Think back to the last time you watched a video on your smartphone or tablet. Was there sound? Did you turn it on? If not, how did you follow what was happening on your screen?

They may seem unobtrusive and easy to track, but adding subtitles and/or captions to your finished products is key to the success of video marketing. According to Facebook, a staggering 80 percent of videos are viewed without sound – despite the fact that 75 percent of published videos need audio in order to fully engage with the viewer. Subtitles and captions are the perfect bridge to cross that gap.

Subtitles Vs. Captions: What’s The Difference When It Comes To Video Marketing?

While the two words are often seen as interchangeable, there is a definite difference between the two. Generally, subtitles that are used for TV and film are there to help the audience understand the dialogue and contextualize video content. If an international audience is part of your video marketing strategy, subtitles are a must-have.

Closed captioning, meanwhile, is primarily to provide deaf and hard of hearing audiences with a clear understanding and context of what is going on in the video. Closed captions include descriptions of background noises, sound effects and description of vocalization (e.g. screaming, sadly, whispered). Closed captioning also includes forced narrative and speaker identification, which is vital when the speaker may not be on screen.

Over 28 million American adults are deaf or hard of hearing, and will be excluded from your video marketing strategy without captions. Likewise, an impressive 60 percent of YouTube views come from non-English speaking users, making subtitles a wise investment of your time.

6 More Ways Captions Will Strengthen Your Video Marketing

While making sure your videos are accessible is an important reason for adding subtitles and captioning, there are plenty of other ways that they benefit the average viewer.


1. Many People Don’t Turn On Audio

Like I pointed out earlier, upwards of 80 percent of Facebook videos are watched without sound. Of course Snapchat reports that two-thirds of the videos played on their app have the sound on, but the point still stands: there will always be a significant number of viewers who don’t turn the sound on, and will miss out on what’s going on without captions.

2. Captions Improve Comprehension

People learn in different ways. Some absorb information best through doing, others watching and still more by listening. But if your viewers aren’t visual learners, they may find a video without captions to be disengaging, taking their viewership elsewhere. The combination of video and text is strong, with greater appeal than just video.

In fact, there is endless anecdotal evidence to show that many viewers prefer to watch video with subtitles on as an accompaniment to the audio.

3. Not Everyone Speaks Your Language

Great content can transcend language barriers – but only if it’s translated. According to YouTube, their platform now offers language support for browsing in 76 languages and closed captioning for 165. Combined, that provides an opportunity for videos to be viewed by 95 percent of internet users worldwide in their native language.

English is the most commonly used language on the wider internet, but Mandarin Chinese isn’t far behind. Some parts of the world use the internet mostly in Arabic or Spanish. Take your target audience’s language into account when executing your video marketing strategy.

4. Viewers Are More Engaged

A 2009 trial by PLYmedia found that viewers were significantly more likely to watch a video to completion if it featured captions. Without captions videos were watched (on average) 66 percent to completion, compared to 91 percent with captions. This impact was most evident among Spanish audiences, which increased the duration viewers were watching videos by nearly 50 percent.

5. Captions Increase Video Social Reach


Captioned videos on Facebook have 16 percent higher reach than those without, according to this 2018 study by Instapage. Using A/B testing, the study looked at data from over 16.5 hours of video with more than 4,000 views and this is what they found:

  • Average total view time was five percent higher on the variation with captions, and it was watched by three percent more viewers

  • Average reach of the captioned video was 16 percent higher than the one without

  • Reactions to the video were also higher on the version with captions, by more than 17 percent on average

  • Average shares dropped when captions were removed, by nearly 15 percent

  • Average video views were a little lower without captions, by about four percent — but 10-second video views were significantly lower — nearly 18 percent

  • Call to action clicks fell by 26 percent when captions were removed


6. Captions Improve SEO

Search engines can’t watch a video – they need text to crawl through. We’ve talked about the importance of SEO in your video strategy, which includes keywords in your title, description and video tags. Uploading captions to your video adds one more layer of information for the platform’s search algorithm to look through.

It’s especially important that you upload the captions yourself. Not only does it give you exact control over what’s being displayed - search engines will consider it text that has not been automatically generated.

What Makes (Or Breaks) Your Subtitles

The presentation of subtitles on your video, both optically and structurally, has a serious impact on your viewer’s understanding and enjoyment of the content. The differences between a positive and negative experience are vast, but taking the viewer from one to the other can usually be done with a few minor and easily fixable issues.

Here are some tips from the language experts at The Translation Journal.

The Visuals

Avoid presenting too much text on screen at once. Make sure the subtitles are easy to follow, and allow them to be onscreen long enough to be read. Ideally, each subtitle should contain a single complete sentence. Wherever two lines of unequal length are used, the upper line should be the shorter one. This maximizes the amount of action on screen that remains visible and, in left-justified subtitles, reduces unnecessary eye movement.

Font Choices

It is important to caption all important dialogue, and to distinguish between speakers in subtitling. If necessary, and especially if your subtitles are different from the language being spoken, you may need to simplify the text to make the subtitles easy to ready and allow viewers to understand them at first sight.

1.      Legibility

Captions and subtitles have moving images behind them that are constantly shifting color, or moving and changing in ways that can be disorienting to the eye. Your text must stand out from all of that, and there are two main ways of dealing with it:

  • Add an outline to the text (for example, a thin black border around white text)

  • Add a solid background or color box behind the text

If you choose the outline option, accompany it with a font that has consistent character widths and no serifs. A sans serif font prevents the colored border from bunching up and appearing thicker at the thinner points in the font, which are usually the serifs. Sans serif fonts also stand out better because they retain their shape against movement. Serifs can appear to flutter visually against a digital image.

2.     Readability

This is related to legibility, but focuses on how quickly the viewer can read through the text, as opposed to being able to tell it apart from the background image. Being able to read the caption and subtitle text in time with the dialog is essential to comprehension. If the viewer can’t keep up with the content, they won’t engage with the video. Character limits, timing and a font’s readability are all part of that process.

Pick a font that most viewers will already be accustomed to seeing like Arial, Helvetica or Verdana. Non-standard fonts, even ones that appear aesthetically pleasing, can take longer to read as your brain sorts the flourishes separately from the actual letters.

Other considerations include the width of individual characters, an appropriate amount of space between characters (is that an “rn” or an “m?”) and a clear differentiation between the upper and lower-cases of each letter. While these may not make much of a difference to a single line of text, working harder to read 6,000 words or an entire hour of television adds up to some serious eye strain.


3.     Symbol And Character Support

It’s crucial to choose fonts that will support your project’s technical and language requirements. Remember that captions and subtitles also require symbols occasionally. Most notable of these is musical notes (the symbol ♪) when the text corresponds to the lyrics in a song – so it’s good to pick a font that includes them.

Positioning Subtitles

Position subtitles at the bottom center of the screen and avoid clashing with any on-screen text. Exceptions for this convention include avoiding obscuring on-screen captions, or any part of a speaker’s mouth or eyes.

Timing is Everything

Always ensure accuracy in captioning. Synchronize your captions with naturally occurring pauses in speech or changes of scene so that they flow with the spoken dialogue instead of fighting against it.

Work With Tabrizi On Your Next Video Marketing Project

Whether you’re looking for an event recap, product explainer, promotional video or more, let Tabrizi Productions be your partner! Contact us today to schedule your free project consultation.