like many brands and businesses are so busy scrambling to create video content and upload it to YouTube, they are skipping some fundamental optimization opportunities.

Even if you don’t have a keyphrase strategy or know much about SEO, you can still take advantage of one of the easiest (although a little time consuming) YouTube video optimization techniques  -making sure your YouTube videos have accurate closed captions / transcripts. Warning: YouTube’s automatic video captions SUCK!

The technology is just not accurate enough yet, and the automatic translations become farther and farther from the actual dialogue if your video subjects have an accent, if they mumble or speak quickly, or if there’s background noise, or if it’s just not a professional quality recording, etc.

You can see examples of poor quality automatic captions on almost any YouTube video you watch. Simply look for the “CC” logo in the video player, and click it to display the captions options for the video. If you see one of the options followed by the words “(automatic captions)”, chances are a large portion of the captions for that video will be inaccurate. (Go ahead and watch the video with the automatic captions; often times there can be some really funny interpretations!)

YouTube Closed Captions Button with Automatic Captions

YouTube Video with Automatic Closed Captions

Sometimes the automatic captions are so inaccurate that the meaning of what’s being said, and even the entire subject matter of the video is skewed and polluted with nonsense. Google (and YouTube) are less likely to recommend your video to potential viewers looking for your video’s subject matter if they can’t tell what the video is about.

Some Fun Caption Fail Examples:

If you’re in the mood to laugh, check out this playlist of creative Caption Fail videos created by one of my favorite YouTube celebrity duos – Rhett & Link. They enjoy uploading videos to YouTube to get a copy of the automatic closed captions, and then re-recording the videos (sometimes conversations, sometime covers of famous Taylor Swift or One Direction Songs), replacing the actual dialogue with what YouTube thought was being said.

These videos are great for a laugh about the shortcomings of YouTube’s free automatic captions feature (you get what you pay for). But just think, if your videos are using automatic closed captions, then your brand’s messaging could be as messed up as these skits and songs below are in the eyes of search engines.

Go Fix Your Captions!

Now that you know the dangers of automatic captions, go review your own YouTube videos and see how bad your automatic captions are. Here are some helpful tips on how to edit YouTube video captions from the YouTube help center.

If you don’t have the time to fix the captions on your YouTube videos yourself, there are plenty of affordable paid alternatives just a Google search away!

What’s Your Favorite YouTube Caption Fail Story?

Share your stories or links to YouTube caption fails in the comments below!


About Angela Davis

Angela is an online marketing consultant, designer, freelance writer, and photographer for hire. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingAngelaD