Losing audience interest with longer videos on YouTube? Look to utilize the “chapters” feature to keep your viewers engaged.
As content creators evolve and produce new and dynamic forms of content, YouTube evolves as a platform. Sometimes, the change is unwarranted, but content creators will welcome new platform tools—for the most part. One aspect of evolving content is how creators now produce longer videos covering various topics. As such, sometimes clicking on a fifteen-minute video to find just one segment of the video can be tedious. That’s why creators have taken to including timestamps for the various chapters of the video in the description. With one click, you can skip to that specific moment.
How Do You Timestamp a YouTube Video?
Timestamping a video isn’t difficult. In fact, you’ve more than likely seen it from viewers of a video who want to call attention to a specific moment.
“LOL 3:43 was so funny!”
Something along those lines. However, somewhere over the last five years, this was implemented to allow the creator to pinpoint specific video areas within the description box. All you need to do is add the minute and the second, separated by a colon. It can either be a single digit for a minute, such as 1:45, or you can express the timestamp as 01:45. Either way, it must have the colon.
Without these timestamps, you might sometimes get a viewer skimming through the video, missing the moment, or perhaps leaving the video altogether. This isn’t great for your audience retention, which is a primary analytical aspect that YouTube measures to gauge whether to boost your video. The more your audience engages and watches the video, the more value YouTube sees in your content, and you’ll likely see an increase in views and subscribers, alike.
The Problem with Timestamps
However, there’s an inherent issue with the timestamps. First, on mobile, that can be tricky to select. Second, it’s important for video ranking to have a solid description. As such, you’re not going to want to put your timestamps into the video description field first. Yet, when we add timestamps lower into the description, those who haven’t clicked “read more” can miss them. And, again on the mobile app, the viewer can miss the description box altogether due to the new app design that requires the user to click on the video title to bring up the description.
Thankfully, YouTube has implemented a feature with a tool called chapters. Chapters bring visibility to the timestamps in the description field without leading the user to an additional dashboard or web page.
What Are Chapters on YouTube?
Over the past year, you may have seen some creators have a blu-ray-styled chapter selection within their video’s progress bar, allowing you to jump ahead to the desired moment without the need to search for a timestamp.
As demonstrated in the image above, you can see the play bar has now transformed into individual blocks instead of a single bar. These are chapters. You’ll notice that, as a Blu Ray, each chapter will also show the title or short description of the chapter, allowing for quick and efficient access to specific areas of the video.
Additionally, unlike timestamps, these chapter segments also inform the viewer on how long a specific segment will be. If you’re watching an interview during your lunch break and see that for a forty-minute interview, the segment you want to watch is twenty-minutes long, you may decide to watch the segment in full later on that day.
In brief, YouTube chapters show the individual segments of the video.
How Do You Create Chapters on YouTube?
If you’ve already been adding timestamps to your videos, then you’re one step closer to creating chapters on your video—if they haven’t already been automatically generating. This is because to add chapters to your video, you simply need to add timestamps to anywhere in the video description box. But, there’s one small caveat. The first timestamp must start with 00:00.
Initially, upon learning how chapters are added, I was confused about why my videos were not showing chapters when several of my tutorials have timestamps. If we’re adding time codes, we skip the introduction or channel ident to get straight to the content. But, for chapters to show up, you must start with a 00:00 timestamp.
After the timestamp, simply add a title. YouTube will automatically read that information and add it to the chapter bar.
So, let’s break that down.
- Add 00:00 – Introduction somewhere in the video, using a colon—not a full stop or comma—to separate the minutes from seconds.
- Then, move through the video, adding the individual chapters as they appear throughout the content.
- If your video covers just two topics, instead of separating the issues into two videos and possibly losing your audience for the second video, you could split a YouTube video in half with the chapters feature. However, please note that the minimum length for video chapters is ten seconds.
When creating longer videos with multiple topics, your viewers can now quickly and easily jump to the correct segment without the need to open the description box or search through the progress bar. In turn, this keeps them engaged for longer.
For more advice on growing your YouTube channel, check out the articles below:
Cover image by B illustrations.