How to Add Subtitles to a YouTube Video (Step-by-Step Guide)

"Growing your YouTube channel takes TIME. The key is good content. Just keep making good content and the views will come."

That's your basic Youtuber Guru advice.

While it's true... you want to know about the hacks that top YouTubers used to get where they are today. Well I've got one for you:


They're a super effective, yet overlooked, part of growing fast on YouTube. Let's look at the 3 reasons they'll help you grow, and then I'll show you how to add subtitles to your YouTube videos.

1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

YouTube is the world's second largest search engine! There's 720,000 hours of videos uploaded to YouTube every day. And 75% of all Millennials want to be a YouTuber. How can you stand out?

Apart from making amazing content, you probably know that YouTube SEO is crucial. That's why you should add subtitles to your YouTube video. In a second, I'll show you how. But first, let me explain something.

How YouTube Knows What Your Video is About

It's gotten easier for a machine or program to figure out what an article is about. Just look at all the words and find the ones that repeat. Yes, there's more to it than that, but I think Google does a pretty good job, right?

Imagine how hard it is for a machine to know what a video is about. How does that even work? Does it use words in the title, the description, the tags? Yes, but people can lie or fake those things. How can YouTube know what the actual video is about?

Here's how:

"YouTube converts the words in a video to text. And then crawls the text to know what the video is about. That's how it knows who to recommend a video to or where to rank it in search."

But how accurate are YouTube's transcriptions from video to text?

Why the Automatic YouTube Subtitles Get a C+

They don't always (hardly ever actually) convert your video to text accurately. Here's the main reasons why:

  • πŸ“Ί The Tech Just Ain't Good Enough Yet - we can't blame them. I think it's pretty impressive that they can do it at all for 720,000 hours of content a day.
  • πŸŽ™ Your Audio Isn't Perfect - even the best audio has slight disturbances that throw off YouTube's automatic transcriptions. If there's multiple voices at the same time... forget it.
  • πŸ’΅ It's Too Expensive For Them - the best video transcriptions cost money. Later on, I'll explain why they're worth it. But with the amount of content YouTube processes every second, it's too expensive to offer the best transcriptions for free.

YouTube Needs Your Help

YouTube knows that their YouTube transcriptions are inaccurate. That's why YouTube doesn't count or consider their own transcriptions for SEO. You need to help YouTube. Here's how:

Add custom YouTube transcripts!

They want as much information about your video as possible so they can know what it's about. So they can recommend it to the right people!

Why You Need to Add Custom YouTube Transcripts

  • More AccurateΒ transcripts πŸ€ͺ - what's the point otherwise? Inaccurate subtitles are a bad experience for the viewer and give false information to YouTube.
  • Punctuation and Capitalization ❓ - humans will read it, so it needs to be human readable. Periods, commas and new lines make reading subtitles easier. Don't underestimate how important good formatting is.
  • πŸ“ˆ It Counts For SEO! - the best reason of all. Better SEO = better rankings = more views! It the easiest SEO hack I know to get more views.

2. User Experience (UX)

Have you ever watched a movie with the subtitles on? Your eyes are drawn to them and it's almost impossible not to read to them.

Is that a good thing though? According to a few studies conducted by YouTube itself.. yes it is.

Why subtitles increase view duration:

  • πŸ‘€πŸ‘‚ Same message through 2 senses - you're listening to the words being spoken AND reading them on the screen. This makes it harder to leave the video because you're so engaged.

  • πŸ‘‹ Something is always happening on the screen - people drop-off very quickly if your video doesn't often change visually. Having youtube subtitles on means that something is always happening on your screen. It doesn't get boring, leading to longer watch times.

There's hundreds of factors that affect the success of your video. But to YouTube, only 2 things really matter:

  • Do people click on your video?
  • Do they watch your video?

Seriously, all the other stuff is fluff compared to those two things. All big YouTubers know it. In fact, Mr Beast has even said the same thing. With 63 Million subscribers, he knows what he's talking about.

How do you measure those two things? It's easy, YouTube does the calculations for you:

  • Click-Through-Rate (CTR) - that's how you measure if people click on your video

CTR is a measurement of how enticing your title and thumbnail is

  • Average View Duration - a measure of how much of your video people watch.

Average View Duration is a measurement of how engaging your video is

THE POINT: subtitles will increase your average view duration. Which is the most important factor of your success on YouTube.

3. A Wider Audience (MUCH Wider)

There's 2 new groups of viewers that adding subtitles to your youtube video will expose you to:

  • People who want to watch without the sound on
  • People who can't understand English well, but can read it (it's common!)

Let's look at why in more detail.

YouTube Subtitles - Watch Without Sound

Most people scroll social media feeds with the sound off. If you're sitting in a library, then that makes sense for Instagram and TikTok. You don't always need sound for them. But for YouTube?

Lots of people watch YouTube videos with the sound off. It's not always suitable to have the sound on. Maybe you're in a quiet place, or maybe you don't want people to hear. Maybe you're sitting on the bus and don't have headphones?

Only for certain content though. If you want to watch someone demonstrate how to bake a strawberry cheesecake, you don't need the sound. But by having subtitles, the viewer can get all the information possible from the video without the sound.

⚠️ Don't underestimate how many people watch without sound ⚠️

If your videos aren't purely visual... then you need to have subtitles to keep viewers engaged when they have the sound off.

YouTube Subtitles - Helpful For Non-English Speakers

Are your YouTube videos in English? I've got news for you:

85% of all YouTube users don't speak english natively

Many can speak at least a little english, but it's not their native tongue. It's not as "comfortable" for them. You might be surprised how many of your viewers would watch with youtube subtitles turn on, if you had them.

There are literally over a billion YouTube users around the world that would prefer to watch your video with subtitles. It would be insane to not give them what they wanted. After all, that's how you succeed on YouTube, by giving people an experience that they enjoy.

PRO TIP: if you really want to level up: add subtitles in multiple languages. That way, the hundreds of million of YouTuber users that can't understand your video- now can!

Don't forget: Youtube has over 2 BILLION users worldwide

How to Add Subtitles to a YouTube Video in 5 Steps

Step 1: Get your YouTube transcript (subtitles) file

Enter the link to your video on the youtube transcripts tool, submit it, and get an accurate transcript mailed to you in 3 minutes.

Get fast, accurate and cheap youtube transcripts from

Step 2: Download your YouTube transcript from your email

You'll get your YouTube subtitles file via email. Scroll down to the bottom of the email and download your .srt file.

You'll get your YouTube transcript sent to your inbox

Step 3: Go to the subtitles section of your video on YouTube creator studio and click "Add Language"

Choose the language that you want to upload subtitles for

Step 4: Select a language and then click "Add"

Click "ADD" under the subtitles section

Step 5: Click upload and select your youtube transcripts file

Click "upload file" and select your youtube transcript .srt file

Step 6: Review and edit your YouTube subtitles

If your video's audio quality isn't great, it's possible your transcript has mistakes. Just scroll through it to make sure. Simply change the text if there are mistakes.

Simply edit the text if you see an error

Step 7: You're done! Keep an Eye YouTube Analytics

After adding subtitles to your YouTube video, your analytics will likely increase in the coming months

SUMMARY: How to Add Subtitles on YouTube

  • YouTube is bigger than you think, you need to do everything you can to stand out.
  • Adding YouTube subtitles is good for SEO, User Experience and for reaching a wider audience.
  • It's EASY to get fast, accurate and cheap youtube transcripts.


Thanks for reading my article on adding subtitles on YouTube. If you liked it, please share it with someone else it may help =)

Matt Phelps

my channel

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