A lesser-known feature on YouTube, which is owned by Google, can make home-video tours stand out from the competition and allow real estate agents to wow their clients — but only if the video tours are narrated.
YouTube uses a highly advanced speech recognition technology to add automatic closed captions to narrated videos.
Most video home tours that real estate agents upload to YouTube are missing detailed narration — they use elevator music instead. Although this approach worked well for the real estate industry during the past decade, it’s now an outmoded method for marketing properties.
Imagine the reaction of homebuyers who click on a video tour and instead of hearing music, they hear a full narration; one more click, and they discover it’s fully closed-captioned, too.
Buyers will think the agent invested an enormous amount of time and expense to produce this full-featured property tour when, in fact, everything was automated.
Elevator music video tours also miss out on another huge benefit that narrated video tours deliver: we remember and retain significantly more of what we see and hear than what we simply see.
Providing a narrated property video tour to homebuyers will increase their recall because they are using multiple senses. Video tours with music and pretty pictures are simply less effective.
Advantages of narration and closed captions
Now that Google is listening, the case for the switch to narrated video tours is crystal clear. When elevator music plays in the background, closed captioning is silenced. YouTube video tours with narration get a huge boost from closed captioning.
According to Google, more than 60 percent of YouTube’s audience is made up of foreign language speakers and hearing-impaired viewers. Without automated closed captioning, agents miss huge market opportunities.
Today, YouTube also translates closed captions into nine different languages, including English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
It seems highly likely that Google will be adding even more languages, and that gives real estate agents using narrated videos an unprecedented audience reach to promote their properties visually.
Once narration is converted into text (in one language), it’s easily converted into other languages right on the YouTube video controls. And that’s how your tours become valuable to a much wider audience.
Improved mobile viewing
Keep in mind that the major real estate portals report more people are searching for homes on their mobile devices than on their desktops.
In fact, Zillow recently disclosed that on weekends, more than 70 percent of the searches they see come from a mobile device.
Adding narration to a home-video tour on YouTube also helps agents solve an annoying problem for their mobile clients: Homebuyers can silence their devices, so they don’t annoy other people and still get all the details on the home from the closed captioning.
Quality narration is key
We’ve tested Google’s automatic captioning with our automated narration feature. We currently provide narrated videos for more than 3 million tours updated every 120 minutes automatically from MLS data throughout the U.S.
What we’ve discovered is that YouTube’s automatic captions are stunningly accurate. However, the key to accuracy is the quality of the narration and its precise diction.
Real estate agents can manually tap into the power of YouTube’s closed captions by uploading captions to each of their home-video tours directly.
YouTube provides detailed instructions online on how to do just that. Moreover, if there are errors in the automatic close captions, YouTube provides the ability to edit the captions to improve accuracy.
YouTube offers a list of captioning service providers and software programs that agents can use to create close caption files to upload.
There is another enormous added benefit of this approach: Google will index your video if you upload captions, and that, the experts say, will likely give you a big boost in placing a video higher in search page ranking.
One test, reported by Search Engine Watch, shows the dramatic impact that video transcriptions had on search rankings. SafeNet did a test during a live webinar to see if adding transcripts to unranked videos would that get them ranked.
It did, and in three weeks, the videos were ranking on the first-page search results on both Bing and Yahoo.
See the difference
The best way to understand how much more powerful a narrated video appears to a homebuyer is to compare them. To demonstrate, we created two property video tours, one with only a music soundtrack and the other with automated narration that YouTube automatically closed captioned.
An example of a video with narration
A video without narration
A fully narrated tour improves one’s impression of the property — and even when it is silenced, closed captioning is far superior than having just elevator music.
Adding narrations to video property tours on YouTube gives agents an extra competitive edge because it gives homebuyers a better video tour experience, and sellers appreciate agents that go the extra mile to promote their homes.
Randall Standard is CEO of VoicePad and a 20+ year veteran of the mobile phone industry.