Why do you need captions?


So you’ve made an awesome video, you’ve uploaded it, what next? Have you created any captions? You might think including captions (or subtitles) to your video is a long winded and unnecessary thing to do but it could be the difference between getting your video seen and not noticed at all.

There are two very important reasons why you need to add captions to all of your videos. Let’s dive in and find out why. More importantly, how do you add them in the first place?

1. Google needs to find it

If your video is on YouTube captions will help your video content get found in ‘Search’ (e.g. a search engine).

Search engine optimisation is the process of maximising the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.

Let’s say you want to find out how to hang wallpaper. You go to Google (other search engines are available – but Google is by far the biggest) and you type in ‘how do I hang wallpaper’.

Your search results will give you a number of options . (in the ‘SERPS’ page, Search Engine Results Page):

  • a specific answer to a question you posed in search
  • loads of websites to visit
  • images
  • videos
  • shopping
  • news . . . and more

In order for a video to appear in the search results it needs to have some captions. This is because Google needs some text to search for.

If you’ve made a video that demonstrates how to hang wallpaper, Google won’t be able to find your lovely video because it can’t understand the content – it will only understand text.

So in order for your YouTube video to stand a chance of appearing in a search result, it needs captions (which provide Google with content to refer to (called indexing)) when corroborating whether your content could answer the search intention of the user.

2. Viewers won’t be listening

Most people watch video without sound.

Yep – in fact the number is a whopping 85% on Facebook (in fact on most social platforms).

We use our smartphones in lots of public places and we don’t really want other people knowing what we’re up to. So more often than not, we have the sound off.

Without captions guess how long most people will watch your video for? You’ve guessed it, not very long at all.

That doesn’t mean audio isn’t important though because it is. Audio is something we cover in more detail on our video making courses (find out more here).

However, back to captions. You need them if you want to be noticed. Your video should make as much sense without audio as it does with it.

So, how do you add captions?

This really depends where you’re uploading your video to. There are some apps available (like Innocaption and ClearCaptions) but most of these are unreliable at accurately working out what you’re saying. If you want to do this for free – be prepared for some fiddly text editing.

Some social media platforms also have software that will create captions for you, some don’t. Let’s look at the more popular options.


At the time of writing, YouTube is going through a little bit of a transition with it’s uploading process. We’re hoping this will make it easier to add captions to your videos. However, as it stands, YouTube’s software for creating captions is so good that we suggest using this and nothing else.

A caption generator works by scanning through your video and making a best guess at all the dialogue contained in it. What it won’t do is:

  • get it right 100%
  • work well with strong accents
  • understand punctuation

Therefore, when the software has finished you will need to check that everything is correct. You should check:

  • spelling (YouTube uses US spelling)
  • add punctuation
  • make sure the captions match what you’re saying
  • make sure the captions appear in sync with your speech

Finally, when you’re satisfied everything is correct you can download a file created by the software that contains all of your captions. Then you won’t need to go through this tiresome process when you upload your video elsewhere. You can use this captions file (srt) to your video in Facebook and LinkedIn but as yet, not Instagram or Twitter (we’ll come on to that).

Click here for a full run down of how to add captions to a video in YouTube.


Like YouTube, Facebook have a similar process for uploading video. However you only get the option to add captions if you upload to a Facebook page. It won’t work in groups or your personal profile.

The software Facebook provides for searching the dialogue in your video is nowhere near as accurate as YouTube’s version and editing it afterwards is really tricky. We’re hoping that Facebook will catch up before too long but for the time being it’s software isn’t very user friendly.

However you have the option to upload a caption file you’ve already created. So, use the YouTube generator to create your captions and then download that file to Facebook. For Facebook you will need an .srt file and you should title it like this ‘[videoname].en_US.srt’.

That’s it, job done. Go and put a brew on.

Instagram and Twitter

At present both Instagram and Twitter have no software to generate captions for you. This means you will have to add them during the editing process (often referred to as burning). You might think it’s easier to do this for all platforms but remember that Google uses those captions to search for your video so you will still need to add the captions within YouTube.

The process for adding captions to your video during editing will differ depending on which software you are using. Most will allow you to upload an .srt file in much the same way that Facebook does (and YouTube for that matter).

Want to find out more?

There’s no denying that captions are an essential part of your video prep if you want to get results. But it can be a bit of a tricky process to get right. Don’t worry, we get it, we hate doing it too.

If you’d like more advice on adding captions, how to get started, or if you’d like us to help you further please get in touch.

Click here to visit our contact page.