How to Add Subtitles to Your YouTube Videos: A Beginner’s Guide

Subtitles can be a great way to make your YouTube videos more accessible for everyone, especially those with hearing impairments. Subtitles can also be a great way to cater your content to an international audience, especially since over 85 different languages are spoken in the U.S. alone.

Making YouTube videos with subtitles requires some knowledge of video-editing software and how to create a subtitle file. It is an extra step, and usually the last hurdle that needs to be jumped before you can successfully upload your content, but modern platforms make the process much more user-friendly than it used to be.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to make YouTube videos with subtitles, including how to generate a subtitle file, how to upload it to YouTube, and why subtitles are beneficial for content creators.

Why Use Subtitles in YouTube Videos?

Before we get into the technical aspects of how to make YouTube videos with subtitles, let’s talk about why adding subtitles to your videos can be very valuable.

First and foremost, subtitles make videos more accessible, especially for viewers with hearing impairments. According to the CMVIC, full captions are the most accurate way to make video content available for the deaf and hard of hearing.

In addition to helping people who are deaf or hard of hearing, subtitles are also useful for people with different native languages; translating subtitles into different languages is an easy way to bring your video content to a wider audience.

Subtitles can also be useful for people who are watching your videos in loud environments and need to read what’s being said. They can be useful to viewers who are learning English, and they can increase engagement and reduce viewer fatigue.

Finally, subtitles are beneficial for SEO. Adding subtitles to your video along with relevant keywords can make your videos easier to find. Subtitles also help YouTube’s algorithms to better understand what’s being said onscreen, making them more likely to show your videos in search engine results.

How to Generate Subtitles for YouTube Videos

After you’ve decided to use subtitles in your YouTube videos, the next step is to actually generate the subtitle file. Fortunately, there are a few tools that can help content creators generate high-quality subtitle files.

The most accessible and affordable option is to generate subtitles manually, using tools such as YouTube’s own Speech to Text tool. To do this, simply upload your video to YouTube, click “More Options,” and then select the “Transcribe Audio” option at the bottom of the page.

From here, YouTube will automatically generate the transcript and you’ll be able to edit it as needed. Once you’ve edited the transcript, you’ll be able to export the file as a .vtt file for easy importing into your video editor.

If you don’t have the time or patience to manually generate a subtitle file, then you can use automated tools such as Happy Scribe or Rev Captioning. Both of these tools allow you to upload your video and automatically generate a subtitle file, which makes the whole process a lot faster and easier than manually transcribing and editing the subtitles yourself.

How to Upload Subtitles to YouTube

Once you’ve generated a subtitle file, the next step is uploading it to YouTube. This is a relatively straightforward process but there are a few things to keep in mind.

The first thing you need to do is make sure you have the right file format for YouTube. YouTube supports a variety of subtitle formats, including .sbv, .vtt, .srt, .ttml, and .webvtt. Most people will want to use the .vtt format because it’s easy to work with and can be used with most video-editing software.

Once you have the right file format, you’ll need to upload the file to YouTube. You can do this manually or through YouTube’s API. For manual uploading, login to YouTube, select your video, and click “Subtitles/CC” under the video’s settings menu. From here, you’ll be able to upload your subtitle file directly to YouTube.

To upload subtitles with YouTube’s API, you’ll need to be comfortable working with code. The API allows you to upload video files to YouTube’s servers, which then renders the subtitles over the video. This method can be useful for videos that have been compressed before uploading, as the subtitles will be displayed in the compressed format.

Why Are Subtitles Important?

Subtitles are important for a number of reasons. As we’ve discussed, subtitles make your videos more accessible for viewers who have trouble hearing, as well as viewers who are watching in loud environments or learning English.

Subtitles are also useful for SEO; they help YouTube’s algorithms understand what’s being said in the video and can help your videos show up in search engine results.

Finally, subtitles can help you reach a wider audience, as you can easily translate your subtitles into different languages.


Adding subtitles to your YouTube videos can be a great way to make them more accessible and cater your content to an international audience. It may seem like a lot of work, but modern tools and platforms make the whole process a lot easier than it used to be.

Using tools such as YouTube’s own Speech to Text tool, you can quickly and easily generate a subtitle file, or you can use automated tools such as Happy Scribe or Rev Captioning. Then, you’ll need to make sure you’re uploading the right file format (such as .vtt) to YouTube, either manually or through YouTube’s API.

Ultimately, subtitles should be an integral part of your video production and upload process. By taking the time to add subtitles to your videos, you can improve accessibility and broaden your audience—all while boosting SEO.

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