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. Sensibly, 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. 

Here’s how to avoid this scenario by picking the right strategy for organizing translated content on YouTube. Our Head of Creator Community works through the options laid out by YouTube on this help page, highlighting the pros and cons of each one, to help content creators of all sizes to make the best decision for their business.

1. One channel, multiple languages

Upload multiple languages for different geographies to the same channel.

Example from Vox here.

YouTube says:

A single channel means brand consistency, plus a single channel is easier for viewers to find if the audiences use the same search terms  – i.e. the word ‘yoga’ is the same in French, German and Spanish – despite the language difference.

Having one channel is beneficial for engagement as views and subscribers are consolidated in one place and one channel is also a lot easier to manage than multiple ones. 

YouTube also points out a downside to this approach: when posts, comments and feed updates appear in multiple different languages, the audience could get confused. YouTube’s solution: add subtitles and captions to make your videos more accessible, and add sections and playlists for different languages or geographies on the channel’s homepage.

Margarita, Papercup’s Head of Creator Community, says:

Pros: Keeping videos in multiple languages on one channel would not be my go-to strategy for most channels, unless they are in a particular language-related niche. But there are advantages to keeping original and translated content on one channel. Imagine you normally upload two English videos per week but now that you’ve translated them into Polish and Italian, you’re releasing six videos per week, which can give you a boost from the algorithm simply for the volume of content that can keep its viewers on the platform. This could lead to more views and more watch time and it also provides more opportunity for ad placements, which increases the channel’s monetization potential. For brand new channels, this can theoretically get them into YouTube’s partner program faster as well.

Cons: At the same time, what could happen is that non-subscribers are recommended a video that is not in their language simply because YouTube still deems them a potential audience for the channel. If this happens, the non-subscriber will likely scroll through and hurt the channel’s click-through rate. And as for subscribers, they will be more likely to unsubscribe because they’ve already watched a video in their language yet now they are being suggested the same one in Polish, instead of something more relevant. 

2. Separate channels for each language

Create separate channels for different languages and geographies.

Example from DIY Creators here.

YouTube says:

This strategy focuses on tailoring different language channels to local audiences, featuring things like local events and promotions, which improves the viewer experience. When launching separate channels for each language, YouTube suggests the following to improve discoverability:

  • Specify the language or geography of each channel so viewers can find their local channel in YouTube search
  • Cross-promote your various language channels between each other

    The main challenge, as highlighted by YouTube, is that multiple channels demand much more time and effort than maintaining a single one. Creators and content owners have to be sure they have the resources to do so.

Margarita says:

Pros: Considering the resources YouTube currently offers creators, this would be my preferred approach to hosting localized content on YouTube. Primarily because each language exists as a separate entity; they don’t clash with one another. This also allows for extensive cross promotion between different language channels, but it doesn’t limit other promotional opportunities either. Each localized channel can then form its own brand partnership and collaborations without relying on the original channel. Some creators might be concerned that having separate localized channels might drive some of their original channel’s audience away if, for example, they are bilingual and prefer to consume content in their own language. However, from our experience of running over 40 localized channels for various creators, there has never been a noticeable dip in viewership even if videos were uploaded on the same day on both the original and the translated channel. This is where the ruthlessness of YouTube’s algorithm comes in handy – it will only suggest a video to a particular audience if it’s been fed clues about their preferences, which is what strong metadata is there for.     

Cons: As good as this option is, it’s also incredibly labor intensive as you’re practically growing multiple separate channels, some of them from scratch, which is not an easy feat. There is also a possibility that the brand identity will get diluted if it’s slightly modified for each language to tailor to local audiences.  

3.Create one global channel and supporting local channels

Use a single channel to serve as your brand’s main channel to feature global campaigns. Create supporting local channels for different languages and countries/regions.

Example from Playmobil here.

YouTube says:

This approach allows content creators to tailor content to certain channels: a global channel and various local ones incorporating local intel. YouTube points out that: “while viewers and subscribers may be split among multiple channels, viewers get a consistent but localized experience.” It advocates using “the main global channel to drive viewers to local channels using video metadata, channel descriptions, and featured channel programming.” Clearly, this approach requires the most time and attention to maintain.

Margarita says:

Pros: This isn’t dissimilar to creating separate language channels. The only real difference is that the global channel will most likely be in the lead (or original) language and feature content with wide appeal. It will act as a driver to local channels.

Cons: As YouTube pointed out, this option takes time and attention and is therefore better suited to companies big enough to have global content hosted on a global channel. The main drawback of this option is that it requires true differentiation between the global and the local channels – so that audiences have a distinct understanding of the advantages of viewing content in each. In the end, this might mean creating unique content for each channel which is, once again, very resource intensive and actually requires knowledge and proficiency in another language, which is not something many content creators have. 

Conclusion

Having a separate channel for each language is, for our Head of Creator Community, the best of the three options. It avoids audience confusion and allows for channels to grow more successfully with local brand partnerships and collaborations. The main drawback – that it takes a lot of time and effort to upkeep multiple language channels – is overcome by using an automated localization product, like Papercup’s. Cutting edge technology takes existing video content and re-creates the voice in another language. Meaning creators or content owners multiply their reach by the number of languages added, for virtually the same effort they’d put into running a single channel. Plus, Papercup can manage the comments on new languages channels. 

The main takeaway is: it’s important to make an informed decision (now you can!) about the organization of translated content on YouTube because it will have an impact on the success of the channel.