As YouTube’s algorithm continues to improve, the benefits of using optional features increase alongside it. In the past, tags, titles and the description were some of the essential parts of discovery. Now, the system looks at much more, including subtitles. Adding subtitles to your YouTube videos will help with accessibility and help your videos rank higher and be recommended more often. A step further would be to include subtitles in different languages – particularly those with rapidly growing audiences. Simply put: ignoring subtitles would be a mistake!

Subtitles benefit accessibility and discovery

The benefits of adding subtitles to your YouTube videos are significant. On the surface, the accessibility of using subtitles alone should be a compelling reason to include them. According to the World Health Organization, there are over 400 million people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Having subtitles immediately opens up access to your videos. But let’s go deeper. Only 1.35 billion people speak English globally, while over 60% of YouTube traffic is non-English speakers. If you’re not convinced of the value of adding subtitles, let’s explore the discoverability impact on YouTube.

According to a study done by Digital Discovery, when you add subtitles to your YouTube video, they saw an increase of 13.48% in views in the first two weeks. At the same time, people tend to watch videos longer, and engagement also increased. These are powerful indicators for YouTube’s algorithm to recommend the videos in search and other discoverability engines. Finally, even YouTube’s Creator Academy recommends that you add subtitles to your videos. Right from the horse’s mouth.

How to add Subtitles to your YouTube videos

Adding subtitles to your videos can be done in just a few simple steps.

  1. Log in to your YouTube account, and head to the YouTube Studio.
  2. On the left-hand menu, locate and click on “Subtitles.”
  3. Find the video you want to add the subtitles to and click the arrow to open up subtitle options. Click on ‘Add.’
  4. From here, you can choose to type subtitles manually or upload your subtitle file.
  5. Manually typing the subtitles will require matching up the start and end times of the text.
  6. Uploading subtitles must come in a supported format including: .srt, .sub, .sbv, .lrc, or .cap. SRT files are the preferred method.

Rewatch your video with subtitles on after you’ve added them and adjust as needed to ensure they match up properly.


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How to make subtitles for YouTube

Making subtitles for your YouTube video depend on several factors. Those factors create a balance between your time, accuracy, and money – each offering benefits and drawbacks. Here’s a simple way to determine which strategy will work best for your subtitle needs.

  • "I have time." If you have lots of time at your disposal, the best way to make subtitles for your YouTube videos is to type them out yourself. You know your tonality and word choice, and that should make it easier to type out very accurate subtitles.
  • "I have some time." If you have some time, the good idea is to take the auto-generated captions by YouTube and customize them. This will require a little bit of work and word changes – but it should get you a good start. It’s likely going to be a bit less accurate than self-written, but a good middle ground.
  • "I have money to spend." If you have money to spend and no time to do the subtitles yourself – you can pay to have them written up. Services like Fiverr offer subtitle services for reasonable rates. The files will be time-coded and easily uploaded for perfect subtitles for your video.

Getting subtitles for different languages

If you want to take your subtitle discoverability and accessibility to another level, consider investing in subtitles for different languages. As previously mentioned, over 60% of YouTube traffic comes from non-English speakers. This leaves a huge market that your videos are not reaching. If you want to capture some of this market, your first step is completing your English subtitles. From there, using services like Fiverr or other professional translation services, you can those subtitles translated. Make sure the person you work with knows this is for subtitles, so they can adjust them as needed.

Some languages to consider including Spanish, Mandarin, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese and Russian. Those languages alone will cover a vast majority of potential viewer languages!


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