VoiceBox, Part of Wolfestone Group

Updated for Summer 2020

With video becoming a crucial part of the marketing strategy for all companies and industries, we believe that captions and subtitles should become ubiquitous in the digital age.

Even though captions and subtitles are essential for millions of people worldwide, 41% of videos are incomprehensible without captions, subtitles or sound.

A tv remote with the 'subtitle' button emphasised.

The Difference Between Captions and Subtitles

It’s easy to conflate the two, as the use of terms varies internationally – here’s our quick guide to the differences.

Subtitles provide a written version of video dialogue. Captions on the other hand describe all the background sounds in a video as well. The differences can be complicated in other countries.

In North America, for example, subtitles in the same language as a spoken video are always called video captions. They tend to only refer to foreign language captions as subtitles. In the UK and other countries, it is more common to use subtitles as a general umbrella term.  

You can also choose between using closed captions or open captions.

Closed captions automatically play and can’t be turned off.

Open captions can be switched on or off at any moment. Back when television was king, these were the only form of video captioning that audiences could use, on a very limited number of TV programmes.

No matter which service you choose, or what you call it, they’re all useful – in fact, in many countries, subtitles or captions for video content are legally required.

Why use Subtitles/Captions?

1. Improve Accessibility

In our opinion, this should be every company’s top reason for adding captions and subtitles in their video strategy.

Over 5% of the world’s population (about 466 million) are deaf or hard of hearing. Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing – or SDH subtitles – are specifically designed to transcribe a full range of background sounds in a video, from a telephone ringing to a dog barking.

An interpreter signs at an event, illustrating how businesses should be committed to accessibility for all.

In fact, the recent popularity of SDH subtitles as a search engine query has lead to an increase in services that have decided to put their video captions under the umbrella term of subtitles.

If you need another reason to provide video captions, 80% of those who use them have no hearing disability. They may want video captions for reason as diverse as managing sensory overload, clarifying dialogue when actors mumble or in order to watch on public transport. Failing to include video captions or subtitles means that you’re putting an instant barrier between a significant chunk of your audience, your service and your company.

2. Beat Auto-play

At first glance, autoplay features on platforms like Facebook and Twitter might seem like a marketer’s best friend. But autoplay often mutes a video. In fact, a whopping 85 percent of Facebook videos are watched without sound.

So if you don’t use subtitles to clarify your content, you could lose the vast majority of your potential audience at the very first hurdle.

3. Go for SEO

Did you know that closed captions can boost your SEO ?

Search engines only consider data, such as descriptions, tags and meta-tags, when they rank video content. So, adding text through caption transcripts can  provide a major boost to your video ranking with superior SEO.

According to StageText, captions and subtitles also increase the chances of a viewer watching a video to completion by 80%. It’s a proven way of decreasing the dreaded bounce rate and boosting social shares.

An image of google analytics - SEO improvement through captions and subtitles can boost your pageviews.

Top Tip – Live Captions

Live captions do what they say on the tin, providing real time captions for spoken dialogue. While many companies assume the use of live captions is confined to corporate events or presentations, they’re also increasingly useful online.

Live streaming has gradually become a big part of social media marketing – and is thought to become a $70.5 billion industry by 2021. Using live captions on your live streams could provide you with a ‘double whammy’ for social media reach.

Use captions and subtitles for video growth.

VoiceBox multimedia agency provides captioning, subtitling and translation services for businesses worldwide. Even better, we pride ourselves on being a collaborative, client focused agency that will work hard to give you the best possible results, no matter what your brief or deadline.

Contact us now to get started with video captions and subtitles the easy way, with industry experts on hand.

Article written by Lois Arcari, VoiceBox contributor