Let’s first explain the difference between subtitles and captions:
Subtitles are a method of translating spoken words into readable text and displaying it onscreen; they are commonly used to translate a video into another language.
Captions are another method of converting spoken words to onscreen text, but captions also include text-based descriptions of background sounds and other audio cues important to the story. There are two types of captions: open and closed. Open captions (or burn-in) are fixed onscreen; closed captions are user enabled.
Traditionally, captions have been provided as a service to deaf and hearing impaired audiences. However, times have changed, and we have a lot more information about our collective viewing habits.
Studies have shown that most viewers who enable closed captions do so for reasons other than hearing loss. In fact, in 2020 85% of the video content on Facebook was watched without sound!
We’ve come to understand that viewers for whom English is a second language also benefit from captions, as well as those with learning disabilities or difficulty maintaining focus. Captions can help with concentration, leading to greater comprehension.
Captioned videos have statistically higher view counts than videos without captions, and viewers are many times more likely to watch a video to completion when captions are available.
If you upload a video that doesn’t include captions a substantial portion of your audience either won’t receive or won’t understand your message —including the internet itself.
When you upload a video to the web you are prompted to provide a title, keywords, and tags —all crucial bits of metadata that contribute to your overall ranking. But search engine crawlers, little bots that roam around the web and index site content, have no idea what the content of your video is. They need a little help.
One method is to publish a transcript on the same page as the video.
The more integrated and interactive approach is to provide closed captions, which can be embedded in the video file or travel as a separate file. Viewers can turn closed captions on or off, and search engines will read and index captions, which directly impacts search results.