YouTube Chapters: What They Are & How to Add Them

by | Last updated Mar 20, 2023 | Digital Marketing

YouTube and video content in general continue to play an increasingly prominent role across the digital marketing landscape. Creating quality video content is well worth the effort, but it’s also important to know the different tactics that can be used to optimize these videos and maximize their value. Adding chapters to YouTube videos is an optimization tactic that can help upgrade your videos to make them more user-friendly for your viewers and create new opportunities for them to be discovered.

What Are YouTube Video Chapters?

Video chapters are a way to organize your YouTube videos into easily accessible subtopics. By using labeled timestamps, you can create sections that viewers can preview to see the content of a video and easily find the parts they’re looking for within the video’s progress bar.

A standard YouTube video without chapters looks like this:

Screenshot of Hurrdat YouTube Video Without Any Chapters

And a video using timestamps to add video chapters looks like this:

YouTube Video with Chapters Set Up

As you can see, adding chapters creates a neat, organized feel for your videos. That isn’t their only benefit, though. Let’s dive into the all the ways video chapters can benefit your marketing efforts

Benefits of YouTube Video Chapters

Adding chapters to your YouTube videos has two primary benefits. The first is the improved user experience you get by making it easier and faster to find information within a video. The second benefit is helping your video to show up more prominently in search results.

Better User Experience

Just like Google’s search engine algorithm, YouTube chapters aim to help viewers find exactly what they’re looking for more quickly and in as few steps as possible. Giving people the ability to easily find and jump to specific sections of content within a video is very powerful.

From letting you jump straight to your favorite song in an hour-long concert video to helping you instantly find the exact step you’re struggling within a tire-changing tutorial, chapters can make a video far more user-friendly. When videos have chapters, viewers don’t have to watch an entire video or try to blindly scrub their way through the progress bar to find a certain piece of information they want.

Increased Visibility

Not only can YouTube chapters help videos be featured more prominently in search results, but it’s also likely that chapters have some influence over the videos Google displays in its search engine results, including its featured snippets.

Here’s a great example of how chapters likely played a role in helping a video win the top search result position. You can see that the video also gets significantly more search engine results from real estate than the others since the chapters are featured on the results page.

Screenshot of Google SERPs Showing YouTube Chapters

Although there isn’t strong evidence yet, it’s likely that chapters that are clear, descriptive, and labeled with keywords—along with using the transcript of a video—can help Google and YouTube provide better results to searchers. With YouTube videos making their way into Google’s featured snippets more often, adding chapters is a simple way to create a structure for Google to understand, while also helping your videos gain more search traffic.

Screenshot of YouTube Video in Featured Snippet on Google

How to Add Chapters to YouTube Videos

Adding chapters is simple. Just follow these steps:

Timestamp Your Video

The first step is simply to watch your video and identify when a new section starts. Here’s how it will look using this video as an example:

0:00 – Choose High-Quality Images

0:19 – Showcase Relevant Images

0:33 – File Formats and Dimensions

1:10 – Keyword Research

1:18 – Optimize Image File Names

1:29 – Add Structured Data (Schema Markup)

One important note to remember is that you must start your timestamps with 0:00 for chapters to work. And if your video exceeds 10 minutes, the timestamps will have to change from 0:00 to a 00:00 format.

Add the Timestamps to Your Video Description

Screenshot of a YouTube Description with Timestamps for Chapters

When uploading your video, include the timestamps in the video description to create a sort of table of contents for viewers. It’s common practice to also add a “Timestamps” or “Chapters” header in the description to create structure and context for why these timestamps are in the description. Once you’ve added the timestamps and saved your updates, the chapters in your video description should look like this:

Screenshot of YouTube Chapters Shown in the Description

That’s it! Those two simple steps will add chapters to any YouTube video in your channel.

How to Get the Most Out of YouTube Chapters

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for leveraging chapters on YouTube videos. In some cases, you might actually want to avoid chapters completely. In other cases, you’ll need to do some experimenting to find out what gets the best results.

Decide Which Videos Need Chapters

Some videos will benefit much more from YouTube chapters than others, and others won’t benefit at all from having them. How-to videos, educational videos, and other long-form videos like a video version of your podcast would be a great use of chapters. Any video with several subtopics—especially those with potentially high search volume—are probably good candidates for having chapters.

Videos that are really short, highly-engaging, or entertainment-focused might not benefit from chapters, however. If you have videos that keep viewers engaged from start to finish, you don’t want to create a distraction or a reason to skip around.

Do Some Testing

Not sure whether adding YouTube chapters makes sense for a certain video? Testing is a great way to find out. There are a few key metrics to watch when you want to test the impact that chapters have on a video.

For example, if you add chapters to an existing video, what happens to the video’s average view duration and the average percentage viewed? Tracking these metrics (which you can find on your YouTube dashboard) before and after adding chapters will help you understand if they’re improving or hurting engagement with the video.

Beyond these metrics, keep an eye on how chapters increase or decrease the number of views and watch time. Do you notice more traffic coming in from external sources? Monitoring any growth in these areas after the updates will help you to understand the impact of adding chapters, as well as the types of videos they do or don’t make sense for.

Label Your Chapters Using Keywords

If you have a good keyword research strategy (or access to keyword research tools), naming your chapters based on search volume could be a way to better optimize your videos to rank higher for those terms.

Let’s use an instructional video about hanging a shelf as an example. If you published a video titled “How to Hang a Shelf on Any Surface,” instead of just labeling chapters after the names of the surfaces like “drywall,” brick,” and “sheetrock,” label them based what people actually search. A more optimized label for these chapters would be “How to hang a shelf on a brick wall” and “How to hang a shelf on drywall.”

YouTube chapters are simple to add to your videos and can have a big impact on their performance. Try these out today and see the impact they can have on your videos!

Interested in incorporating YouTube into your digital marketing strategy? With a comprehensive approach to SEO and content marketing, Hurrdat can improve your visibility in search engine results and drive more traffic to your website. Learn more about our Search Engine Optimization services and our Content Marketing services today!

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