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How to Add Captions & Subtitles to YouTube Videos | Easy Guide

Improve your YouTube video's SEO and accessibility. Follow this easy guide on how to add captions and subtitles to YouTube videos.
Ortal Hadad
Content Specialist & Blog Editor
Last Updated:
March 5, 2024
Reviewed by
Ortal Hadad

Looking to add captions and subtitles to YouTube Videos? 

Well, it’s certainly a good idea. YouTube captions make your content more inclusive and accessible to a wider demographic. Captions can also boost your reach in search results. 

Note sure where to start, though? 

We've written a step-by-step guide, so adding captions and subtitles is quick and easy. Keep reading to learn how to add captions and subtitles to YouTube videos! 

Why should you add captions to your YouTube videos?

Here’s why implementing captions in your Youtube videos is a good idea:

Improved accessibility

With captions, more people can consume your content. That includes the deaf and hard of hearing, who would otherwise be unable to interpret and engage with your videos.

Captions might seem unimportant to those who can hear, but for people with hearing disabilities, it can be the difference between being included or excluded. And with 20% of the world population affected by hearing loss, creators should ensure their content is accessible.  

Increased views and engagement

A Youtube video with captions can get you much more reach. 

Don’t believe us? According to a study by Discovery Digital Networks, YouTube videos with closed captions have 40% more views than those without. On average, the videos’ views improved by 7.32% over their lifespan. 

That is a lot of engagement you otherwise wouldn’t get without captions.

Improved user experience 

Many people benefit from captions, not just those with a hearing impairment.

  • 69% of people say they watch videos without sound in public. This can be because of noisy environments or out of politeness for others around them. 
  • 29% of respondents in another study cited that they use subtitles to watch their content at home quietly so as not to disturb roommates or family members.
  • Captions are beneficial to children learning to read and speak English. They’re also good for the comprehension and memory retention of adults, especially those who are neurodivergent.
  • Some viewers don’t speak English fluently and may have difficulties decoding fast speech. Captions help to make speech clear for them.

All these people add up and translate into a potential audience. Don’t let them slip through your fingers! 

Improved SEO

Here’s something you might not have realized about captions: They can be indexed and searched just like any type of text!

If you want your videos to have a better chance of showing up in search results, adding captions is a good idea. This will optimize your content for search engines and allow for more discovery.

A study by Liveclicker compared 37 landing pages before and after adding captions to their videos. Pages with captions earned 16% more revenue compared to when they didn’t have captions.

Captions vs. Subtitles: Which should you add to your YouTube videos?

The words “captions” and “subtitles” are often used interchangeably, but they’re two different things. 

Captions are text that accompanies a movie, video, or any media that contains verbal communication. They contain descriptions of sound, like [door slams] and [music] to accommodate deaf and hard-of-hearing users.

There are two types of captions:

Open captions: Also known as burn-in captions, these are embedded in the video and viewers cannot turn them off. These give you room for creativity as you can style and format your captions as you’d like them to appear. Your captions can even add to the mood of your video through font and placement choices. 

Closed captions: Unlike open captions, viewers can turn closed captions on or off. You’ll usually upload a caption file in conjunction with your video. Your sharing platform will then enable viewers to choose whether to display them on the video. 

Subtitles are similar to closed captions, but their main goal is to accommodate viewers who don’t understand the spoken language of the video. They’re often in a different language than the accompanying audio.  

For example, you’ll see English subtitles in foreign-language media such as K-dramas and anime. Viewers can turn subtitles on or off, and subtitles usually don’t contain descriptions of sounds like captions do. 

Read more: Closed Captions vs Subtitles: The Difference & When to Use Each

Can YouTube automatically add subtitles?

Yes, Youtube automatically generates and adds closed captions for most videos in supported languages. 

This isn’t the most accurate option, though. The accuracy of Youtube captions can be affected by:

  • Audio quality: Audio with distortion or background noise can result in some words not being recognized. Alternatively, if your audio is too quiet, the AI won’t be able to pick up on it very well. 
  • Speaking with an accent/dialect: Some accents and dialects are not easily recognized by Youtube’s speech recognition. 
  • Sounds: Speech recognition technology may confuse sounds with actual human speech, resulting in incorrect captions.

Automatic captions are a good starting point. However, they require some review and editing to be helpful to your audience. 

You can use automatic captions in over a dozen languages, including Indonesian, Dutch, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese. 

How to add subtitles and closed captions on YouTube Videos in YouTube Studio

There are multiple ways of adding subtitles and closed captions to Youtube videos. In fact, Youtube auto-generates captions by default if you upload a video in a supported language.

But If you don’t want auto-generated captions, here’s how to add captions to Youtube videos:

Step 1: Go to YouTube Studio and select Subtitles on the left menu. 

Step 2: Choose the video you want to add subtitles to.

Step 3: Click on Add Language. You’ll see a prompt to choose the subtitle language.

Adding captions to YouTube videos

Step 4: Click Add.

YouTube Subtitle settings

Step 5: There are 2 methods of manually adding captions that YouTube offers you. 

  1. Upload File: If you have your own transcript, such as one generated by Riverside, you can upload it here.
  2. Type Manually: With this option, you must type captions out by hand. YouTube offers shortcuts to help you do this quicker, but we don’t recommend it as it takes time and effort.

There are also two automated features to save you some time and effort:

  1. Auto Translate: This allows YouTube to automatically generate translations in other languages of your choice for captions.
  2. Auto Sync: YouTube automatically syncs the captions to your video rather than you doing it yourself.
Different methods for adding captions and subtitles to YouTube videos

Step 6: Once done, click Publish

Reviewing automated captions on YouTube

Step 1: Go to Youtube Studio

Step 2: Check if YouTube has already generated automatic captions. 

This can take time, depending on the length of your video and the traffic on YouTube when uploading. 

To check this, click Subtitles on the left menu.

Step 3: Find the video you want to review. Next to it, you should see the Languages column. 

You should see English (Automatic) if YouTube has already generated subtitles for you. 

YouTube subtitle languages

Step 4: Click Duplicate and Edit on the right-hand side. This will open the Youtube Caption Editor. 

Adding a caption to a YouTube video

Here you can review the automatically generated subtitles, add punctuation, and correct any grammatical or spelling mistakes. 

Step 5: Click Edit Timings. This will show you the timestamps of your captions. 

For the most part, the timings are pretty accurate, but you may need to make some adjustments. 

If there’s missing text and you need to add a caption, simply drag the end of the previous caption to its proper position and then click the + sign underneath the previous caption to add a new one.

Editing Youtube captions and subtitles

How to add captions to YouTube videos manually

Recording and adding captions with Riverside

If you want to make videos with accurate captions for your viewers, consider using Riverside

Our software doesn’t just record — it can transcribe audio and video straight after recording. We support over 100 languages, and our high-quality recordings and AI technology ensure you get accurate transcripts each time. You can record in up to 48kHz audio, with automated background noise removal and echo cancellation for crystal clear sound. 

Best of all, you can use your AI transcriptions to edit and navigate through your recordings without replaying anything. But here’s how to create YouTube captions and subtitles using Riverside: 

Step 1: Record your video on Riverside. Once you finish, select View Recordings to view your files. If you’d like to transcribe a previous video, navigate to the studio you recorded with and click View recordings

Recording a YouTube video on Riverside

Step 2: You should see a preview of your recording transcript alongside your actual video and audio files. To download this, scroll down to 'Recording Files', and next to transcript select Download. (You can also see a full preview by selecting the three dots next to 'Download', then selecting 'View transcript'.)

Step 3: You can choose between an SRT (Subtitle File) or TXT (Transcript) file. For Youtube, you’ll require the SRT file as it contains timestamps. 

Step 4: The transcript will download onto your computer. Check your transcripts for any inconsistencies or spelling errors.

Step 5: If you want closed captions, go to Youtube Studio and select Subtitles from the left menu. Upload the SRT file, and you’ve got captions on your video! 

If you want open captions, then select 'Go to Editor' from your recording page. Here in the top toolbar is a captions button. Click this to burn captions into your video. You can choose a style, then feel free to drag your captions into the position you like on your video.

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Adding captions for free on Riverside 

Step 1: If you didn’t record your video on Riverside, don’t worry — you can still use the transcription feature. Go to Riverside AI Transcription to get a full transcript of your video. It’s accurate, fast, and free.  

Step 2: Upload your file. Make sure it’s in a supported format such as .mp3, .mp4, .mov, or .wav. 

Step 3: Select the language of the recording and verify that you’re not a robot. Riverside supports over 100 languages for transcription. 

Step 4: Click Start Transcribing and wait. This usually takes a few minutes.

Step 5: Your file is ready! You can download your transcript as an SRT or TXT file. 

For Youtube, you’ll need to select the SRT option. TXT are better for blog posts or anything that requires plain text. 

Step 6: Go to Youtube Studio and select Subtitles from the left menu. Click the video you want to add captions to. After selecting the language, click Add. Upload your SRT file and save it. 

Alternatively, import the SRT file into your preferred video editor if you want open captions. 

Best practices for adding YouTube captions & subtitles

Here are a set of general guidelines for making sure your Youtube captions are high-quality and beneficial to your audience.

  • Check for proper capitalization, punctuation, and grammar: Always ensure your captions are correct. Grammatical and spelling errors can make your content seem amateurish.
  • Identify separate speakers: Use labels like [Steve:] or [Speaker 1:] to show who is talking at a given time. (Riverside does this automatically for you!) 
  • Include sound effects: This is an important step in providing context and understanding for deaf viewers. Writing sound effects in brackets is a generally good idea to help your deaf audience know what’s going on. 
  • Translation: You can translate your captions into different languages with Youtube’s caption translation or via a translator. 

FAQs on Adding Captions & Subtitles to YouTube Videos

How do you put English subtitles on YouTube?

There are three ways of adding subtitles to Youtube videos. 

  1. You can use Youtube’s automatically generated closed captions: These require editing and fine-tuning to ensure they’re suitable for the audience.
  2. You can upload a transcript: You can use a transcription tool to make an accurate transcript and upload it as an SRT file. 
  3. You can type the transcript manually by yourself: Select the “Type manually” option under the Subtitles tab on Youtube Studio. 

How can I get Youtube subtitles without a CC option?

You can use Google Chrome's AI-based feature to get YouTube subtitles without a CC option. It provides captions in real time for any audio source. Here’s how you can activate it:

Step 1: Click the three vertical dots on the top right of your Chrome menu bar and select Settings.

Step 2: Click Accessibility on the left-hand side. 

Step 3: Click Captions and enable Live Caption.

Can you manually add subtitles to YouTube video?


To manually add your subtitles on Youtube, you can either use a transcript or type it yourself. Both options can be found on the Subtitles tab in Youtube Studio. 

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