Our friend and story artisan Connie Collins recently asked the Data Dames to weigh in on her question:

Is captioning video for social media a good practice or just giving the “great god Google” more to sort out? If it’s a good practice, which works better: closed captions or subtitles?

youtube icon on blank smartphone screen on white background
Knowing how much the great god Google frustrates Connie, it was wonderful to be able to deliver this response:

Good news! When you ask this question in regard to social media in 2021, the answer doesn’t have anything to do with the great god Google. 😂

Video Captions Are Mainly For Users

Video captions on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn aren’t indexed by Google at this point, so search “findability” and rankings aren’t a factor. Instead, the captions you’re asking about are for social media users, including those who are hearing impaired, have their sound turned off when scrolling, or have the setting, “Videos in News Feed Start With Sound,” turned off. Users may pause just long enough to read a few lines of video captions and perhaps part of the written caption. If you can grab them there, they may be intrigued enough turn on their sound or at least continue reading the captions.

Assume Video Viewers Can’t Hear Audio

black man standing by building making the sign for can't hear with his handIt’s a good idea to always assume people won’t be able to hear the video and to use captions, preferably the kind generated in an SRT file. That said, subtitles of any kind are better than no subtitles. If necessary, add them as a visual element within the video.

Once you get out of the realm of social media and into YouTube and embedded videos (and podcasts!) on websites, the captions, as well as the transcript itself, become of great importance. Written content in these two places is indexed by the great god Google and can be an important signal for search algorithms.

Make sure you include optimized content on your YouTube channel around each and every video, including a clear title, good description, and uploaded captions. Then, embed that video on your website, such as in a blog post where you can get the most value out of your transcript.

Thanks for asking, Connie!