Update (2021): Since we published this article, there has been an update from the YouTube product team that makes it crucial for creators to invest in subtitles. YouTube has upgraded its search for translated videos. Their update says, “While YouTube has A LOT of videos, they don’t always cover every topic across every language. And we’re always looking for new ways to make information more accessible and inclusive for all users globally.” When searching for videos in a particular language, YouTube will now show videos with automatically translated captions, titles and descriptions (if the translations aren’t available). So, brands and creators who add professional and SEO-friendly subtitles to their videos are sure to have an edge over others.
Listen to the famous YouTube content creator Curious Droid as he explains why he chose to enable the ‘Community Contributions’ feature for all his YouTube videos.
When a YouTube creator enables ‘community contributions’ on their channels, they invite their viewers to translate the video into their native languages and add them to the video for everyone’s benefit.
Sadly, Google just put out a notice that it is discontinuing community contributions across all YouTube channels. “This feature was rarely used and had problems with spam/abuse, so we’re removing them to focus on other creator tools,” read the notice. YouTube creators can still upload captions and subtitles, along with using automatic captions.
Why popular brands & creators don’t prefer automatic captions
Run a search for ‘automatic captions’ on Google, and I am sure you’ll see some ‘hilarious automatic caption fail suggestions. Since YouTube became a powerful content marketing platform, some creators raised their concerns about its automatic captions. One such creator is Rikki Poynter, a deaf 29-year-old, who built a following with her #NoMoreCRAPtions campaign. In many of her tweets, messages, hand-written letters, and videos, she has urged creators to write their own captions and subtitles or collaborate with professionals.
With YouTube’s inability to automatically caption or subtitle videos correctly, content creators and brands prefer employing professional subtitling services for distributing their videos among their audience members who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and speak different languages.
Why you must add subtitles to your YouTube videos
Some YouTube content creators and brands uploading content to their YouTube channels choose not to add subtitles to their videos because of the time, effort, and cost required for subtitling projects. However, that’s not necessarily true. You can always find a professional subtitling service company that offers competitive rates and quick turnaround. If you, too, are unsure about how adding subtitles can help you grow on YouTube, here are some reasons that will make you think otherwise.
Subtitles make your YouTube videos accessible.
While the video above focuses on the importance of captioning, it also does an excellent job of explaining why you must add subtitles to your videos. Did you stop watching after the captions disappeared? Making your videos available in different languages via subtitles is necessary so that none of your viewers are left feeling like you’ve restricted their access to your content.
Laws and regulations like the USA’s Americans with Disabilities Act and UK’s Communications Act of 2003, list subtitling, sign language, and audio descriptions as requirements for “television access services.” Today, there are 466 million people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. 71% of people with such disabilities leave a page immediately when they cannot access it. Add to this fact that 60% of the total views YouTube videos receive are from non-English speakers.
The beauty of a platform like YouTube is that anyone with an internet connection and a device can access your videos. Governing bodies, media outlets, content creators, global and local brands must ensure that they produce inclusive content accessible to everyone.
Subtitles improve your video’s watch time & engagement.
If I watched a video during my lunch break at the office, I would prefer to watch it on mute – lest I end up disturbing those around me. Turning on the sound isn’t always a possibility. This is why viewers watch 85% of social media videos on mute. When your video does not have subtitles in viewers’ native language, they are likely to bounce off of your video after the initial 10 seconds.
See how videos with subtitles perform better than those without subtitles.
Adding subtitles to your YouTube videos increases the average watch time and amount of engagement, including shares, reactions, and clicks.
Subtitles improve your video’s SEO ranking.
Keywords aren’t just crucial for written content. They are equally crucial for videos. All the text that gets uploaded along with your video on YouTube contributes to your video’s ranking in search engines. If you include popular keywords in the video’s title and description, your video will rank higher when people search for those keywords. Similarly, subtitles are added to videos in text format (.srt files). So, subtitles also contribute to your SEO ranking.
With English captions, you would be targeting just English keywords. Consequently, your video will only rank for English keywords. On the other hand, adding subtitles in Hindi, French, Spanish, and German will make your video rank for keywords in all these languages. Result? You will be able to target local SEO keywords, too. Even if you’ve originally shot or created the video in English, multilingual subtitles will help you reach your Spanish, German, French, and Hindi viewers too.
When YouTuber Leron Amin added English captions to her video, she noticed that it added 1,046 words and 393 indexable search terms. Her target keyword density increased by 68 terms (Green), and keyword diversity increased by 12 terms (orange).
Note: Google or any other search engine, does not index YouTube’s automatic captions. This is why you must invest in getting your captions and subtitles done by professionals.
Had she added multilingual subtitles, the results would have been excellent!
Subtitles help your YouTube viewers comprehend & learn better.
There are many research articles available online that suggest that learning happens best in one’s native language. If you or your brand create learning material for YouTube, subtitles are essential. Along with audio-visual content, subtitles add a text component to your videos. It helps your viewers comprehend and grasp the information well. It goes without saying that when your viewers learn better, they are more likely to watch the video till the end and engage with it later.
A lot of brands are promoting learning via subtitles. For instance, Netflix recently launched its Google Chrome extension called Learning Languages with Netflix.
If you are studying a language or wish to learn a foreign language, this extension helps improve your understanding of the language while watching Netflix movies and series. You will be able to see the subtitles in two languages. Say, you are a native Spanish speaker who wishes to improve your spoken English. You can see and compare the subtitles in Spanish and English. There’s a pop dictionary that helps you learn more about important English words in a particular subtitle segment.
While it may seem like employing professionals to create multilingual subtitles for your YouTube videos is a huge investment, but the results make it worth it. If you are monetising your YouTube channel or wish to do so in the future, adding subtitles can bring you a great return on your investment.