How to Add Transcripts to Your YouTube Videos

Last summer I mentioned some YouTube optimization tips that small business owners can use to get the most out of online video. But that was a year ago! Today I wanted to share one more tip that can help video-savvy small business owners get a big leg up on their competition: Adding transcripts to your videos.

Creating full written transcripts of your videos is an easy way to increase the benefits you receive from online video. By doing so, small business owners will be able to:

  • Attract the skimmers: Like it or not, not everyone will be interested in watching your video. They’re busy and they just want the immediate facts. By creating a transcript to go along with your video, people don’t have to watch it in order to benefit from the information. This may help you attract customers who are interested in learning more, but don’t want to sit and watch a four-minute video. Some people prefer just to skim.
  • Provide content for people who can’t watch video: Whether it’s because they’re accessing the content via a mobile device or it’s an accessibility issue, creating a written transcript provides users an additional way to take in your information and engage with your brand. Without the transcript, they may just keep on going.
  • Increase your SEO power: Transcripts allow small business owners to take advantage of keyword-rich text and be more strategic about the videos they’re creating. By surrounding the video with relevant text, you make the search engines happy by giving them content to index, and you make users happy when your content suddenly becomes easier to find.

Now that you know the benefits of adding transcripts to your video, how do you go about doing it? Here’s where you should start.

Optimize your script/dialogue

One of the biggest benefits of creating a transcript to go along with your video is that it allows you to include keyword-rich text that users and the search engines can use to find you. However, you can’t use those keywords if they’re not in the video. Logical, right? That means you need to do your keyword research beforehand to know which terms you want to appear for and make sure you use them in the video. I know it sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many SMB owners don’t think to do that. After all, the search engines can’t understand video so keywords don’t matter, right? Wrong! Make sure you get them in there.

Prepare the file

Google wants SMB owners to increase the accessibility of their videos, and to help them do that they’ve created a special Help page to explain how to prepare a transcript file. I’d encourage you to check that out; however, here are some things you’ll want to pay special attention to when creating your file:

  • Save your transcript document as a plain text file.
  • Don’t use any special characters (smartquotes, em dashes, etc) which could disrupt speech recognition matching from YouTube and readability of the transcript.
  • Use a double line break to signal a long pause (3 seconds or longer) or a new sentence.
  • Add tags like >> at the beginning of a new line to identify speakers or change of speaker.
  • At the end of the video, include a link to your website in the audio transcript.

Upload the file

Once you have your transcript file, you have to upload it to YouTube. To do that, you’ll want to log in, go to My Videos and select Edit for the video you want to add a transcript to. Once you’re there, navigate yourself to the Captions and Subtitles screen.

Once you’re in that screen, you’ll be able to upload your file, select the Transcript file option, pick your language, and then upload it.

Once uploaded, give it a few minutes and then click Play on your video to confirm that file upload correctly and you’re seeing CC enabled on your video. If it does, you’re all done. Easy, right?

Creating a transcript to go along with your video is super easy to do and is a great way to increase both your video’s usability and search-engine friendliness.


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

18 Reactions
  1. Lisa, do you know any companies that will create the file for me?

  2. Robert: That will create the plain text file? I’m sure you could find a low-cost service or student that will do it for you. You might even be able to use a site like Fiverr or another job board-type site. I know we do video transcription for some of our clients, but it’s part of a larger project, we don’t just do the videos themselves.

  3. You might also want to check out captiontube. I tested it out after seeing that Loic le Meur was considering it for his “Build your own Brand” video series and now use it on all personal videos (MiChmski on YouTube) and pro (
    Like you mentioned, it’s great for SEO, and also it allows for automatic translation via Google Translate (for an American living in Paris – it’s great 🙂 )

  4. Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for the informative article. One question though: in the article you are taking about adding a transcript text file, so that the viewer might skim the contents when she does not want to play and wait for the whole video. If so, then the file should be uploaded as “Transcript file”. In the final screenshot you are showing the selection as “Caption file” (though specified correctly in the para above) and requesting the user to check the Caption. I am not sure if it is a mixup. Anyhow, I got your point and thanks again.

  5. Hi Lisa, maybe I’m missing something (more than likely) but is it possible to optimise a video on youtube after its already been uploaded? Or do you just have to start over?

  6. Great tip, Lisa! As soon as I read your article, I knew I had to act on this right away. I had no idea I could add search-able text to my painting videos. And with your instructions, I was able to upload our company video, transpose the script I had in Word to Notepad with the edits you and Google suggested and upload those all in 5 minutes! And the CC worked perfectly the first time! I will now be doing this for all our painting company videos from now on. Thanks!!

  7. Great instructions, Lisa. I got it correctly on the first attempt. Thank you.

  8. Not only is Youtube transcripts useful SEO and usability they allow you to use them as articles or blog posts or even as drafts for a book or ebook.

    So, transcription of your Youtube videos should be part of your content strategy.

  9. Thanks for the post!
    Carey is right. Including transcripts with your online videos is essential for SEO and can really put businesses ahead of the competition.
    Video transcription can also help you provide better services to viewers who are hard of hearing or find it easier to absorb information that is presented in text form.

  10. It’s been so long since I’ve added a transcript to a YouTube video I had to do a Google search and it led me here. Thanks for the great article. I know this article is old but if anyone else is wondering where you can go to get transcripts of videos “on the cheap” go to Fiverr. You can have videos up to 5 minutes in length transcribed for $5.

    Travis Van Slooten

  11. Excellent post. Video transcripts are very much relevant for the traffic. Thanks a lot for sharing this valuable tips. Loved the post.

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