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If you’re familiar at all with international SEO, then you’ll know that one of the key things you should be doing right now is translating your uploaded YouTube videos into other languages. But hey, international SEO might be a foreign concept to you. Or perhaps you’re not entirely sold on the idea of dedicating hours to creating accurate captions and translating them for the sake of your viewers.

We’re here to convince you that the simple (yes, it’s not as complicated as it seems – we promise!) act of adding captions and translating them to other languages can increase your YouTube reach exponentially.

What we’ve got lined up for you:

The many benefits of adding captions to your YouTube videos

Adding accurate and comprehensible captions to your YouTube videos sets the stage for multiple advantages your viewers can enjoy. Right off the bat, it opens your channel to the deaf and hard of hearing community who otherwise, wouldn’t have been able to relate to your content. By providing these viewers with clear, understandable subtitles, you can assure them a seamless viewing experience – no sound required.

In addition, not all YouTube viewers like watching videos with sound. Some users keep their videos on mute while reading captions to keep up with what’s happening. In certain scenarios, this is perfectly reasonable. Imagine going on your daily commute to work or school – you’re sitting down idly, and you decide to casually watch a YouTube vid, but you realize something… you’ve forgotten to pack your headphones. Cases like these prove how subtitles can be a real lifesaver.

You can still understand the video even with the sound turned off! Take note: If your YouTube channel offers videos with easy-to-follow captions, you can be assured that your viewers will notice and appreciate the extra effort you took to leveling up their user experience.

And if that’s not enough to convince you of the benefits of captions, maybe this study will. Research by Gernsbacher entitled “Video Captions Benefit Everyone” suggests that watching videos with captions boosts viewer engagement, enhances retention of material, and increases comprehension of content. So, not only will your viewers pay more attention to your videos, but they’ll grasp your content better and remember it more.

All right, so by now, we’re sure you get the picture – captions are important, and they can make a huge difference. So how exactly do you add captions to your vids?

How to add captions in the original language spoken

First, follow these simple steps. You’ll get to see all the options for how to add captions to your videos.

  1. Go to YouTube Studio (the page where all your uploaded videos are listed)

  2. On the left-hand side, press the tab “Subtitles”

  3. Choose the video you want to add captions to

  4. Click on the blue button "Add Language" and select your language from the drop-down

  5. Click on the blue arrow below the subtitles header

  6. You’ll find these three options: Uploading a file, Transcribing and auto-syncing, and Creating new subtitles or closed captions (CC).

We’ll give you the breakdown on what each of these methods entail.

  • Uploading a file

    You can already pre-make your transcription file and easily upload it to your video. Timestamps can be included in the file as well. Just make sure to follow the formats supported by YouTube.

  • Transcribing and auto-syncing

    This method allows you to type or paste the full transcript in one go. All that’s left for you to do is to click “Set Timings.” YouTube will take care of matching your captions to their respective timestamps.

  • Creating new subtitles or CC

    This option is similar to the last, but it’s much slower. You create the captions while watching the video, so the timestamps are more in your control. Although this can lead to more accurate results, it can be quite tedious and time-consuming.

  • Enabling community contributions

    You might have seen this option already while exploring the Subtitles page of your YouTube video. This feature can be handy because it grants your viewers to access to add captions to your videos. Worried about the quality of transcriptions? YouTube allows you to review their suggestions before approving them.

The serious cons of relying on YouTube’s auto-generated captions

For those of you who already know about YouTube’s auto-generated captions, you might be wondering why anyone would go through the trouble of manually adding captions when YouTube can “do it for you.” From the headline alone, you can already guess our negative take on this. We don’t like it.

There are a few readers who might not know what we’re talking about in this section, so here’s a brief explanation to shed light on YouTube’s auto-transcribe feature:

In most YouTube videos, there’s a box with the letters CC (that stands for closed captions) on the lower right corner. If you click on it, it will automatically produce subtitles or captions for you. Almost all videos have this option even if the uploader never bothered to input their own transcriptions. You see, YouTube has a nifty built-in transcriber that auto-generates captions for your videos. Disclaimer: this depends on the language spoken – some languages are unfortunately unsupported by this feature.

Although the majority of the script usually comes out fine, there will definitely be a few words that will turn out completely wrong – and we can all agree that just one inaccurate word can ruin the integrity of a message.

For example, in one skincare video, YouTube picked up the word “retinoid” and processed it as “hemorrhoid.” While the dermatologist in the video was talking about applying retinoids to the face, the caption was instructing the viewers to apply hemorrhoids instead. Funny… but disastrous (especially if any of the caption-reading viewers took this accidental message seriously).

Additionally, YouTube’s auto-generated transcription service can only do so much. It’s not sophisticated enough to distinguish voices among different speakers, label sound effects (e.g. [thunderous applause] [loud crash]), or make out song lyrics. This is another huge blow for deaf/HoH individuals or anyone else watching sans sound. Again, the inability to grasp the entirety of the video’s context can take away from a user’s viewing experience.

Bottomline: if you want to depend on YouTube to transcribe your captions for you, just make sure to review them and spruce up any errors you’ll come across.

How to edit YouTube’s auto-generated captions

If your video is short and you think YouTube did a pretty decent job at transcribing your captions, you can just clean it up a bit more by following these steps:

  1. Go to Subtitles in YouTube Studio

  2. Click on the video that you want to edit

  3. Look at the language that has the word “Automatic” in parentheses

  4. Linger above the word “Published”

  5. You’ll see three dots. Click on this then choose “Edit on Classic Studio.”

  6. Click on “Edit” on the upper right-hand side

  7. Begin editing! You can fix any obvious mistakes, add punctuations, etc.

For longer, more complex videos with lots of conversations and/or sound effects going on, we still suggest taking the longer yet more trusted route: writing the captions yourself. This can be done by following any of the methods above.

The advantages of translating captions into other languages

You’ve already worked hard to include accurate and readable captions in your videos. Why go the extra mile to translate your YouTube videos into other languages?

Here’s why: you gain a bigger, international following. Translating your YouTube videos expands your content to foreign viewers. Once you break down the language barrier, it becomes feasible for you to gain a global reach – now doesn’t that sound make you sound incredibly professional?

Still not sure if it’s worth the time, effort, and (possibly) money?

Well, ask yourself: where are your viewers watching from? If you don’t know this information already, we suggest you do it pronto. Just follow these easy steps!

How to check the demographics of your YouTube viewers

  1. Go to YouTube Studio

  2. Click on “Analytics” on the left-hand side

  3. Click on “Audience”

  4. Scroll down and check the information listed below “Top Countries”

If you have mostly local viewers, the urgency to translate might not be as high. But if you find that many of your viewers are coming from foreign places that speak various languages, you know the drill. Translating is the way to go!

By adding captions to your YouTube videos and translating them to other languages, you instantly give your channel an extra edge. Some of the perks? A broader audience, heavier page traffic, and more inclusive content. Now that we’ve established the benefits, let’s get to work!

How to translate other YouTube video captions into other languages

Again, YouTube has an option to avoid going through this process. They offer viewers services to auto-translate the captions to their language of choice.

Try out the easy way:

  1. Click the CC button on the lower right corner

  2. Click Settings (the little gear to CC’s right)

  3. Click Subtitles/CC

  4. Click Auto-translate

  5. Choose your preferred language

Although relying on auto-translate makes life easier, it’s also a way to invite a plethora of unforgivable translation errors. The phrase lost in translation won’t even begin to encapsulate how poorly translated your videos might end up if you rely on YouTube’s auto-translate feature (which, by the way, relies on Google Translate for their translations – see what we mean now by potentially messy translations?)

How to add translations to your YouTube video captions

Our strong recommendation is to add the translations yourself.

Here’s how to go about it:
  1. Go to the Subtitles section

  2. Choose the video you want to add another language to


  4. Under Subtitles, press Add

  5. Go through the process as you normally would, except use the new language

If you’re not fluent in the new language, you can look into investing in a foreign transcription service. Another option is to enable community contributions, but it might be challenging verifying the accuracy of the submitted translations.

How to translate your YouTube videos’ titles and descriptions into other languages

This is an extra step you don’t want to overlook! It can be the very basis of whether your potential international viewers will choose to click on your videos or ignore them. Make your content relatable and appealing to foreign users by translating your original titles and descriptions to their language.

Simply make sure to add the translated Title & Description, which can be found beside Subtitles.

How to check how your new captions look like to everyone else

Curious about how your new captions look like? You can always click the option “View on YouTube” to see how your translated captions look like.

If you want to go a step further, you can open an “Incognito” window using browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer. Go to YouTube, search for your video, and analyze your translated captions. This is a surefire way to view your videos through the lens of any ordinary user who stumbles across your channel.

Changing the default language of your YouTube videos

Be very sure that the primary language is whatever is being used in the video. This is extremely important because YouTube relies on this information to enable any of its transcribing and translating features.

If you think your default language is set to the wrong one, follow these steps to change it:

  1. Go to Videos in YouTube Studio

  2. Click on the thumbnail of the video

  3. Click on the tab Details on the left-hand side

  4. Click on More Options on the upper left corner

  5. You’ll find below the heading “Original video language, subtitles, and CC”

  6. Change it to your desired default language

YouTube video translation services

One popular closed captioning service provider is Rev. By paying a minimal fee, it can do all the hard work for you by creating an accurate transcription file. YouTube also mentions other service providers that you can check out. Also note that if you no longer wish to avail of their services, you’re free to opt out any time.

The crucial take-aways

What did we learn from this article?

  • It’s unequivocally beneficial to include captions to your videos for the deaf and HoH communities and individuals who enjoy watching videos on mute. Also, in comparison to uncaptioned videos, research has shown that captioned videos are more likely to experience increased viewer engagement, retention of material, and comprehension of content.

  • Translating captions from the original language to other languages, especially those spoken by your top viewers, can broaden your reach by expanding your content internationally, thus driving more traffic to your page.

  • Don’t forget to translate the titles & descriptions, too!

  • If you’re willing to invest in a translation tool, YouTube has a few reliable recommendations.

And the most important take-away of all… translating your YouTube videos to other languages is a smart move! Good luck, buena suerte, bonne chance, viel glück!

There’s nothing more important to our team at Marketing Ignite than helping our clients grow in a long term successful relationship together. As a digital marketing agency from Bangkok, Thailand with experience since 1998, we utilize smart, creative, and expert digital marketing strategies to help you gain the right clients for your business. Ready to see your brand transform?

Contact us today and learn how we can ignite your brand’s success.

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