ListsTips & TricksYouTubeAll You Need To Know About Closed Captions (CC) On YouTube

Niharika Dutta2 weeks ago

Video is turning into the next big thing! And YouTube is undoubtedly the hub of all video content in the world. Approximately, 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube everyday and 300 hours of content is uploaded on the platform. So, it’s important to tap into the power of video content for your brand or even as an individual content creator.

As you can fathom the volume of content on YouTube by these stats, it is important to make your videos accessible to more people. Adding closed captions on YouTube videos is one of the most effective ways to reach more people. With closed captions on YouTube, you can reach the 360 million people worldwide who have hearing issues. So, read on to find out all about closed captions on YouTube.

What Are Closed Captions (CC)?

We need to first understand what are captions (and subtitles) on videos.

Captions and subtitles are text overlays on videos that usually represent translations from one language to another or simply the same language representation of dialogues within the video. Captions and subtitles are sometimes used interchangeably but there’s a difference.

The transcription of dialogues fall under the category of captions but when you translate the dialogues to another language, they are called subtitles. Captions can be understood simply by a narration of the script, including any sound effects or music playing within the video.

Captions are of two types - closed and open captions. Closed captioning gives you a choice whether you want to have captions in your viewing experience or not. You can turn it off with the click of a button. Open captioning is embedded within the video and cannot be done away with.

Captions are useful for people who are hard of hearing but subtitles assume that the viewer can hear the audio, but doesn’t know the language. Created before the release of a film or movie, subtitles are timed transcriptions and are synched with the audio and video.

Why captions and subtitles?

Have you ever been annoyed by a Facebook video blaring through your phone unexpectedly when you’ve opened the app simply to check your feed? Can put you in a pretty embarrassing situation, isn’t it? People are not looking for something that is shoved in their face. Rather a consumer will sit up and take notice if some something piques their interest. 

Wouldn’t it be better if you are shown a silent video with compelling content and captions to accompany it? Facebook’s research suggests that captioned video ads enhance video view time by 12%. It’s also important to note that 80% users react negatively towards social media feed videos playing loudly on their phones unexpectedly. In such a scenario, reaching these users with captions is an option you definitely should consider.

Here’s why you need to add captions to your videos -

To get more views
Captions increase the possibility of your videos being discovered by your audience as it gives an SEO boost to them. YouTube captions are indexed and read by YouTube and Google. Google gives higher preference to videos which are more informative and puts them on the top of the search results page. Optimized text integrated into your videos play an important role in helping search engines find your content. You can even make use of the script as a keyword strategy by plugging in keywords related to your content. If it’s a short video, try putting in the entire video transcript in the description box to gain brownie points in the search algorithm.

To have better accessibility
Videos with captions and subtitles can open up a whole new avenue for you. You’ll be able to reach millions of people who are either deaf, hard of hearing or non-English speaking. Not only that, even the usual hearing, English-speaking audience prefer captioned videos. People access video content through their smartphones while they are commuting or at work. They prefer watching them on silent mode with captions and subtitles on.

To get higher engagement and view time
In SEO, there is a lot of talk about bots: bots searching, bots crawling, and bots indexing. Search engine bots look for signals of relevancy left by humans. This is why engagement is important in video SEO. As we’ve mentioned earlier, captioned video ads enhance video view time by 12%. Another relevant fact is that 80% more people are likely to watch the whole video if it is armed with captions.

How to add closed captions on YouTube?

In 2009, Google declared that they were enabling automatic captioning capability to videos on YouTube. Before this announcement was made, content creators could only upload their own captions manually. The new system enabled captions to be automated generated by machine.

Google also made some improvements to the self-captioning services to make it better. After their updates, users could upload a script of the video and an automated software would match the text of the script to the relevant audio sections.

If your YouTube video’s audio quality is good with clearly spoken English, you can easily add closed captions on YouTube by using the automatic captioning feature. The machine-generated transcript often have errors, hence YouTube has provided an edit option for the same.

Automatic captions on YouTube are synthesized in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. They take time to process depending on how complex the audio is. You might have to wait for sometime before the script is ready.

Let’s first note the steps to add automatic captions on YouTube.

  1. Log into your channel and open your Video Manager by clicking your account’s logo in the top right corner of YouTube. From the drop-down, select Creator Studio and then on Video Manager. You will see a list of all your videos on the channel.
  2. Find the video you want to add captions to and click the drop-down menu right next to Edit.
  3. Click on Subtitles and CC.
    closed captions on youtube
  4. When you click on Add new subtitles or CC on the next screen, a search bar will be shown. Search for the relevant language.
    closed captions on youtube

  5. YouTube’s caption editor will open and you need to go through each caption frame to find out errors, if any, and correct them.
  6. Hit publish once you’re finished with the editing.

Do not forget to edit the captions for error-free content. Google can flag your content as spam if it detects poor quality captions in your YouTube videos.

How to add closed captions with a transcript?

If you already have a transcript, creating a caption file is always easier. To generate a transcript for your video, you can use an automatic speech recognition software Dictation or Speech Notes. Just make sure to check for accuracy and edit to make the final draft.

Once the transcript is ready, you’ll need to synchronize it with the video. We recommend you use an appropriate software to create timecodes instead of creating them yourself. You can even create timecodes on YouTube. Also, check for the correct caption format for your video player and you’re ready to upload the transcript.

YouTube supports the following file formats – SubRip (.srt), SubViewer (.sbv or .sub), MPsub (.mpsub), LRC(.lrc) and Videotron Lambda (.cap). If you’re just starting out, we recommmend you use the most basic formats, (.srt) or SubViewer (.sbv).

Once you have the captions file (text+timecodes) with you, follow the steps mentioned below –

  1. Log into YouTube Studio beta and from the options on the left and side, select Videos.
  2. Mouse over the title of the thumbnail of a video and click.
  3. Choose the Advanced tab.
  4. Click on Upload subtitles/cc.
  5. Choose an option from With timing or Without timing and select Continue.
  6. Select the file to upload.
  7. Click on Save.

In case you don’t have the transcript with you, YouTube allows you to transcribe on its platform and auto syncs with the audio. Follow these steps.

  1. Go to Add new subtitles or CC as we have mentioned above. Select the language for the closed captions you want to draft for your video. If your preferred language does not appear in the list, use the search bar to look for the language.
  2. Now, select the appropriate method. Since you don’t have a transcript ready, choose Transcribe and set timings.
    closed captions on youtube
    Source: YouTube
  3. You’ll get a text box. Start typing according to the audio in the video. As you type further, your video pauses automatically to let you finish typing. Since you’re creating closed captions, don’t forget to mention even the background noise and sounds.
    closed captions on youtube
  4. After you’re done, click on Set timings to auto-sync your transcript with the video.

Community contributions for closed captioning

YouTube allows your community of viewers to actually contribute to your titles, descriptions, subtitles and closed captions. Once you allow your viewers to contribute content, you can also manage the contributions by editing, reviewing, rejecting, flagging or publishing it.

Your community cannot simply start submitting their content to your videos. You have to first allow them to do so in your settings. Follow the steps below –

  1. Log into account and click on the logo of your channel on the top right corner. Select Creator Studio from the drop-down.
  2. From the options on the left-hand side, choose Translations & Transcriptions. Click on Community Contributions.
  3. Select Turn on for all videos. In case you don’t find that option, go to Settings in the top right and from there choose Turn on for all videos. You might be required to choose a default language before you proceed.

A few best practices for closed captioning

  1. Captions are displayed on a single frame just long enough so that the viewer can read easily (at least 1 second per caption frame).
  2. Do not overcrowd the video with captions. Limit to no more than two lines per frame.
  3. Captions should be perfectly synchronized with the audio.
  4. Mention speakers when more than one person is in the frame or when the speaker is not in view.
  5. Correct punctuation is a must.
  6. Check for correct spellings, even for proper nouns and names.
  7. Add sound effects in the text when they are relevant.
  8. Let your audience know in case the speaker is using a slang or speaking in a different dialect.

Views are the most important thing for content creators on YouTube. Whether higher ad revenue or enhanced brand reach is the goal, watching their views go up is any YouTuber’s dream come true! Adding closed captions on YouTube is one of the most important growth hacks on YouTube that may go unnoticed. We recommend you to implement this strategy and watch the results for yourself.


Thanks for reading the blog. If you are a creator and want more insights related to the performance of your videos. Reach us at 8527863094 or send in your queries at marketing@vidooly.com

Niharika Dutta

​Niharika Datta is a Content Writer at Vidooly. She started her career as a Human Resource professional but is now pursuing her love for writing. Though she writes about a myriad of ideas, her personal favourite is writing about the latest trends in the content and digital marketing world. An ambivert by nature, she likes to grab a snack with a warm cup of coffee in the company of a good book or a close friend.

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