How to Add Captions to YouTube Videos

Video Content Tips

Many people want to know how to add captions to YouTube videos. Adding subtitles to YouTube videos benefits your viewers and helps your content too.


Content creators spend enough time planning and making the videos. Turning your video's audio to text can be a time consuming task, but it doesn't have to be. 

In this post you'll learn why you should subtitle your YouTube videos, the best way to transcribe the audio to text, and how to easily add the captions to YouTube.

YouTube gives you all the tools to do it directly within their platform. We'll talk about how that all works and the pros and cons. 

You could also use online transcription software that makes the process quicker and easier.

You can even get your fan base or friends to help you subtitle your videos! This speeds up the transcription time, allowing you to focus more on creating content, than transcribing. 

Once you see how easy it can be, you'll be captioning all your videos and reaping the SEO benefits from it. So let's get started!

Why You Should Caption YouTube Videos

  • Deaf or hard of hearing - 37.5 million Americans over the age of 18, report having some hearing loss. WHO estimates 466 million people worldwide.
  • Global reach - You can reach a bigger audience by subtitling videos in other languages.
  • People listen with the sound off - in one study 92% of mobile users watched videos with the sound off. 
  • Improves Focus and Retention - People focus more on videos with captions and retain better what was said.
  • People Watch Longer - People view videos with captions longer than those without.
  • Improved SEO - Google can't read audio, but it can read text. Converting audio to text will allow Google and other search engines to know what your video is about and find the right audience for your content. 

Subtitles vs Closed Captions (CC)

Captions often come by different names. Subtitles, closed captions, and open captions are all a form of on screen text that tells you what the people are saying in the video.

There are some subtle differences between the three; which you choose to use depends on what platform you are posting on and how you make your captions. 

Since we are talking YouTube here, CC and subtitles is what you can upload or complete. If you are looking for open captions, you would have to add them using other software and upload the video. 

YouTube subtitles of various languages

YouTube Subtitles in Various Languages

  • Subtitles - Are translations of the words, when the viewer can't speak the language. YouTube and Netflix use subtitles a lot. They can have multiple options of languages, including CC. 
  • Closed Captions or CC - Are for the Deaf or hard of hearing, with a transcript of the words and includes descriptions of other sounds, like "phone ringing", "music intensifies". These can be turned on or off by the viewer. 
  • Open Captions - Can be a mix of both, but the main difference is they are burned onto the video. The viewer cannot turn them on or off; they are always on the video. Because they are burned onto the video, Google, and other search engines, can't read it. 

How do you add text to a YouTube video? There are a couple of ways to do this. This can be a tedious process or it can be super easy depending what you use.  

So let's talk about how to create subtitles or captions for your YouTube videos.

How to Add Captions on YouTube Videos

Transcribing for Free

Adding captions or subtitles on YouTube is easy. If your video is a scripted one and you didn't change anything you said, then you already have the transcript! This makes the process a bit easier. You can just upload the file and fine tune the captions/subtitles. If not, you will first have to transcribe the audio into text.

Often videos are unscripted, especially interviews with back and forth banter. This is when you need to create the captions from scratch. 

Creating transcriptions from scratch can be hard. Maybe hard is not the right word. Tedious. If you have transcribed before, you know what I mean.

When the speaker is talking fast, or if there is a back and forth discussion between two speakers, you'll be pausing a lot just to get everything down. Unless you are a professional transcriber, we mere mortals tend to be slow at this. 

Obviously the longer the video, the longer it takes to transcribe. If you have a lot of videos....well you can imagine how long that could take. 

Getting Started in YouTube

Log in to your YouTube account. Click the circle in the top right-hand corner to access the account dropdown. From there, select YouTube Studio

On the leftsidebar look for Subtitles and click on it. Then look under the videos (on the right) and you will see Languages with a dropdown arrow. When you drop it down, you can Add a language (subtitle). 

Now you are ready to either Upload a File, Transcribe and Auto-Sync, or Create Subtitles or CC.  

Upload a File

You can upload a file containing completed subtitles with timings, like an .SRT or .VTT file. You can't upload a Word document. Here's a list of files you can upload.

Once you have uploaded your file, it will take you to the Transcribe and Auto-sync screen where you can auto-sync the timings.

Transcribe and Auto-sync

YouTube's Transcribe and Auto-sync allows you to type the transcript into a little window and have the timings of the captions auto-synced.

You can also create the transcript in a document editor like Word or Google Docs and then copy-paste the transcription in.

Once you have done that click the Set Timings button and then wait for it to finish. This can take quite a while, go have a coffee.

Once it is done, you will be brought to the YouTube caption editor to edit the timings and subtitles.

YouTube's Transcribe and Autosync

YouTube's Transcribe and Auto-sync

Create New Subtitles or CC

If you are starting subtitles from scratch you can also just go directly to the YouTube caption editor under Create New Subtitles or CC. All roads end here, whether you use YouTube's Upload a File or Transcribe and Auto-Sync.

Editing in YouTube's Caption Editor

Here you will add subtitles and make your own timings. There is limited functionality here. Basically, you can add a subtitle and/or delete a subtitle. Type what you hear in the bubbles or edit the subtitles. 

Whether you uploaded a file or transcript or are starting from scratch, adjusting the timings on the subtitles is simple. Just slide the bar on the edges of the subtitle to where you want it, or grab and drag the whole subtitle. 

YouTube Subtitle Editor

YouTube's Subtitle Editor

If you need to split the sentences, then it involves a process of copy/cut and pasting all down the line. There are a bunch of hotkeys for things like: rewind by a second, go forward a second, or pause the video, etc.

Overall it is very basic and gets the job done. This works great if you are on a budget or have a handful of shorter videos. If you have longer videos, or a lot of videos on YouTube, you need something a little more specialized. 

An Easier Way to Add Captions

Crowdscriber's free online transcription software is an easier way to add captions to YouTube videos. It was specifically designed just for this.

It connects directly to your YouTube account, making the editing and uploading of captions to YouTube super quick and easy. Let's look at how it works.


Choose Your Video

Pick your video to transcribe

Once you have created your account (create one here), make sure to link your YouTube account. Now, you'll see all your YouTube videos. Just pick the video you want to transcribe! 

If you didn't link your account, you can upload a video directly from your computer, or just add the YouTube URL under Imported Content

Are you a fan of someone on YouTube and want to help them out? Just grab the YouTube URL, add it, and transcribe away. 


Auto-Captions or Not?

If auto-captions have been enabled on your YouTube account (or the account of the video you want to transcribe) then we can give you a head start by having the auto-captions and timings added.

These auto-captions come from YouTube, so they would be the same as you would get through YouTube's editor. Many professional transcriptionists prefer to start without auto-captions. 

Auto captions

Choose whether you want the auto-captions and then generate your transcription link. Now this is where the magic happens


Power of the People

Once you have your link, you can now do something truly magical. You can complete the whole transcription yourself with our easy to use software. Just click the Assign me a chunk.

What makes Crowdscriber different from other transcription programs is it breaks your work into two minute chunks. That means you can share that link with your fans, subscribers, friends, team, dog (okay maybe not your dog) and they can help you transcribe.

Crowdscriber Shareable Link

This means you can send that one link to a bunch of people and get your transcription done quickly. If someone gets their chunk done fast, they can jump in and grab another one. Many hands make light work

Chunk distribution

Crowd........scriber? Now you get it.


Easy Way to Transcribe Your Video 

Using this software over YouTube's editor will make transcribing so much easier. Whether you are transcribing the audio to text yourself, or have a team doing it, it needs to be fast and easy.

Here are some of the key features.  

  • Control the speed of the audio - slow it down, speed it up
  • Mouse or hotkeys - Everybody is different, choose your style, or both!
  • Split and merge subtitles - Forget copy, cut, and paste.  
  • Two views - Transcribe your video in a list view or timeline view
  • Small chunks - Manageable, less daunting, shareable  

 Once you and/or your team are done transcribing, it's time to review!


Review Your Subtitles and Approve Them

Whether you've done the subtitles yourself, or you've had them crowdscribed, it's always good practice to review your subtitles one last time before you publish them.

As the content curator, you can see the status of all the distributed chunks and who they are assigned to. 

Crowdscriber Transcription Interface

This is where transparency is key. You can review every chunk that’s been completed. No one can pull a fast one on you and try and sneak in swears, or just bad work. You get the final say.  



Add Captions to YouTube

You've approved your subtitles/captions and have them just the way you want. Now it's time to add them to YouTube. With your account linked to YouTube, it couldn't be easier. 

Once all the chunks are approved. Hit Publish. Then you have the option to Upload the captions to YouTube directly, or download the subtitles as a file that you can use anywhere. It's that simple!

Add Captions to YouTube Videos

How to Add Subtitles to Other People's YouTube Videos

Why would you want to add subtitles to someone else's YouTube video?

  1. You are a fan of the channel. 
  2. The video is important and you also want it to be accessible to the Deaf or hard of hearing.
  3. You can speak and write in another language, and translating their video will open it up to others that speak your language. 

Can You Add Subtitles to Someone Else's YouTube Video?

Well it's a trick question. With Crowdscriber you can create them, just not publish them directly. 

With YouTube, it depends. You can, only if the video creator allows Community Captions by having this feature enabled (A lot of people may not realize the power of captions or even how to add them).

If Community Captions are not enabled, then you can't create captions through YouTube's editor. That's where your journey ends.

With Crowdscriber you can still create subtitles, and then reach out to the video owner and offer the completed captions. Wait until you see how super simple Crowdscriber makes it possible.

To see if Community Captions are enabled, click the three dots below the video and choose Add Translations. That will take you to the YouTube Caption Editor. 

How to add a translation to YouTube

If you can add a language (captions) you can go ahead and Upload a File, Transcribe and Auto-Sync or Create Subtitles from scratch like mentioned above.

Adding Captions to Other People's YouTube Videos Using Crowdscriber

Creating captions for someone else's video using Crowdscriber is easy. You can still transcribe the video whether or not they allow Community Captions. 

It's super easy to start. Copy the URL of any YouTube video. Then paste the link under Imported Content. Boom! That's it.

Add a YouTube URL

Now start transcribing using our awesome editor by harnessing the Power of the Crowd, or doing it yourself. 

Publishing Captions for Other People's YouTube Videos 

Now this is where it gets awesome. Since you don’t own the content, you’re unable to publish it directly to YouTube, but you will still have a couple options to help get the captions to YouTube.

Once you have reviewed and approved all the chunks, click Publish

Adding Captions to Someone Else's YouTube video

You will then see this box pop up. You can click the Download as button to download the subtitles in one of the file formats of .SRT, .VTT, or just a text file. You could send these to the YouTube video owner, but there is an even easier way!

The better option is to copy the provided link and send it to the owner of the YouTube video. When they click the link you provided, they will see this:

Publisher Claiming Chunk

How awesome is that?! It costs them nothing, and they can just create a free account and instantly add those transcriptions you completed. It's a win-win!

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About the author 


Oliver has been a content creator and market researcher with a passion for helping people understand and learn through his writing.

He also writes for his own travel site Ačiū. He lives in Canada and was raised in a German household. Being bilingual has given him the opportunity to gain valuable experience in transcribing and translating videos and podcasts.

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