Does Google Penalize Websites with Automated Transcripts?

If you are creating videos regularly, it can be helpful to create transcripts for your SEO, but there are some things to keep in mind.

Video transcript:

Bryan: On what you said about creating a useful video that sort of explains the usefulness of the product, I think that has been present for quite some time now, but there are tools that you can use to convert a video into an article. It transcribes the video. But the question is, would Google consider it as useful content use like this? There’s a difference in the tone when you write a blog than when you’re just talking about something. Right? So, I think Google is already advanced in such a way that it would know the difference between the two. What’s your opinion on that?

David: Let me tell you a very, very appropriate story. Let’s say there’s a company that provides SEO training. And let’s say that company does a weekly Office Hours, where people call and ask questions about SEO. And let’s say some of those questions are really good. And so what they like to do is record the video to put it on YouTube and transcribe the video to put it on their website. And let’s say this company, let’s call it Interesting Arachnoids. Let’s say this company gets lazy and they just copy and paste the transcript that’s been automatically generated onto the blog post along with the YouTube video. Now I don’t know about you, but some of these automatically generated transcripts are pretty bad. And that has to do with just the nature of language. Sometimes it’s people’s accents, and sometimes you’re talking about very technical topics that the transcript doesn’t understand. So, for instance, if it’s an SEO service, and I say SEO, the transcription might not know that I’m talking about the acronym SEO. It might transcribe that into something that’s CO or some misspelling or something like that. And so, because of that, putting that transcript up would end up not being very useful to users. People could read the transcript and be like, it doesn’t even make sense. Well, I know a company that was doing that for a long time. And I did an analysis of their website and realized, oh, crap, Google is ignoring those pages.

Bryan: Ouch.

David: Right. So, I put a lot of time into that, thinking I was being helpful and thinking it was good enough. And it ended up not being good enough. And so, it really ended up being a waste of time. Now it got worse when Google announced that the quality of content on your website might reflect sitewide on the quality of your website. The quality of the content on several pages might reflect poorly on the quality of your website as a whole. And I realized, uh oh, most of the content on my website was these automated transcripts. And so that meant most of the words on the website were low quality. And I could see that Google did not like my website. So, I had to go through the manual process and make decisions. Do I even put this transcript on the website anymore? Or do I just completely remove it? Do I take the time to edit the transcript to make it not only make sense but be helpful and readable? And so, I started doing this. And I started seeing that when I did take the time to make the transcripts accurate and helpful, and interesting, Google suddenly started paying attention to them. And so, what I had to do was change my process of uploading videos onto the website and, instead, insert an editor into the process who would review the transcript, clean it up, and make sure it was a good, valuable piece of content to go along with the site. So now whenever we publish an Office Hours video on Curious Ants, because obviously, that’s what we’re talking about here, the editor has to go through and read it because of the automated transcripts. Now I’d say our transcription service now is a lot better than the old one. Wouldn’t you agree, Youssef?

Youssef: Absolutely

David: Yeah, but still, it needs someone to look at it. And that has been very helpful. So, the lesson to learn from this is, you know, as with everything in life, yes, there are ways to cut corners and make things simple and easy. But those things tend not to be as valuable as taking the time to do quality work. And it’s very true when it comes to SEO. Take the time. Don’t be lazy. It’s better to have fewer quality pieces of content on your site than it is to have a lot of low-quality content on your site. It’s always better to have fewer pieces of quality content.

Bryan: I have one more question about the quality of content. Say the video that you have is like a podcast. Or like this one, where people exchange questions and ideas. So, if you have this video transcribed and the output would look more like people talking about something, it’s not really like talking to the reader. It’s more like just reading a conversation between different people. So, would Google consider that quality content? Because I haven’t seen a blog article where you’re just reading a conversation between two people. It’s always like the article is talking back to the reader.

David: I don’t think that’s what makes content high or low quality. You know, I have a subscription to Wired Magazine. And every month I get a new article. And sometimes, the articles are literally interviews where a question is asked, the interviewer answers, and it goes back and forth. That’s a fine way to do an article. And so that itself doesn’t make content low quality. But what made it low quality is that when I would look at them, I could read it maybe, and sometimes it just didn’t even make sense. And so that’s what made it low quality. So, you know, sometimes we use tools to help us do this. Like we might use a reading score. Like I know, the Yoast SEO plugin gives you a reading score or maybe the grade levels of someone who could read this. Those are helpful tools, but it’s not like Google’s looking for a Fleshman reading score of 88 in order to rank your content. But those are good tools if, let’s say, I had to go through all of my transcripts, and I have hundreds at this point. What’s an easy way to go through hundreds of posts without having to read them all to decide which ones are the lowest quality? Well, a tool like that can help. But I wouldn’t trust it alone. And nowhere does Google run a particular score and use that score to determine the quality, necessarily. But those can be helpful ways to say, oh, if the reading level is 12th grade, which in the United States means you’ve graduated from high school and you’re attending college, well, maybe that should alert us to the fact that either we’re talking too complicated, and we need to tone it down, or maybe there’s something wrong with that article, that it’s not great. Then again, if it’s a first-grade reading level, which in the United States is a kid who is literally just starting schooling and barely knows how to read, well, that might be a problem, too. We’re making it too basic, right? So, we use these as tools, knowing that Google doesn’t really use them to rank, but we use them to gauge ourselves because sometimes, when we write our own content, we’re the worst person to grade the quality of it. And we know what we mean. But when someone else reads it there, they may not know what it means. And so, you either hire a writer to double-check you, which is what I do for these transcripts, or you use the reading scores to help check you. But yeah, to just simply answer your question just because it’s a transcript – somebody said this, then someone said that, and someone said this, and someone said that – doesn’t mean that it’s low quality. But the quality of the content of the conversation makes it quality or not.

Bryan: Okay. Yeah. That makes sense.

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