YOUTUBE TIMESTAMPS: On 17 September 2019, Google announced the introduction of ‘key moments’ to videos in Google Search – with the aim of making videos as scannable as text, for a more informative (and accessible) user experience. According to Google, this means “Search will provide links to key moments within [a] video, based on timestamps provided by content creators” in English on YouTube. Video publishers can also now apply for access to mark up non-YouTube videos in Search.
This is a major development for search-ability in video, so in this blog post, we’ll break down what it means and how it works for anyone looking to optimise their video performance on Google and YouTube.
What are YouTube timestamps?
Google’s ‘key moments’ feature uses YouTube timestamps to link to video segments, found in the description beneath a video. These YouTube timestamp links improve user experience by making videos skim-able, so viewers can quickly, easily find and click on the content they need when searching via Google or YouTube.
Why are YouTube timestamps important?
A few reasons:
- Enhanced user experience: Traditionally, looking for a specific section of a video has been a poor (manual, time-consuming) experience, necessitating play-skip-playing through content to find that elusive gold nugget of information. With key moments on YouTube, this is now a thing of the past – a win for internet users everywhere.
- Maximised SEO opportunities: Secondly, as reported by Search Engine Journal, “timestamps appear underneath the video thumbnail in Google search results, letting users open the video at the part that’s most relevant to them”. So not only will video segments be discoverable on YouTube – they’ll also be discoverable, naturally, via Google Search. This is huge news for brands leveraging video for search engine optimisation (SEO), as it won’t just be individual videos doing the content marketing anymore; each video will now have multiple opportunities to top search engine results pages (SERPs), including the highly coveted ‘position zero’ video rich snippet, and other special result features. The takeaway: if your brand’s digital strategy relies on search rankings for conversion and acquisition, add timestamps to your YouTube videos.
- Improved accessibility: Finally, in terms of accessibility, key moments will also aid the hearing and vision impaired when screen readers dictate search results pages – including snippets of video descriptions, which can now include times in a YouTube video.
What kind of videos will benefit from YouTube timestamps?
Basically, any public-facing videos designed to be discoverable with SEO. Google has specifically called out “how-to videos that have multiple steps, or long videos like speeches or a documentary”, but the reality is any video with multiple key points can now benefit from YouTube timestamps – even product reviews or help content to establish your brand as the solution to your target audience’s problem.
How to timestamp YouTube videos
- Log in to YouTube and navigate to the ‘Description’ field on a new or pre-existing video
- To link to a specific timestamp, type the specific time in minutes:seconds (or hours:minutes:seconds, if need be) and add your keyword-optimised video segment’s name – then click ‘Save’
- Reload your published video and check the ‘Description’ section has updated accordingly. Simple!
What about non-YouTube videos?
For non-YouTube video publishers, it’s a little trickier i.e. coding with Clip structured data so Google can understand and enable video search results (note: guidelines apply). However, this feature is currently limited, so to apply for the Early Adopters Program, you can submit your expression of interest here.
And that’s it! Let us know your thoughts on the new feature, and how you think it’ll impact your business in the comments below.