How many times have you watched a video on YouTube, only to click away after a few seconds? That short attention span factors into the average “watch time” of YouTube videos. On easy way to combat this is to add subtitles to video on YouTube to keep viewers engaged for longer periods of time.

There’s a lot of information out there about watch time and how it’s calculated. It’s generally agreed upon that it boils down to some combination of total views, average watch time duration, session starts and ends, session duration, and frequency.

So what is a good watch time on YouTube? Well, that depends on your channel and the type of content, but one thing’s for sure: it’s smart to add subtitles to video online.

You might have amazing content on your YouTube channel but suffer in search results if viewers aren’t spending enough time watching your videos. Add subtitles to video on YouTube to drastically improve your watch time results. We’ll get into how in a bit, but first, let’s dive into the platform itself.

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YouTube Is The Largest Video Platform In The World

Have you ever watched the very first video posted to YouTube? Uploaded on April 23, 2005, it features the company’s co-founder at the zoo talking about elephants. It lasts 20 seconds and is, to put it nicely, not very interesting.

We’ve come a long way since then. YouTube is now a major marketing tool for all sorts of brands. Musicians create lyric videos or web-exclusive content to tease new material. Local politicians can host YouTube Live videos to take questions from residents of their city. And organizations can develop training videos, offer behind-the-scenes looks during events, and share thought leadership material with their audience.

In fact, if you’re not on YouTube, you’re missing out on a major opportunity. Per YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, more than 1.8 billion users are on the platform every month. Those are just the people who are logged in, so the actual number is even greater.

To put it in even more impressive terms: more people use YouTube than Gmail. There’s an active audience on YouTube. Not having a presence on the platform means that you’re missing out on millions of potential customers.

Add Subtitles to Video to Increase Video Watch Time By 40%

Let’s say you are on YouTube already. You’re connecting with your audience, but are you really maximizing that interaction?

If you aren’t adding subtitles to YouTube videos, the answer is no. Video marketing company Tubular Insights found that users watching videos with subtitles stick around for nearly 40 percent longer than on videos that have no subtitles.

That increase was just with videos playing with sound and subtitles. For videos watched “on mute,” video viewing increased by 20 times if subtitles were active.

And there’s a rise in consuming content on mobile devices. More than 75 percent of video usage is on mobile. Think about the times you use your phone. Chances are it’s not always in settings where the sound is readily available. You might be watching videos during public transportation, or in a library, or killing time before making conversation at a networking event.

If a company tried to show you a video in one of those settings, you’d likely skip it, right? But if that company added subtitles to the video, it’s a whole different story. You could still consume the content the way it was meant to be digested, picking up valuable information that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

Yet, most YouTube video creators do not use subtitles in their video. This is a critical error.

Skipping out on subtitles not only limits your reach, but it also hurts your overall brand, resulting in many lost views. Consider your potential audience:

35 Million Americans Suffer From Hearing Loss

This is no small percentage. If your audience can’t hear your content, they won’t stick around for long.

Many Of Your Viewers Are Not Native English Speakers

YouTube is a universal platform. Those 1.8 billion users? They’re all over the globe – the platform has launched in 88 countries, to be exact. And you can access YouTube in 76 different languages. The vast majority of those viewers will not speak English as a first language, though some may be able to read it or enjoy the video more if they can turn on subtitles in their native language.

85% of Facebook Videos Are Watched on Mute

We talked about instances where you would watch a video on your phone without sound, but that applies at a desktop computer, too. Users might be in a setting where they can’t listen to a video, or they may just prefer to digest a piece of content without fumbling for headphones. Either way, you need to know that your video content will likely be absorbed without any sound at all.

Add Subtitles to Video to Improve Comprehension

It’s not just those who are hard of hearing that enjoy watching videos with subtitles. A 2015 BBC survey found that 80 percent of people using subtitles had no hearing loss or impairment, and 70 percent said that closed captions improved comprehension. Moreover, most people were satisfied with prerecorded subtitles.

These can be especially helpful in videos where people are speaking quickly or unclearly, or if they speak with a particularly strong accent. Additionally, if your speaker uses technical content or a lot of slang or jargon, seeing those words on the screen helps with focus and retention.

Enable Viewers To Watch Your Videos Anywhere, Anytime

Remember Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? “I want it, and I want it now!” While your audience may not be on Veruca’s level of immaturity, her core point remains: we generally want immediate gratification in life.

If you see a video that interests you, chances are you’ll stop what you’re doing to watch it. However, if a few seconds in, it becomes obvious that your video needs sound, you’ll lose a subset of your audience. Still more may be turned off by the inability to read along with a narrator or speaker. But if you add subtitles to video, you’re opening up your content to a much wider audience – one that can view videos without limitations.

Let’s also not forget the importance of adding accurate subtitles and closed captions to your video content. As seen in the video above, YouTube’s automatic captions generator does an okay job, but it’s doesn’t achieve nearly the level of accuracy that a professional translator could.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory bad egg scene with Veruca Salt demanding a golden goose clip has incorrect captions

Add Subtitles to Video to Boost SEO

Here’s a neat little fact: Google indexes closed captions uploaded to YouTube videos. It makes sense – after all, Google purchased YouTube in 2006 and is constantly working to improve its investment. That means you have a great opportunity to get more eyes on your video by adding subtitles.

Discovery Digital Networks ran a study on closed captioning and YouTube videos, and the results speak for themselves. In the first 14 days of uploading a video, you’ll see a 13.48 percent rise in views if you have subtitles included. Over the lifetime of a video on the platform, content with subtitles saw a 7.32 percent viewing increase compared to videos without them.

Should You Use YouTube’s Automated Option?

It’s easy enough to just run YouTube’s automated subtitles and caption your video that way. Sure, that is a convenient and also free option. And YouTube features closed captioning on more than a billion videos on the platform. But there’s a problem with YouTube’s automated captioning: it’s wildly inaccurate, as shown above in the Willy Wonka clip.

Quote from post: Inaccurate subtitles are wildly frustrating to the viewers who depend on them to enjoy video content.

You don’t have to look far and wide to find some hilarious closed caption fails. While some of those are just people mistyping live footage, the majority are automated systems. They’re trying their best, but it’s just not good enough for most videos. Inaccurate subtitles are wildly frustrating to the viewers who depend on them to enjoy video content.

Why You Should Consider a Professional Subtitle Service

You know that it’s smart to add subtitles to video. But if you rely on automation, you could potentially be losing out on SEO and an engaged audience. What if your product name is captioned incorrectly every time it’s spoken? Yikes.

Maybe YouTube’s automated captioning hears something entirely different. And if that’s the case, then when people search for your company, your videos aren’t going to appear in the search listings.

That inaccuracy isn’t a problem with a professional subtitle service. When you use a service like Rev, actual humans who are professional translators do the work. That’s right, a real person, not a robot, transcribes and translates your words. They’re able to pick out nuances in speech, regional dialect patterns, and a whole host of other information that an automated system simply can’t decipher.

With real people at the helm, your subtitles will have more than 99 percent accuracy. The words you speak in your video are what people are reading, and it’s what Google’s search engines are indexing.

But perhaps the juiciest advantage is that professional subtitling services are a cornucopia of content. You’re not just getting subtitles for your video; you’re getting a wealth of ways to share with your audience.

A professional subtitling service will send you a finished file that you can upload to YouTube, but you can also repurpose the transcript of those subtitles across a handful of platforms.

You can repurpose subtitles, captions, and transcripts in many marketing strategies, including:

  • Blog: Is your video an educational one? Are you sharing a new way to do something with your audience? It’s simple to take what you demonstrated in the video and turn it into a blog post. You can include screenshots from the video as blog images, and since your video is laid out in an easy-to-understand format, it translates perfectly into a blog post. And once again, you’ll see an uptick in SEO since your blog is also now ranking for the various search strings in your post.
  • Email: Email marketing is an easy way to get more clicks to your content. Want to promote your video in your upcoming newsletter? Tease a paragraph from the video as the introduction of your newsletter. Then include a link so people can watch and learn more.
  • Social Media: With your finished transcription file in hand, you have a ton of different options across social media. You can simply copy a line or two as the lead-in to your YouTube link. You can include bulleted lists with takeaways. You can even turn some of your key insights into eye-catching quote graphics to further promote your message.

In The End, You Get Two For One, It’s a Huge Win!

Scoring more than you wanted is usually a good thing. In this case, you’re increasing the average watch time for YouTube videos and getting written content to use in other ways – in the eyes of content creators everywhere, that’s a win.

You want your content to be valuable for your audience. Adding subtitles to video is a terrific way to not only make your content come to life, but it also gives you so many different avenues for engaging with your viewers and readers. That’s a critical component of any successful brand.

The Final Word on Why You Should Add Subtitles to Video

Adding subtitles to video doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, YouTube makes it downright simple. You just have to make sure what you’re sharing is actually providing benefit to your customers. That way, they’ll be eager to stick around for longer and come back for more.

Ready to take your content to the next level? Learn more about Rev’s subtitle services and how to add subtitles to video. You’ll see how it can help you reach a wider, more engaged audience by trying our service out with a complimentary coupon when you click the “Try Rev for Free” button and fill out the form below.

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