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How to go international on YouTube: why localization and translation is essential for growth

Translating your videos will help you reach a wider audience and grow your channel. Reaching a global audience is easier than ever before using platforms like YouTube—but only if you're prepared to localization and translation. Here's how to get started.

According to YouTube, these are the strategies for reaching global audiences:

 “Maintain one channel with content in multiple languages

Create separate channels for different languages

Create one global channel and supporting local channels”

Why translating a channel will make you grow faster and safer

Even though English may seem to be spoken everywhere and by everyone, just 5% of people worldwide are native speakers. Out of the 7.8 billion people on earth, that translates to 373 million. 6% of people are native Spanish speakers, 12% speak Mandarin Chinese as their first language. And most videos posted on YouTube are not in English, which underlines that many viewers are not interested with English content.


Most people spend time on content and websites in their own languages if they can, check out our article about it.

Few people are aware that by expanding your YouTube business internationally and into new regions and languages, you may increase your revenue and help you stay diversified. If your channel is in English, for example. You can create a separate channel that is exclusively in Italian or Spanish and translate your English content to create an additional reliable source of traffic growth.

What language should you translate your channel in?

Are you unsure of the language that your YouTube channel should be in? Look up each of your viewers' locations in the YouTube Creator Studio Analytics. You can use this information to decide which language to start translating into. You can also check out our article. It goes over the major international trend, growth in eGDP (spending online) per language.

Central Approach: Maintain one channel with content in multiple languages with subtitles

Before seeing how we can internationalize a YouTube channel, it is important to understand that there is a decentralized and centralized approach to managing a channel. A central approach looks like this:

The headquarters is making all the decisions for YouTube channel.
There is one main language (most likely English)
Translation can be done (CC, titles, descriptions)
Videos in other languages can also be posted

Corporations like Nike have this approach, the whole channel is in English, organized in a central way, targeted towards an international audience, subtitles are available in many languages. Videos can be easily made in this method. They are exclusively published on one YouTube channel, under the control of the company headquarters. The audience can access this channel or find its video from anywhere in the world, searching in their home language.

The advantages of this system are:
Less work with a maximum impact: no need to be concerned about numerous channels, languages, and translations; On top of that, the target audience is very large because everything is done in English.
Moving quickly and aligning content is easier with little reliance on different stakeholders.
Algorithm-friendly: Since all user signals point to a single YouTube channel and users don't encounter any dead ends, which increases the likelihood that your videos will appear in search results when Google features them.
Greater number of subscribers: The ability to create an account with large numbers of followers, as there is only one account to follow.

On these types of channels, subtitles, and captions in multiple languages are already a huge step, for these 3 reasons:

  • More inclusive to people with disabilities
  • Many people watch videos without the sound
  • Capacity to translate and localize content in a cost-efficient way

But let's imagine you have a channel and intend to branch out into a new market by adding subtitles. Subtitles must be good – keep the tone, rhythm and be well-placed, so they are not off beat with the video. You would still probably not get ideal results if you solely want to localize videos using the subtitles. Even if the video becomes popular, a certain proportion of viewers will stop watching it if they hear people speak a foreign language.

(Note) YouTube currently supports automatic YouTube translation subtitles into Vietnamese, Indonesian, Italian, Spanish, Korean, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, French, and Japanese. These are automatic translation and will most definitely not as tailored for your local audience as professionally translated closed captions.

Create separate channels in different languages or supporting local channels

These 2 categories can be grouped together as essentially the same thing, which is to create content on a global channel that is then translated to other local channels. It can also work in a more decentralized way, where local marketing teams directly create content in the language of their clients without having input from the central channel.

Many YouTubers and content creator are internationalizing their content, and it is one of the best ways to grow quickly on social media. People love watching content in their own language, so if your content is good, there are no reasons to not translate it. Only certain creators have the capacity to have multiple channels in different languages:

  • Multilingual influencers
  • Big budget multichannel networks
  • Big budget YouTube channels (fast growth, corporations)

MrBeast: Fastest growing YouTuber going international

MrBeast is one of the biggest and most successful YouTuber on the platform, and he has started launching new YouTube channels that aren't in English starting July 8, 2021. The only difference between these channels and his English channels is that they have been dubbed and edited into a different language. Mr. Beast, Mr. Beast Gaming, and Beast Reacts have been partially dubbed and translated into Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, French, Hindi, and Arabic as of January 25, 2022.

These channels ignore and discard the older and more obscure videos and only upload the most recent type and quality of content. For instance, from the main channel, they would only upload videos of them doing challenges, or in the reaction channel, they would only upload the reaction videos from 2021 and after. Videos aren't uploaded in the same order as the English channels.

In these videos, the background music is frequently different (typically replaced with songs that foreign viewers will be more familiar with). And sounds like clapping, footsteps, and wind blowing that were present in the original video are replaced with sound effects to distinguish voices from other sounds in the video.

The international channels have been successful (the French channel now has 1.7 million subscribers) but still need some work even though there is no need for filming or preparation: Sound effect changes, dubbing, etc.

Local channels, a safe, and smart decision for international brands

Other examples of multiple channels depending on the country are ING, IKEA, Coca-Cola, McDonald, Samsung… Some advantages are that there are no language barriers because videos are understood in the target language. Conducting local initiatives is easier (e.g., country-specific promotions). Providing your audience is following the appropriate localized account and the content might help you have a more active, healthier community. On the other hand, the disadvantages are also significant, the channel's subscribers and views become dispersed, making it challenging to develop accounts with large audiences. It is also more expensive and difficult-to-manage channel setup. It requires local editorial boards for branding, messaging, and tone of voice. In reality, most national/local YouTube brand channels are a bit disorganized. They frequently have fewer subscribers and lack a defined content strategy.

Youtube Ikea

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