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Don’t Make This Common Mistake with Your YouTube Videos

If you don’t know what the “CC” button at the bottom of your YouTube video indicates, you are probably losing thousands of potential views.

Clicking the “CC” button launches YouTube closed captioning. This function displays spoken words as text while the video is playing. However, YouTube defaults to the captions it automatically generates through speech recognition software, and while these YouTube captions are a helpful (and free) service, they are not without flaws. Therein lies the problem.

Why YouTube's automatic captions can ruin your video

Automated captions are often glaringly inaccurate. They occasionally drift into complete nonsense. Even in instances where the captions read accurately, they can lack proper punctuation and capitalization. If multiple people are speaking, the automated captions won’t contain speaker identification. And proper names—of people, places, products, etc.—are frequently unintelligible.

Captions generated through YouTube’s speech recognition software will also lack indicators of meaningful sound effects (such as a doorbell, music, or silence). They will also fail to note nuances of the speaker’s delivery, such as a sarcastic tone or a whisper.

These conditions make it even harder for YouTube to provide accurate captions:

  • Low-quality audio

  • More than one speaker

  • Speakers with thick accents or dialects

  • Speech with foreign words or phrases

  • Speakers who don’t enunciate clearly

The easy solution

First, disable YouTube closed captioning options completely until you have your captioning solution in place. That way, any embarrassingly inaccurate captions won’t dissuade your audience from watching.

Second, choose an option for producing more accurate captions:

  • Edit the YouTube transcript and then reactivate it.

  • Create your own transcript and upload it to YouTube.

  • Crowdsource a transcript of your video using a service like Amara.

  • Employ the help of a transcription service.

The reason to use closed captions

You would be surprised at the number of people who use closed captions to watch YouTube videos. Many potential viewers are deaf or hard of hearing—about 15% of people in the United States. Many more simply can’t access audio for a variety of reasons (such as being in a noisy environment like a train station or a quiet location like a library). Some just prefer to watch videos with captions on. One study showed that 80% of people who select closed captioning do not have a hearing disability.

The bottom line is your videos need captions, and those captions have to be of high quality. Otherwise, you damage your brand and your reputation with inaccurate (and sometimes comical) captions. Your first step is to transcribe your YouTube video and use that transcript for closed captioning. That way, you ensure accurate captions for your audience.


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