How to improve your video marketing strategy using subtitles?

Let's be honest here, does your video content need subtitles?

Regardless of language and geography, you want your videos to reach as many people as possible. Why else would you spend all that time filming and editing video content if it is only watched by 10% of the people globally who are actually interested in your topic?

85 per cent of Facebook videos are watched on mute. 466 million people globally are hard of hearing - That is one in 20 people around the world! By 2050, that number is expected to grow to 700 million, while around 2.5 billion people will have some per cent of hearing loss.

And just think about the last couple of videos you watched… Did you even turn on the sound? If you didn't, why would your audience?

subtitle your videos

Subtitling effect on video marketing

Most users’ news feeds are already full of short videos that feature subtitles and that is because it makes it much easier for people to consume the information presented to them in the videos. Various studies show that subtitling a video improves comprehension, attention, and memory of the video.

Many studies report multiple benefits to viewers - from summarising main ideas (Markham, 2000–2001), to recalling facts (Brasel & Gips, 2014), drawing inferences (Linebarger et al., 2010), defining words (Griffin & Dumestre, 1992–1993), identifying emotions (Murphy-Berman & Whobrey, 1983), and answering multiple-choice comprehension questions (Hinkin, Harris, & Miranda, 2014; Markham & Peter, 2002–2003; Murphy-Berman & Jorgensen, 1980).

If you have spent any time on Social Media, and digital (which I assume you have, why else are you reading this?) you already know that it has become the wild west where companies and influencers are competing in millions for viewers’ attention, doing whatever it takes to get those views. When something as simple as adding subtitles improves engagement with up to 80% it is surprising that any videos at all are created without them.

This really does mean that subtitles can be the difference between your viewer clicking your video versus clicking the one next to it. In an age of content overload, viewers are much pickier with the content they watch and are more inclined to continue watching after viewing a preview of your video without sound.

A good example of this is the way YouTube allows viewers to preview the first 30 seconds of a video – without the subtitles enticing the viewer to click, chances are they will not as they do not know what is going on in the video and whether it is worth their time.

Raise your hand if you are guilty of this!

What are the different types of subtitles?

Subtitles are the written representation of the spoken word and, sometimes, audio in any form of moving picture or video. From Hollywood blockbusters to a YouTube video on how to assemble an IKEA bed frame.

Subtitles were originally used in the silent films of the 1900s to add a little bit of explanation of the action to keep audiences engaged. Once audio became possible in film and television, subtitles became a tool for accessibility, allowing those with hearing difficulties to understand the on-screen action. Today, of course, there are many different types of subtitles and different reasons for using them.

There are three main types of video subtitling: open caption, closed caption and SDH (Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing). The type you choose will depend on the purpose of your videos and your intended audience.

Open caption subtitling
‘Open caption subtitling’ is when the subtitles you create are permanently ‘burned in’ to your video, which means they cannot be turned off. In most cases, this is a decision you will make at the early stages of the video-making process, as you may need to leave space on the screen for the subtitles. These subtitles sit on top of your video (usually at the bottom) and are exported with your video when you export it from your video editing software as a .mp4 file for example.

Closed caption subtitling
Offered as an option on YouTube videos and streaming services such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer, closed caption subtitles are the kind you will probably have seen the most. These are the subtitles that can be turned on or off. They usually appear in one or two lines of 42 characters (7 words per line of subtitling).

SDH subtitles
These subtitles are specifically created with a deaf or hard of hearing audience in mind, and so will describe other audible details as well as the words, in order to help the audience understand the action or mood of the scene. For example, an SDH subtitle might read ‘theme music plays’, or ‘Announcer (over PA)’. SDH stands for “Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing”. This type of subtitling is most common in films and television, where action other than words is important. However, I believe it is equally important in any type of video content as being inclusive is not something that you just pick and choose between.

When a considerable proportion of viewers consume videos on mute, relevant and exciting subtitles can truly up your video content game. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Use Nova A.I. to automatically create a transcript for your video. This transcript can be uploaded as an .srt file to your video upload to YouTube for example. (Search engines LOVE this, but more on this later).
  • Use Nova A.I. to automatically create subtitles on your videos. Edit the subtitle styles and text to suit your video best.
  • Or DO BOTH!

Remember to sync your captions to the footage to deliver a seamless viewing experience!

Subtitles can boost website rankings (SEO)

The first step to improving SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) with video content is obviously to make video content of high quality which in turn makes visitors stay on your website for longer. Increased dwell time means a positive boost to your rankings.

As documented above, subtitles improve engagement rates on many different levels. However, subtitles themselves can help with SEO in other ways because Google indexes the subtitles you have added to your video which makes a huge difference in how many people find your website.

It is important to add that this indexing does not happen with subtitles that are automatically generated by YouTube or Instagram for example once the video is already uploaded to the platform. The subtitles must be added to your video in the editing process or uploaded as a separate file to the video player platform (such as uploading an .srt with your video to YouTube).

Furthermore, search engines tend to reward videos that have been watched all the way through with higher rankings which subtitles will help achieve.

Top tip? Use a few well-placed keywords within your video subtitles when no one is speaking and you are helping the search engines recognise you as a key player in your field.

Having subtitles will help you rank higher for relevant keywords and align better with the users’ queries. If your content answers what the user is looking for, it will naturally have a lower bounce rate.

Subtitles improve engagement

One of the most significant advantages of adding subtitles to your videos is boosting engagement across platforms by creating a better viewing experience for all the above-mentioned reasons.

While you are naturally deeply absorbed in your video, the editing of it and the concept, your viewers are most likely watching your content whilst being on the move, on a bus or waiting for the train, or with multiple other screens open at the same time. Endlessly scrolling through their feeds, mostly on their smartphones. Jumping from one video to another if one is not entertaining enough or giving them the information they need. I mean, why watch something until the end if there is one right next to it that is more engaging?

By adding subtitles viewers can watch your content right away instead of saving your video for later.

So, videos with subtitles can both spur curiosity and generate more interest among the viewers. Greater viewer interest will naturally strengthen the video’s performance in terms of engagement metrics.

Creating videos with subtitles is one of the easiest and most underrated ways to supercharge your content marketing efforts.

Whether you are looking to engage more with your target audience and build a loyal community, reach new audiences or aim for higher search engine rankings, subtitling your videos can help you achieve multiple goals.

Tracking metrics like the ones below will help you determine how well your video content is doing online:

  • Average view time
  • Number of views
  • Number of repeat views
  • Average view completion rate
  • Click-through rate
  • Conversion rate

Best subtitling practices

You can add subtitles to your video using subtitling software or working with professional subtitlers. These are creative professionals who know how to perfectly capture your video’s message in easily readable subtitles.

Professional subtitlers can be fairly expensive and nowadays there are many automated software options available that can do it faster and cheaper. Nova A.I. can for example subtitle 2 hours of content in 20 minutes automatically.

  • Use a large, easily readable font size and style such as Arial, Helvetica, Verdana, and Times New Roman at point size 22.
  • Place subtitles at the bottom centre of the screen to avoid clashing with other on-screen text or images.
  • Avoid overly lengthy subtitles. Ensure each subtitle is concise (no more than one complete sentence on the screen at a time). Use a maximum of 42 characters (that is the equivalent of 6 to 7 words per line of subtitle).
  • If you are posting the video on your own site or on YouTube, consider including a full transcript on the page or in the video description. This boosts the video’s SEO ranking and gives viewers the option of reading every word that is spoken in the video.

Top tip: Nova A.I. can automatically make you a complete transcript of your video.

Avoid these common subtitling mistakes

  • Subtitling is not the same as transcribing. Be sure to avoid word-to-word subtitling. The full transcript contains everything that is said during the video, but the subtitles must often be abbreviated to ensure that they are readable.
  • People tend to speak faster than they read, so you must ensure that your subtitles are short enough to fit with the speed of the on-screen speech.
  • Avoid unnatural line breaks to ensure the text is clearly readable and understandable.
  • Avoid auto captions and subtitles, such as the auto-captions in YouTube or Instagram. These often contain inaccuracies, are riddled with mistakes or they are not optimised for readability. They will often have unnatural line breaks and spelling mistakes.

Start subtitling now

Now that you know why you should be subtitling your video content and best practices for how to do it, start using Nova A.I. automatic subtitle generator now to subtitle your videos in more than 37 different languages.

Back to blog
Share this post
others now

Start creating right now, for free.

The only thing stopping you is yourself, start now for free and we will take you through your first steps of video creation.

No credit card required
Export projects for free