The use of closed captions in video are largely thought of in relation to making your video more accessible. But did you know that captions are also a quick way of boosting your video SEO? Recent research conducted by Discovery Digital Networks, SafeNet, and  radio show This American Life have shown that adding closed captions and transcripts to videos increases search traffic, page views, search rank, and engagement.

Increased Views

Across a 16-month period, Discovery Digital Networks set out to determine the effect of closed captions on video views. They conducted a controlled study of captioning across 8 of their channels, captioning 125 of 334 videos published between January 2013 and April 2014 then measuring the effects of captioning against the 209 uncaptioned videos.Within two weeks of adding closed captions, they documented a 13.48% increase in views, as well as a lifetime increase in views at 7.32%.

Improved SEO

It wasn’t just the views that saw a marked improvemet, but they also noted a significant increase in the SEO ranking for their captioned videos.By searching on YouTube for keywords that appeared in the caption file of a video, but not in the description, title, or tags, they found their video ranked 4th for the term. This result thus proved that closed captions have a quantifiable influence over search rankings & can improve keyword density and diversity.

ROI of YouTube Captioning

One of the things that makes YouTube such a fertile ground for businesses is the wealth of metrics you are able to monitor via the site. That said, it also makes it difficult to drill down and calculate just one area of analysis, especially when there are so many factors that could affect your CPM.

The data from Discovery Digital Networks helps to understand the ROI a YouTube partner could expect to make off of the increase in views attributable to captioning, based on the 7.32% lifetime increase they saw in the views.

CPM earnings can range anywhere between $1 and $10, with most partners sitting towards the lower end of the bracket. Captioning a 2-minute video would, on average, cost $5. If your CPM is closer to $10, you would need about 6,800 lifetime views to pay back the cost of captioning. On the low end of the CPM range, you would need 68,000 lifetime views to reach a positive ROI.

Whilst the ROI analysis alone is somewhat inconclusive as to the need for closed captions, the findings from Discovery Digital Networks regarding views and seo would indicate a trickle down effect – where the closed captions increase views & SEO, leading to an improved ROI.

The studies conducted, and particularly the data of Discovery Digital Networks, have made it possible to estimate the ROI of captioning YouTube videos. Whilst there are still a number of variable factors that determine whether or not you should use closed captions, the positive results are hard to ignore and suggest that they could just be worth the investment.