Localizing (translating) existing content on YouTube to reach new audiences: smart. Especially for successful content creators who have captured a large portion of their target audience and are seeing their growth, inevitably, plateau.
At this point, it’s either burn through resources to reach more of that existing audience (at greater expense with fewer returns) or reach new audiences another way: by speaking their language.
This said, there’s no point in localizing content if the target audience struggles to find the content that’s been tailored for them. Imagine: person goes to Vice’s YouTube channel to watch its viral "How to become TripAdvisor's #1 fake restaurant” video in English, but the first video they see is “La historia de ‘Last Resort’ de Papa Roach”. Person bounces.
To avoid this scenario, it's important to pick the right strategy for organizing translated content on YouTube.
There are several options, each with pros and cons. Here's an overview of all four.
1. One channel with multi-language audio tracks
YouTube’s multi-language audio tracks let creators upload audio files for different languages directly within a single video. Once a video has multiple audio options, users can select a video’s settings and change the audio track at any time.
Pros of multi-language audio tracks
- MLA tracks simplify the dilemma of hosting translated content on YouTube. Previously, localized content had to be uploaded as a separate video, either within a creator’s main channel or to a dedicated channel for a specific language or geography. Now, creators can reach a large global audience without adding extra videos or managing multiple channels.
- Users will get recommendations for available content based on their location, so creators don’t have to worry about organizing their localized content into separate channel playlists.
- Since viewers watching in their native language are likely to be more engaged, videos with multiple audio tracks could benefit from longer watch times and click-through rates, increasing monetization potential.
- Creators with smaller followings or who produce content only irregularly aren't yet elligible for the feature.
For most content creators and brands distributing content on YouTube, MLA tracks are now the best way of organizing translated content. Channel management is simplified, user experience improves, and offering a library of content in users’ native languages will improve reach and engagement metrics. While there are some cases where running multiple channels still makes sense, it’s no longer a requirement for addressing a global audience.
2. One channel with videos in different languages
Another easy way to organize translated content on YouTube is to add all videos to the same channel, no matter the language.
See Vox’s YouTube channel for an example of this in action. While most videos are in English, there are separate playlists for content in other languages, like Spanish and German.
Pros to offering videos in multiple languages from one channel
- Like using MLA tracks, it’s easier to manage than separate language channels.
- All viewers and subscribers are in one place, which could increase views on each video. For example, users looking for content in Spanish might click through to other English-language videos if they’re interesting. For smaller channels, that might make all the difference in tipping them past the 1K subscribers and 4K publicly watched hours needed to qualify for YouTube’s Partner Program.
- Creators can go from two videos a week to six by adding support for one or two extra languages. More videos mean more opportunities for ad placements, which could increase channel monetization.
- One channel creates brand consistency. Viewers aren't confused when searching for a creator on Google or YouTube, and subscribers aren't split across several channel options.
- Any gains in efficiency are offset by a poor subscriber experience. When a user subscribes to a channel, new videos from that creator automatically appear in their subscription feed. Often, they receive notifications about new videos, as well. If a creator adds videos in multiple languages to one channel, subscribers that only speak one language will get updates for videos in languages they can’t understand. And if the new videos are localized versions of existing content, these updates will also be repetitive.
- A poor user experience and repetitive content could alienate viewers. Creators could see a rise in the number of users that unsubscribe, as well as decreased click-through rates and watch times.
This is a straightforward way to organize YouTube content, but the impact on subscriber experience isn’t worth it. Previously, the only other option was to create and manage multiple YouTube channels – often unrealistic for time-strapped creators. Now, YouTube’s multi-language audio tracks make it easy to host localized content on a single channel without damaging the user experience. Creators that want all the benefits of a single channel without sacrificing user experience should now use MLA tracks.
3. Separate channels for each language
For a better subscriber experience, content creators can add a new channel for each supported language.
Pros of using multiple channels
- Each channel can be tailored to its local audience. It’s easier to feature local events or country-specific promotions, which could increase monetization options and subscriber engagement.
- Content in different languages has a dedicated home. Subscribers can easily navigate to relevant content, and the YouTube algorithm will recommend additional videos from this set pool. This naturally leads to increased engagement, longer watch times, and a higher click-through rate than channels with multiple videos in separate languages. In the case of longer watch times, this can directly improve ad serve and lead to greater video revenue. However, adding MLA tracks to content on one main channel also improves these metrics – without the need to spend time managing multiple channels.
- Events can be cross-promoted on all language channels – so creators don’t miss out by splitting off their audiences.
- It takes a lot more effort to manage and maintain multiple channels. This effort only grows with the number of languages or geographies on offer.
- Each time a creator adds a channel for a new language, they’re effectively starting from scratch. They need a steady flow of localized content and a strong social strategy to grow viewers and subscribers and qualify for the YouTube Partner Program. For content creators with fewer resources, these demands might prove too much.
- Views and subscribers are split over several channels. Unless a brand is very popular, this could reduce channel traction and make discovery harder. Supporting several different channels could also dilute a creator’s brand identity.
In Papercup’s experience running localized channels, we’ve never seen a noticeable dip in viewership for those with separate localized channels. But to improve discoverability and maximize viewing figures, creators using separate channels should specify the language or country in each channel name and cross-promote their offerings.
4. One global channel with supporting local channels
Larger brands or companies could use a single channel as their main hub, then add supporting channels for region-specific content.
An example of this in action is Playmobil. The company has one main channel with language-specific playlists, plus individual channels for nine languages and geographies.
- This approach combines the best of options one and three. One default global channel allows creators to consolidate views and establish a strong international brand. Separate channels with region-specific content engage viewers on multiple levels and avoid subscriber cannibalization.
- Creators can use the main channel to funnel viewers to local offerings, while providing enough unique content on the lead channel to keep viewers subscribed to both.
- It’s only really worth it for creators with enough viewers to justify separate additional offerings.
- It requires a sophisticated content strategy – brands need enough content to support both the global and region-specific channels.
- In practice, it’s best suited for larger companies that can create unique content for each channel, in a variety of languages.
For creators with significant resources, this option can offer a genuinely superior audience experience. Subscribers know where to go for regional and global content, and channels can grow more successfully with local brand partnerships and collaborations.
However, it's also incredibly labor-intensive. A high level of content refreshes are required to keep recommendations strong on each channel. And without clearly differentiated local and international content, creators run the risk of regional channels cannibalizing their main channel's subscribers.
While it's worth considering for larger brands, the addition of YouTube's multi-language audio tracks means sticking with one channel is generally a better strategy.
How to organize YouTube videos for the best results
With the release of multi-language audio tracks, creators are seeing an opportunity to consolidate their YouTube channels and capitalize on higher numbers of viewers and subscribers. But, for larger brands, it’s worth considering where separate channels can still add value.
If audiences in different territories would benefit from distinct content, it might make sense to keep separate channels – or at least offer separate playlists for each territory in one main channel. The key is to weigh the benefits of greater regional engagement against the time sink of maintaining and moderating multiple channels.
An AI dubbing tool like Papercup simplifies the process and can help creators reach global audiences faster. By working closely with YouTube, we’re able to advise on the best strategy for organizing channels – including how to make the most of YouTube’s MLA feature with our quality-assured dubbing that scales.