You’ve recorded your awesome video content and done everything you can to promote it. Shared it on social media. Optimized the title and description. Promoted it across online communities. But the results still fall short. You’re not getting the views that you’re hoping for.
What did you do wrong?
While great video content is always the first step, there’s another one you may have missed:
Captioning your videos can have a big effect on how successful they are. This is true for movies, TV shows, social media videos, training content, and any other kind of video you might record and share.
Why are subtitles so important? You might be surprised. We’ll take a look at seven facts and reasons you should add subtitles to your video, then talk a bit about how to do it.
You can view the visual summary of this post below or skip ahead to read a detailed explanation of each fact and how to add subtitles effectively.
Over 28 million American adults are deaf or hard of hearing—and if you don’t have subtitles on your videos, that’s a huge audience you won’t reach.
No matter what your content is, you don’t want to exclude millions of people from watching it. Your target market includes people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and not subtitling your videos excludes them.
That’s just bad business. Think inclusively and add subtitles to your videos.
As you’ll see, though, it’s not just people with hearing difficulties that appreciate subtitles.
You’ve probably heard that 85% of Facebook videos are watched on mute. Of course, that’s just for a single social network. Snapchat, for example, says that two-thirds of its videos are played with sound.
No matter what the statistics say, many people silence audio on their phones or computers because they don’t want or need to. Maybe they’re listening to their favorite song and don’t want to pause it. Or they’re in a public place and can’t be disruptive.
Even if your videos target an audience that’s likely to turn video sound on, there are going to be some people who won’t. And those people will miss out on your video if it’s not subtitled.
People learn in different ways. Some learn best through doing. Others through watching. Still others through listening. And if your viewers aren’t visual learners, they’re not going to get as much out of your video.
That’s where subtitles come in. People who learn best via reading will get more out of your videos if they have captions. The combination of video and text is strong, and appeals to more people than just video.
In fact, many people prefer watching videos with subtitles even if they don’t have to. A quick search reveals many people turn captions on when they’re watching TV shows or movies, even if they’re native speakers of the original language. They just understand it better.
Even if those people could watch without subtitles, they’ll appreciate that you made your video better for them.
Great content transcends language boundaries . . . but only if it’s translated. You might want people from all over the world to watch your videos, but if they can’t understand them, it’s going to be hard.
English is the most commonly used language on the wider internet, but Mandarin Chinese isn’t far behind. Some parts of the world use the internet mostly in Arabic. Or Spanish. Take your target audience’s language into account when you’re making your videos.
And when you can, offer subtitles in multiple languages.
In 2009, PLYMedia found that 80% more people watched a video to completion when subtitles were included. Videos without subtitles were watched to 66% to completion, compared to 91% with subtitles on average.
Of course, these are correlations, and the cause is open to interpretation. But 80% is a figure you can’t ignore. If there’s a chance that subtitle help videos get more views, you should invest the time and money it takes to caption it.
Keep that in mind as you read this next fact.
Instapage found that captioned videos on Facebook had 16% higher reach than those without. They had 15% more shares, 17% better reactions, and 26% more call-to-action clickthroughs.
In short, they performed better on every measure that matters. Combine that with the fact that more videos get watched if they have subtitles, and the take-away becomes clear.
Subtitles make a big difference in how people see, react to, and engage with your videos.
While the quality of your content should be your main concern, we know you’re thinking about SEO, too. And video subtitles can give you a boost in the search rankings.
Many of the benefits above also have an effect on SEO. If people spend more time watching your videos, you’ll have increased dwell time, which has a positive effect on your rankings. Social shares can play a role, too. And appealing to more people helps boost visits and reduce bounce rates.
But the subtitles themselves can also help, because Google indexes captions that you’ve added to videos (they don’t index automatically generated captions, like those YouTube can add for you).
That can make a big difference in how many people find your website, watch your video, and engage with your content.
While it does take some time, it’s actually quite simple. And you can do it for free.
When you get started, adding subtitles to videos can take a while. 3Play Media suggests budgeting five to ten times the length of the video for subtitling. Of course, this depends on your experience level with the software, the type of dialogue you’re adding, and a number of other factors.
If you’re subtitling a short video to share on Facebook or YouTube, that’s not very long. But if you’re doing an entire TV show or movie, you could be looking at a lot of time. And it’s easy to wonder if it’s worth the effort. Just remember all the benefits above.
Now that you’ve seen why it’s crucial to subtitle your videos, it’s time to start. The premise behind adding subtitles to your videos is simple. All you need to do is identify the times you’d like a particular subtitle displayed, then add the text.
Fortunately, subtitling apps will help you out with this. Aegisub, for example, lets you know when you have too many characters per line or too much text in a single subtitle, based on how long it’s displayed.
Once you’ve created your subtitles, you can either store them in a separate file (so your video can be played with or without them) or encode them directly into the video (so they’re always displayed). In general, it’s better to give viewers the option to view them or not.
We went through the entire subtitling process in our walkthrough of how to add subtitles to MP4s. If you want to learn how to add subtitles to your videos, check out the tutorial (how-to video included)!
Adding subtitles to your video isn’t especially hard—it just takes time and practice. And it might not seem like it’s worth it when you just want to share your videos.
But we’ve seen that adding subtitles increases accessibility, encourages better engagement, and even improves your search engine optimization.
There’s really nothing you have to lose (except the potential for more viewers). It’s time to start subtitling!