13 smart reasons to use captions on YouTube videos

Caption from Welcome to The Publicity Hound's Website Video

I started using captions on my YouTube videos about a year ago when someone reminded me that it’s just one more place where Google can find keywords. That’s Reason Number 1 and it’s reason enough for me. (The screenshot above is my “Welcome to My Website” video.) 

Reason Number 2: It helps people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

I just found a Storify that explains 11 more very smart reasons to use YouTube captions. Most include not wanting to annoy other people who are within earshot while you’re watching videos. But I saw a few more reasons I hadn’t thought of.

—They eliminate the need for headphones if you want to turn off the volume.

—They help you better understand the video if it was made by someone who has a very heavy accent. This is a frequent problem when I go to YouTube searching for a “how to” video. I find a great one with step-by-step directions, but I have difficulty understanding the person who created it and speaks English as a second language.

—If a parent is watching videos while kids are present, it prevents the kids from hearing F bombs.

—It’s easier to understand a YouTube video if you have the volume turned off and you’re reading the captions while also watching TV and hearing THAT audio.

—They help those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Bottom Line: Captions expose your videos to a much bigger audience.

YouTube makes it fairly easy to create captions for your videos. You have three choices:

1. Let YouTube use voice recognition to automatically add captions. I’ve done this and it isn’t very effective because words and phrases end up being garbled. If you use this, make sure you edit the captions for accuracy.     

2. If you read a script while recording the video, simply upload the script. Easy!

3. If you didn’t use a script, transcribe it. This is what I usually do. Since most of my videos are under three minutes and I’m a fast typist, it only takes me a few more minutes to transcribe it. I like the way YouTube has this set up. You hit the transcribe button just once and the audio starts playing. When you stop typing, the audio starts again. No need to press “start” or “stop” buttons.

You can also add more than one track for captions. For example, provide one track for English captions and a second track for Spanish. (I guess that’s Reason Number 14.)

A hat tip to Publicity Hound Meryl K. Evans for pointing out the discussion on Storify over on Google+.  

Have I convinced you? Will you start including captions on your videos? What other reasons can you think of for doing so? 


About Joan Stewart

Publicity expert Joan Stewart, a PR mentor aka The Publicity Hound, works with small business owners who need free publicity, and with PR pros who tell their clients' stories to the world. She shows you how to establish your credibility, enhance your reputation, position yourself as an expert, and sell more products and services. To receive her free DIY publicity tips twice a week, subscribe here. See all the ways you can work with Joan. Or contact her and ask a burning question about PR, self-promotion or social media.


  1. Fantastic article. I would also add that under the provisions of the 2009 Telecommunications act it is now legally mandated that all webcast videos require closed captioning. I happen to run a small business that provides closed captioning for webcast content. We specialize in videos that require a bit more complex captions than you would be able to create with just a transcript. If you are interested in my work visit my website at http://www.captionmonkey.net or check out my YouTube channel.

    • Joan Stewart says:

      This is the first time I’ve heard of the legal mandate. Anyway, thanks for stopping by and commenting, Caption Monkey.

  2. I have used Caption Tube…another option for your readers. http://captiontube.appspot.com. I used it on my husband’s video (Alan R. Sims, a forensic real estate appraiser). It is not entirely user friendly however, if you click on the closed captioning button (not available on all devices), you have your choice of MANY languages (thanks to Google translate). Here is a link to Alan’s video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVO_o_tNzJI&sns=em

    • Joan Stewart says:

      Cathleen, thanks for this tip. Too bad they didn’t find a way to eliminate that long string of numbers just above the captions.

  3. Joan, thank you for spreading the word on the value of captions and for captioning your videos!

    • Joan Stewart says:

      I’m so glad I saw this tip that you shared on Google+. I’m picking up a lot of content on Google+ for this blog. Thanks for being a longtime Publicity Hound, Meryl.

  4. Brilliant advice as usual….

  5. Great article! Here are even more reasons to caption your YouTube videos: http://www.captionsforyoutube.com/blog/posts/1-3-reasons-to-caption-your-youtube-videos

    • Joan Stewart says:

      Tole, thanks for linking to the three great reasons. A YouTube channel I created for a client will soon include a second track of captions in Spanish, for the reasons you listed. Thanks for stopping by.

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